The one-mile, round-trip hike to Nymph Lake is one of the best easy day hikes at Rocky Mountain National Park. The wide, easy trail, gaining 225 feet from Bear Lake Trailhead, gently climbs through forest to the small pond tucked in a shallow glacier-carved valley. The 9,700-foot-high lake offers scenic views of 12,713-foot Hallett Peak and its distinctive cliffed profile. Pond lilies with yellow flowers adorn the lake surface in summer. Nymph Lake was originally called Lily Pad Lake, but the name Nymph was later given for Nymphaea polysepala, the scientific name for the plant. Hikers can continue from Nymph Lake to Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Haiyaha.
- Start the hike to Nymph Lake at Bear Lake Trailhead at the end of Bear Lake Road. Just past the trailhead, cross a wooden bridge and go left on Emerald Lake Trail, which climbs to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes. The partially paved trail steadily climbs south and then west for 0.5 mile to Nymph Lake. Enjoy the gorgeous views, look for animals and birds, and then return down to the trailhead for a one-mile hike.
- Ambitious hikers can continue up the trail for 0.6 miles to Dream Lake and then another 0.7 miles to Emerald Lake, another beautiful alpine lake below the abrupt East Face of Hallett Peak and the rocky South Face of Flattop Mountain. Another trail takes off at Dream Lake and heads southwest for 1.1 miles to Lake Haiyaha below Chaos Canyon.
- Bear Lake Trailhead at the end of Bear Lake Road is extremely busy for most of the year. Arrive early to grab a parking spot, especially in summer and on autumn weekends. If you want to avoid parking hassle, take a free park shuttle to the lake. Park at the Park & Ride lot across from Glacier Basin Campground to catch a ride. Shuttle buses run frequently in summer so you won’t wait long. Shuttle schedules, maps, and details are available at the park website, visitor centers, shuttle stops, and park newspaper.
- Weather can quickly change in summer from sunlight to storm, with afternoon thunderstorms bringing heavy rain, wind, low temperatures, and even snow. Bring a rain jacket, extra clothes, water, and snacks. Nymph Lake is at almost 10,000 feet so it’s easy to get altitude sickness if you live in the lowlands. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. The best cure is to descend to a lower elevation, so get in your car and drive downhill.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
–Stewart M. Green