Some places in Colorado are so beautiful, and the effort to reach them so minimal, they can feel like a dream. This alpine gem in Rocky Mountain National Park is one such place. It’s just a 1.1-mile hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead to the lake, whose crystal-clear waters, flanked by the dramatic visage of Hallett Peak, make for one of the park’s most iconic photographs. You’ll pass two other photo-worthy lakes, including Bear Lake and Nymph Lake, on the short hike. Then Dream Lake opens up before you. Take some pictures, have a snack and return the way you came. Hikers can also continue another .7 miles past Dream Lake to Emerald Lake, which is just as stunning. Anglers may want to stay a while. Dream Lake is known for a healthy greenback cutthroat trout population.
- Visit in winter for an entirely different experience. The park keeps the road to the trailhead open all year, crowds thin out and you can have a quiet snowshoe hike through this winter wonderland. The lake takes on an entirely different dream-like quality.
- Instead of continuing on to Dream Lake, hikers can do a loop that crosses Glacier Knob, with great views of Longs Peak in the distance, and then past Alberta Falls to return to the trailhead.
- This is an extremely popular area, with a parking lot that often fills in summer. Arrive early to beat the crowds and get good morning light photos of the lake. Otherwise consider taking the free shuttle bus to ease parking woes.
- This is one of several lakes in the park where wildlife officials are focusing on recovery of the greenback cutthroat trout, once thought extinct, so for cutthroat it’s catch-and-release only at Dream Lake.
Recommended season(s): Spring – fall for hiking, winter for snowshoeing.
—R. Scott Rappold