Nymph, Dream, Emerald and Haiyaha Lakes

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.

Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake are three lakes in a row that are a popular hike starting from Bear Lake. Lake Haiyaha is a nice side trip from Dream Lake. It is quite reasonable to do all four as one hike, with the option of a circle hike that includes Alberta Falls.

The hike begins at Bear Lake (9475' elevation), heading left as you face Bear Lake. The trail starts out heading south, then turns to the west as you round a mountain. This first part of the trail is so popular that it has been paved with asphalt, making it fairly smooth with good traction, uphill but not too steep.

It only takes about 20 minutes to reach Nymph Lake, a pretty little lake with lily pads and often a few ducks and chipmunks. There is a log bench to sit on and admire it all, but also go a bit farther around the lake for a good view of Hallett Peak rising above.
After a short rest, it's on to Dream Lake. The trail curves around most of Nymph Lake and becomes more rocky and more interesting as it rises higher and rounds the end of a ridge, with good views of Longs Peak and surrounding mountains.
After another 20 minutes, you arrive at Dream Lake, a long, narrow lake with Hallett Peak rising above. This is a more alpine setting than before, with more rock formations and less dense forest.
The next lake, Emerald Lake, is not far: you only need to walk to the end of Dream Lake, and about as far beyond. Another 20 minutes gets you there. Emerald Lake is lovely, with an emerald green color worthy of its name when the sun illuminates it. The cliffs of Hallett Peak are close and dramatic; these cliffs are favorites of rock climbers. The summit of Hallett Peak is easily reached as a hike via Flattop.

As you return to Dream Lake, consider visiting Lake Haiyaha on the way back. The trail to Lake Haiyaha is clearly marked by a sign just below Dream Lake; it is a hike of about a mile from there. The trail curves around the end of a ridge, allowing you to look down on Nymph Lake and Bear Lake, and providing spectacular views of Longs Peak. You will come to a Y junction, with Lake Haiyaha a short distance to the right. Lake Haiyaha is an alpine lake, close to timberline, and it has not only Hallett Peak above it, but also the long, bumpy ridge of Otis Peak to the south.

As you leave Lake Haiyaha, consider making a grand tour by turning right when you come to the Y junction. This will take you back to the Glacier Gorge trail; turn left when you reach it. The Glacier Gorge trail will be uphill for a short distance, then level out as it traverses a rockslide on the side of the eastern Glacier Knob. Then the trail heads downhill and soon comes to Alberta Falls. Use caution on the rocks at the edge of the falls.

At this point, you are only about .6 mile from the Glacier Gorge trailhead. There is a trail up to Bear Lake if you still feel the need for more uphill hiking. However, there is also that greatest of modern conveniences, which you can now fully appreciate: the bus. Relax at the bus stop just below the Glacier Gorge parking area and enjoy your luxurious ride back up to Bear Lake.

Time from start to Emerald Lake: about 1 hour. Water consumed: 1 quart per adult.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks