There are so many hiking options along Bear Lake Road that it was very hard to choose what we were going to do! There were short hikes, long hikes, backpack trips, paved trails, regular trails the whole bit… And almost everything could be made into a loop and you could do one way hikes because of the shuttle busses! Too many choices!!!!
We finally settled on one of the most popular routes in the parks – a route that included Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha. We figured these places were popular for a reason and on a Tuesday the crowds would be smaller.
There is some major construction going on on the Bear Lakes Road and the road is closed to private vehicles from 9am-4pm. If you get in before 9 you can drive in and they will let you out anytime. The other option is to take the shuttle bus, which from here was going to involve driving someplace and transferring busses, so we decided to drive in. We weren’t the only ones! Several of the trailhead parking areas were full when we got there around 8:45! Luckily there was still parking in the Bear Lake lot and we headed out with the masses.
The route all the way to Emerald Lake is paved and very accessible, this is because of the high traffic. This is also the preferred hike for families with small children. I started calling it “Kiddie Canyon” due to the large numbers of pre-school age and under children out hiking with their families. It was nice to see so many families out with their kids, however the one year old who screamed for a 1/2 mile or so wasn’t so welcome!
Soon we arrived at Nymph Lake. It was a small lake with lots of lily pads and as you came around you got a view of Hallett Peak, a mountain we’d be seeing a lot of on this hike!
After Nymph Lake the trail began to climb and we got our first views of Longs Peak, the only 14er in the park.
Soon we arrived a Dream Lake! Dream Lake was bigger than Nymph Lake and we walked along the shore of it which provided many excellent spots to photograph the mountains and the lake.
After Dream Lake the trail continued to climb until we reached Emerald Lake and the end of the trail! Emerald Lake is cool because it’s right below the Tyndall Glacier, one of the few remaining glaciers in the park. You can’t see the glacier from the lake though. You do have an up close view of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain (I think)
After we enjoyed the view and had a snack we moved on to Lake Haiyaha. To get to the next lake we had to walk back out by Dream Lake to get back to the trail we’d been on. The trail beyond Dream Lake isn’t as popular so it wasn’t as constructed, it was more a normal trail with no steps or pavement. We continued up! Soon the trees thinned out and we had expasive views of Longs Peak, the Bear Lake Valley and even Estes Park!
View down the valley
Lake Haiyaha was a different lake in that it’s shores were all rocky! It was a big rock scramble to get to the shore and we weren’t all that successful. We finally picked a decent looking rock and at lunch. It was very hard to get to the edge of the lake or get a view of the whole lake. Once again we were looking at Hallett Peak, this time we were on the other side though.
After lunch we decided to head down a different way than we’d come up – it was longer by about a 2miles, but we’d see different stuff. AT first the trail was enveloped in trees, with no views and the woods weren’t that interesting. The good news was that the people had thinned out! There were still plenty of hikers, but we had whole stretches where we didn’t see anyone. I guess if the views aren’t as good the people don’t come!
We came around a corner and suddenly found ourselves in Glacier Gorge – sheer mountains on one side and the Glacier Knobs on the other! There were no trees and the views were amazing! It was totally different mountains than we’d been looking at all day too!
As the trail dropped we could hear the water making it’s way to Alberta Falls!
After Alberta Falls it was about a 2 mile walk back to the parking area. We were back to a very popular section and the trail was paved again!
The total hike was about 7 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation change! We started at over 9,000 feet and went up to over 10,000 feet!
After dinner Dad and I headed into Estes Park to look at the outdoor stores, I want a new pack. We didn’t find a new pack but we did see a coyote crossing the road! Dad almost hit him! It happened to be right in front of the Coyote Inn hotel! A few minutes later we almost hit a woman escorting a Mamma duck and her babies across the road! I think we saw more wildlife in Estes Park than we did on the trail!
Tomorrow we have a combo bike ride/hike planned!To see more pictures from our hike check out my album on Googlee+: Lakes Hike