The Trail to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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A couple of summers ago, we took a trip to Colorado to camp out in Rocky Mountain National Park. Jaden was about 2 years old, and we were so excited to head for the mountains and just spend some quality time together. From enjoying a picnic in the tundra to hiking back country trails, we fell in love with this beautiful park.

One trail I will forever remember and plan to hike again someday was the Emerald Lake Trail. Roundtrip, this trail was 3.6 miles and moderate. The uphill climbs gave quite the cardio workout, though the breathtaking scenery we enjoyed was worth every single step.

The trail starts out close to Bear Lake. From there it leads through the forest and up the mountain. Along the way, we would encounter two other lakes, one of which was Nymph Lake, which truly looked magical with all of its lily pads, the forest and mountains in the background reflecting in the water below. Walking around the lake led to so many photo opps.We had to actually hike around this particular lake and then upward along the trail.

The trail along the way led over streams….

Next stop was Dream Lake with its clear, greenish tinted water that truly looked good enough to jump in. We sat and enjoyed a picnic on a boulder by the water and just breathed in the fresh mountain air, just living in the moment. We were pretty tired at this point and knew that we were over halfway to our destination, so a rest here was just the thing we needed. From Dream Lake, we could look up and see a waterfall in the side of the mountain. That waterfall was actually flowing into Emerald Lake, so we were getting closer.

Hiking onward toward Emerald Lake, we met up with several other hikers, people from all over the U.S. and even from all over the world.

At one point, we stopped at a group of boulders next to a waterfall to take another family photo…. it was such a beautiful spot.

The trail led on through boulders, winding farther up into the mountains.

We were determined to make it to Emerald Lake, and as we started to come up on it, the anticipation was unreal. Nothing could prepare us for the beauty that honestly took our breath away. I just kept thinking that not many people get to see this more remote part of the park and how grateful I was to be able to hike to this point with my guys. The lake is aptly named Emerald Lake; when the sun shines on it just the right way, it sparkles like jewels. The waterfall flows into the lake, and it's simply gorgeous. At 10,080 feet in elevation, the air was so cold. There was an elevated bank along the lake side; all the hikers found a place to rest there amongst the roots of an old tree. We just sat and gazed out at the lake, taking the occasional photo but overall, just soaking in the amazing beauty of this tucked away, seemingly secret place.

For families looking to hike together, this trail is one I'd definitely recommend. As mentioned before, it's 3.6 miles roundtrip, so it took us a good 4-5 hours. The kids did pretty well on the trail, though Jaden, being only 2, got really tired along the way; Dan would carry him on his shoulders at times. A pack/carrier for younger children is something I'd definitely recommend. Of course, you also want to pack a backpack or two with plenty of water, some snacks, rain ponchos, and other gear you might need if caught in a storm in the back country. We felt entirely safe the entire time and were never completely alone; there were always other hikers coming and going, though at times, we did enjoy a bit of solitude…. it wasn't hard to find a quiet spot along the trail.

Emerald Lake will forever be a special place to our family…. some day we will go back, but for now, we have the memories.

What place holds special memories to you?


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