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Best of Bear Lake Area Loop

Intermediate
 4.6 (100) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A splendid loop highlighting the natural beauty in and around the Bear Lake area.


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Map Key

5.7

Miles

9.1

KM

Loop

10,194' 3,107 m

High

9,273' 2,827 m

Low

1,293' 394 m

Up

1,309' 399 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

41%

Max Grade (22°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Beginning and ending at the Bear Lake trailhead, this wonderful loop hits on many of Rocky Mountain National Park's biggest attractions. Along the way you'll have the opportunity to take in the views at four beautiful lakes as well as one stunning set of cascades.

Need to Know

As with many hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, this route travels through high elevation. Starting around 9,300' and topping out at 10,200', this trail could prove strenuous to unacclimated visitors.

Description

From the Bear Lake trailhead, follow the signs for Dream Lake onto a well traveled, asphalt-sealed trail. Hiking is very easygoing along the Dream Lake Trail as it contours at very mellow grades up the slope.

Just over 0.5 miles from the TH, you'll reach Nymph Lake, a picturesque mountain lake that makes for a good place to take in the surrounding peaks. Continuing up the trail, you'll eventually cross Tyndall Creek and come to a junction with Lake Haiyaha Trail. Hike just past this intersection to reach Dream Lake.

Dream Lake is a spectacular, narrow lake that sits in a drainage on the rugged eastern slope of Flattop Mountain. Retrace your steps on Dream Lake Trail back to the intersection with Lake Haiyaha Trail and turn right (south).

Lake Haiyaha Trail heads over the ridge then trail switchbacks its way through dense forest before quickly topping out and descending towards Chaos Creek. Cross the creek and start hiking up the southern bank past a junction with Lake Hayiaha Cutoff. Soon afterwards, the trail descends to Lake Hayiaha.

Enjoy the beauty of the lake before retracing your steps on the Lake Hayiaha Trail to Lake Hayiaha Cutoff. Turn right on Lake Hayiaha Cutoff and follow it as the trail descends at moderate grades before flattening out drastically. The trail contours around the eastern flank of the West Glacier Knob before dropping down to the junction.

Turn left (east) onto Loch Vale Trail and begin the descent along Glacier Creek. The trail is mostly flat to start as it passes through the Glacial Knobs but it steepens as it switchbacks down toward Alberta Falls. At Alberta Falls, Glacier Creek thunders down this spectacular waterfall that ranks as one of the park's more popular hiking destinations. Continue your descent along Loch Vale Trail to a low spot and cross Tyndall Creek. Follow the trail up the northern bank of the drainage for a short climb back to the Bear Lake TH.

Flora & Fauna

This route travels almost entirely through drainages that have been carved out by eons of runoff. These tributaries and their associated moisture contents create natural settings rich in ecological diversity. Look for riparian vegetation typical of this environment including various willows, mountain alder, and water birch with dark-colored bark. In a few places, blue spruce may grow near streams and sometimes hybridize with Engelmann spruce.

Contacts

Shared By:

Brian Smith

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 100 votes

#3

in Bear Lake

#38

Overall
  4.6 from 100 votes
5 Star
68%
4 Star
26%
3 Star
6%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#3

in Bear Lake

#14

in Colorado

#38

Overall
587 Views Last Month
19,278 Since Jan 30, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Representing the REI NP Centennial backpack at Dream Lake, looking towards Flattop Mountain (right) and Hallett Peak (left).
May 20, 2016 near Estes Park, CO
The view to Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain from Dream Lake.
Dec 8, 2015 near Estes Park, CO
Dancing up a dream.
Apr 23, 2017 near Estes Park, CO
Tilted ice, rosy sunrise
Feb 9, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
Long's Peak and aspens
Jan 19, 2015 near Estes Park, CO
Dream Lake
Jan 8, 2015 near Estes Park, CO

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Check-Ins

Aug 7, 2020
Ahna Abraham
Went to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake 4mi
Aug 6, 2020
Casey Menick
Jul 29, 2020
Katelyn Jacobs
5.7mi — 6h 45m
Jul 25, 2020
Nicole Stanton
Jul 25, 2020
Breen OBrien
Jul 20, 2020
Carol Fin
8h 24m
Jul 16, 2020
S M
Jul 16, 2020
Marisa Daley