Monday, August 21, 2006

Emerald Lake, Dream Lake, Nymph Lake

After all those pictures I'd seen of Dream Lake, I was very keen on doing a hike to one of Rocky Mountains National Park's scenic lakes. The hike starts off at Bear Lake, and is a very comfortable trail that gains 425 feet to end up at 9900 ft at Dream Lake. The hike is only 1.1 miles from Bear Lake. Emerald Lake was like the proverbial cherry on the icing and we ambled over only because it was only 0.7 miles further. The gain in altitude is another 200 ft or so, I am not entirely sure. What I do know is that Emerald Lake is just over 10,080ft. The round trip was less than 4 miles but it was the best bit of exercise I have done in a long long time.

Looking up at the peaks around us, we found Longs Peak, the only fourteener in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Keyboard of the Winds and the Pagoda Mountain


After a relatively steep uphill walk that had us breathing deeply, the trail platueaud off at a beautiful calm lake, Nymph Lake.


Hallett Peak towered over Nymph Lake and beckoned us closer to Dream Lake.


After gaining some more altitude, we stopped at what some other young Indians called 'Patel Point' to take family pictures as well as of the wonderful vista that lay around us. You can see the storm clouds beginning to gain momentum in the distance.


Before we knew it, the skies had cleared and we were at Dream Lake.


We took a short break on a rock by the lake to have lunch. The sun came out and we were fried as we sat there looking up at Hallett Peak on the left, Tyndall Gorge in the middle and Flattop Mountain on the right. It's hard to believe that the mountain with the jagged edges is really flat at the top!


About a half hour later we were at Emerald Lake.


The mallards on the lake seemed to have no fear of people and came quite close to us. Just like the trout on Dream Lake. I think they were hoping for some food! On our way down, we met some rock scramblers who had scrambled up to the top of the waterfalls seen in the Emerald Lake picture above. It took them an hour 40 minutes to get there and barely twenty minutes to come down!

I cannot capture the beauty of this place with my camera. I either don't know how, which is more likely, or it's just not possible to do justice to the raw magnificence of these mountains.

Flattop Mountain enthralls me. The trail to the top is a strenous climb and gains about 2800 ft in altitude. We're going to need to get really fit if we have to do it.


As quickly as the skies had cleared, the clouds moved in again. We made it back to Bear Lake to just in time to hear loud claps of thunder and a steadily increasing downpour. We returned home, tired but very very content. What is it about the mountains? I can't seem to get enough!

9 introspections:

Anonymous August 27, 2006 8:19 PM  

Hi Manisha,

I and my husband are travelling to RMNP from Texas during the labor day weekend.
We're planning to hike from Bear Lake to Emerald lake. How long did it take you for the round trip from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake and back?

I would really appreciate if you could give me any other tips that would help me plan better.

Thank you so much.
Jasper.

Manisha August 27, 2006 10:01 PM  

Hi Jasper! I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time. The aspens had just started changing color when we went last weekend.

Bear Lake to Emerald Lake and back the same way is about 3.6 miles. It's a very comfortable hike. We were huffing and puffing for the first 10 minutes or so. It's an uphill walk initially, not too steep, but our lungs were not ready for the 9000+ ft altitude. We live at 5300ft so we were OK after that. We also had our daughter, who is 8, with us.

I kept stopping to take pictures and we also took a break at Dream Lake for a late lunch. We sat by Emerald Lake for some time, too. The whole trip took us about 3 hours with a child and lot of stops. It shouldn't take more than 2 hours round-trip normally.

Instead of returning on the same route, you could go on to Lake Haiyaha and then Glacier Gorge via Alberta Falls. I'm not exactly sure but I think that may be another 2-3 miles at least, if not more. Lake Haiyaha is very close to the timberline and the trail has spectacular views of Bear Lake and Nymph Lake. That's a hike we haven't done yet but have heard a lot about.

We hiked up to Alberta Falls from the Glacier Gorge trailhead over July 4. Again, it was a comfortable hike and we had a 4 year old who walked along very happily.

Make sure you always have enough water with you.

Consider carrying jackets. It gets cold up there and the weather changes suddenly. We started off late - past noon. It's a good idea not to do that and start as early as possible because that way you avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.

It was windy and cold when we started on our hike. But the sun came out and the storms struck just as we made it back to our car!

If you are camping in RMNP, then consider getting to Dream Lake at sunrise. This is something I want to do when we camp in Moraine Park mid-September. Also, consider carrying winter-wear, gloves and a warm cap for your head. It gets cold in the tents at night! This is what my neighbors have been telling me as they prepare me for our camping trip.

I hope you have a wonderful visit and if you put up pictures on a blog / flickr / wherever, I'd love to see them! Have a fun time!

Anonymous August 28, 2006 10:37 PM  

Thank you so much Manisha for a very detailed description of the trail and the tips.

We're flying from Dallas to Denver and will be driving to RMNP. We have booked accommodation in Grand Lake for a couple of nights, we're not planning to camp in RMNP.
I wish we could do that, but maybe we'll do it an other time.
We'll be spending 2 days at RMNP and Grand Lake and then drive to Aspen for another 2 days before drving back to Denver.

While at RMNP, I would like to hike around Bear Lake. I have also read about Lake Haiyaha, Alberta Falls and the Glacier Gorge. I would really wish we could see all of them, if only weather permits. The forecast doesn't seem to be too supportive of our plans. I only hope the weather doesn't play havoc with all my planning.

We're carrying warm clothing with us. I only wish we had more vacation.. :(( We used it all when i visited India early this year..

Your post on the Amtrak ride on California Zephyr was really interesting. It is another trip that i would love to take.. I love California and after reading some of your posts i think i will love visiting Colorado.

Thank you once again for the very informative description.

Manisha September 06, 2006 3:03 AM  

Jasper, I hope you had a good trip. We were at RMNP on Sunday - the weather was simply glorious! Much better than Saturday which was cold and overcast in the 50s. Estes Park was very crowded because they had their Labor Day fest and the park was also very crowded. We only strolled around Bear Lake as we had a 17 month toddler with us who was slightly unwell. It was a perfect day to hike to Haiyaha. There were a ton of elk in Moraine Park and the rangers were having a tough time managing cars and people! I can't wait for our camping trip in another couple of weeks. The only thing I am worried about is that night-time temperatures are in the 40s here in Louisville - they have got to be lower up there! Oh well! We'll find out!!

Anonymous September 17, 2006 7:03 PM  

Hi Manisha,

We had a great vacation in Colorado.
I had been very busy after coming back and i never got a chance to write anything about my trip.

On the first day at RMNP, it was cloudy and there was fog. We reached RMNP at around 3pm in the afternoon after driving to Boulder Falls and Boulder. At RMNP, we saw a ton of elk as you mentioned.. we went to Sprague Lake and Bear Lake, i was in awe of the tranquility at the two lakes.. there were very few people that day due to the weather i guess. As it was getting cold and thunderstorms were expected that night, we didn't hike much. We went back to Estes Park, had something to eat, refuelled and then started our drive to Grand Lake on the western end of RMNP. The only thing we were not prepared for was this drive through RMNP on the Trail Ridge road. I can never forget this drive through the park on that day at that time.
The weather turned so bad that the visibility was nil due to mist and rain. No amount of defrosting the windshield helped. We were only able to see 1 to 2 feet ahead on the road. We drove through the park at 10-20 mph, with hazard lights switched on all the time. All that i and my husband realized while driving was we were going up and up with the white mist enveloping us on one side or on both sides. It was quite adventurous when i look back now, but as we didn't know what curves or bends or peaks lay before us due to the zero visibility, i was scared to death.. If we failed to see one bend or curve, the whole trip would have ended so differently.. I am sure God had been very kind..
We finally got to the highest point on the road going at the same speed and it felt like forever. Due to the bad weather, there were just 2 or 3 other cars that i saw that evening. Once we crossed the highest point and started going down and i think after we crossed Milner Pass, it was already dark.. the sky cleared up totally and i could see the Moon and millions of stars..I was just amazed.. I felt like going through a tunnel without light forever and suddenly seeing light.
I and my husband decided to go back the next day(saturday) when the weather was awesome to really see what we passed the previous night. We stopped at some wonderful spots, took pictures, walked to the highest point at the Alpine Center. It was a wonderful experience, both the park and the knowledge that God had been really kind on us the previous night.

The third day(sunday) we did some speed boating in Grand Lake, and then drove to Aspen, stopping at Vail for a coffee. At Aspen on the fourth day(monday), we went to Maroon Bells, went on a chair lift on Fanny Hill slope in Snowmass village and then just relaxed.
We drove back to Denver on tuesday and came back to Dallas on tuesday night. It was a wonderful trip, and definitely one that i will always cherish.

I am glad to know you had a good trip during the labor day weekend. Are you done with your camping trip?

thanks again for all the information that you provided about RMNP. We didn't get a chance to do the hike to the emerald lake due to the weather and also due to the fact that we reached RMNP late due to some unexpected delays after landing in Denver. Inspite of everything i will always remember my trip to RMNP.

Anonymous September 17, 2006 9:05 PM  

Hi Manisha,

I forgot to mention that the drive to Aspen on State HW 9 and later on I-70 from Kremmling was beautiful. The entire drive was just beautiful with the lakes and peaks.. and the trees were all changing color. I got to see Fall colors finally.. Maroon Bells in Aspen was again spectacular.

I realize that my comments have been very long, but i think i am still very excited about Colorado.

Jasper.

Manisha September 19, 2006 5:15 PM  

Hi Jasper! I loved reading your account of your vacation in Colorado. I am still holding my breath as I think about your drive on Trail Ridge Road! You were very lucky indeed. I am surprised that the road was not closed despite poor visibility (it was closed this weekend from Many Parks Point due to bad weather). You sound like you had a wonderful time despite the weather! We haven't yet been to Maroon Bells - I am so glad you got to see fall in full splendor there. I wonder if this weekend's frost will kill the fall colors. I hope not!

We camped in Moraine Campground this past weekend. We got snowed out! I will be updating my blog with some sorry pictures soon! I do want to tell you that I know just what you mean by millions of stars. Friday night was spectacular. It was cold but we sat around the campfire and watched for shooting stars. I have never seen so many stars ever before in my life. And beyond the stars was a haze - my friend called it the haze of the Milky Way and I believe him! We've been here just short of a year and we've only just scratched the surface when it comes to seeing Colorado.

Thank you so much for sharing your vacation and your wonderful experience in Colorado on my blog! If you have photos to share, please create an account on Flickr and share them with us!

Anonymous September 21, 2006 4:56 PM  

Hi Manisha,

I was surprised myself that they didn't close the road or warn us about the poor visibility. As there was no warning, we didn't expect the weather to turn so bad. We being totally ignorant about the road and its curves were totally unprepared for it.

I now have something to tell my kids and grand kids.. :)

I read somewhere on the internet about being able to see the milky way while camping at RMNP. So you definitely did see the milky way.

My husband started calling Trail Ridge Road "Milky Way" because it was all hazy and white that night.. with all the fog and mist enveloping our jeep on all sides..

I'll definitely send you a link once i update the pictures..

Dwiana P October 15, 2007 12:10 PM  

Hi Manisha, thank you for stopping by to my blog. What a beautiful story you have during your vacation. Thanks though for sharing this story, this gonna be my wish list to visit someday. I love nature pictures you took. they are all wonderful!

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