Emerald Lake

February 11, 2004

Having been a slacker the past few months, I figured I was way past due for a nice day in the park. There are so many places to go within the borders of the National Park, so it is often very hard for me to make a decision on where my destination will be for the day. So, today, I chose the first lake that I visited when I first moved to Estes Park, 48 years ago.

Emerald Lake, while one of the easiest in the park to get to, is in the middle of some of the most dramatic scenery. Hallett Peak rises sharply to the Southwest, as the Flattop Spires rise high above to the Northwest. The area that contains Emerald Lake, and its close neighbors Dream, Nymph, and Bear Lakes, is knows as Tyndall Gorge, and is capped at the top by Tyndall Glacier. This was named by Enos Mills after the English physicist John Tyndall, a man well versed in glacial phenomena (Arps,Kingery; High Country Names; pg 165). This beautiful area sees large amounts of hiking traffic, especially in the Summer, and is one of the few place in the Park where no camping is allowed.

This was a cold and snowy day, so I waited for the sun to get a little higher than I usually do before heading out for the morning. I was the fist to arrive at the Bear Lake parking lot, and leisurely got my gear together and started on the trail. I took my time, enjoying the light snowfall and the solitude as I made my way toward Nymph Lake. By the time I traveled the 1/2 mile to the lake, the snow had picked up, and Hallett Peak was no longer in view. So I crossed my fingers, hoping the snow would let up a bit, as I made my way toward Dream Lake.

I stopped every now and then to snap a few shots of the trail, or of small little scenes along it. I kept climbing the gentle slopes nearing Dream Lake and was lucky enough to have the snow slow down a little bit.....long enough to get a few shots with Hallett in view. But this was just the calm before the storm!

As I meandered up the narrow trail beyond Dream Lake, the snow began to get much heavier, and the wind picked up quite a bit. This would normally not surprise me, as the winds this close to the divide are usually raging, but they typically come from the West...these were blowing in from the East. I knew we had an upslope against the mountains from the East, but I have never felt it this strong before.

As I neared Emerald Lake, the wind and snow, once again, died down a little bit. But the second I got to the lake, they both picked right back up again. Walking out onto the lake, I took a little rest. I just laid there and sipped some water enjoying this wonderful little spot, and wondered how many times I had actually been there. Too many to count...whether it was to the lake itself, or on my way into upper Tyndall Gorge, or on a decent from Hallett Peak, I had been here many, many times, and it just never, ever, gets old or boring or repetitive. It has always been a special place, and will always be.

The way back down was fairly uneventful. I did stop while crossing Dream Lake to pull out my goggles...the wind was blowing snow into my eyes and was becoming a little annoying. I then jogged most of the way back to the parking lot, taking advantage of the deep snow and by using steep, drop-off shortcuts (don't worry mom, nothing over ten feet). I was soon making my way back into Estes feeling VERY satisfied about a nice morning in Rocky!


Emerald Lake elevation: 10,080 feet
Elevation gain: 605 feet

Distance round trip: 3.6 miles

Click on the pictures!

At the trailhead.

A pine and some aspen..

A nice little detail along the trail.

The trail to Dream Lake.

Getting near Dream Lake on a cold & snowy morning.

Hallett Peak tries to break though the low clouds.

Untracked, deep, white powder! You can't beat it!

Taking a little nap on Emerald Lake.

Treebeard, keeping watch over Emerald Lake.

An up-close shot of the large, windblown pine tree.

Yours truly, as the wind picks up.