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17 Most Picturesque Best Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park, one of Colorado’s crown jewels, is famous not only for its tall mountain peaks but also for its stunning crystal-clear lakes, many of which are stunning alpine lakes.

There are actually over 150 lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park or RMNP for short. Some lakes, typically the more popular ones, take only a few minutes to walk to from a parking lot, while others require a longer trek to access. Some are even located along the famous Trail Ridge Road.

Keep in mind that Rocky Mountain National Park sits at a high elevation, from 7,800 to over 14,000 feet above sea level, so you might lose your breath faster than you think!

Do you want to experience the best views and check out some of these lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park? Then you’ll love this post! They’re ordered from shortest to longest hike so you can easily find a handful of lakes that suit your activity preferences.

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Before hiking, make sure you have these essentials:

🎒 Hiking backpack: Here’s the one I use & love!
💧 Water bladder: This is the water bladder I recommend!
💦 Water bottle: I love and use the Hydroflask 32 oz!
🥾 Hiking boots: These are the hiking boots I use!
🩹 First aid kit: This is a great first aid kit for your backpack!
🥨 Snacks: Clif Bars are my go-to on the trail!
🌲 Hiking poles: These hiking poles are a great option!
❄️ Microspikes: These are the ones I use when the trails are icy!
☀️ Sunscreen: This is a great hiking sunscreen!

Best Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake 

snowy  mountains and trees reflecting off a blue lake

🥾 Less than a mile roundtrip, easy walk

Bear Lake, a stunning alpine lake, is a popular destination in Rocky Mountain National Park, and for good reason. It’s a short mile-long walk from the parking lot at the end of Bear Lake Road, so people of any physical ability can access it. 

This gorgeous alpine lake is surrounded by evergreen trees and flanked by Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide in the background, making for a postcard-worthy scene.

From Bear Lake, you can access hiking trails to multiple other lakes. Or, simply spend some time hiking around the lake or resting at the picnic tables in the parking lot.

Sprague Lake  

blue lake surrounded by green trees and mountains

🥾 Less than a mile roundtrip, easy 

Sprague Lake, located near the heart of the park, is another great family-friendly option to visit in Rocky Mountain National Park. The half-mile walk around the lake is easy and flat and is also wheelchair accessible!

Sprague Lake, with its blue waters, is gorgeous at all times of the year, especially in the summer months. It’s especially beautiful in the early morning, which is when you’ll have the best chance of seeing the beautiful reflection of the mountains on the water and of spotting some wildlife!

If you’re looking for a quieter alternative to the busy Bear Lake, definitely stop by Sprague Lake! Even though it’s easier to get to, I think it’s one of the most beautiful lakes in the park.

Nymph Lake  

green water lilies floating on a blue lake in the mountains

🥾 A little over a mile roundtrip, easy 

Nymph Lake is a quaint smaller lake that’s accessible by a 1-mile roundtrip walk over a paved path that begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead. You’ll be going slightly uphill on the way to the lake, so keep that in mind if you’re visiting with older travelers.

This mountain lake is beautiful in the summertime, which is when the lily pads dotting the lake blossom with yellow flowers. This is a great spot for a picnic!

Nymph Lake, typically less crowded than other lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, is super underrated yet still very beautiful. This is why I’m shocked it’s not one of the more popular lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Dream Lake

crystal clear lake with snow covered mountains and trees reflecting on it

🥾 2 miles roundtrip, easy 

Another lake that is accessible from the Bear Lake Trailhead, Dream Lake definitely lives up to its name. It takes only an easy 2-mile roundtrip hike to get there, and if you can make it in the early morning, you’ll catch the sunrise illuminating Hallett Peak and turning the lake into a scene out of a dream!

Along the trail to Dream Lake, you’ll pass Nymph Lake, allowing for a scenic loop around both lakes. Just don’t forget to bring a camera!

Bierstadt Lake  

mountain lake surrounded by tall green trees

🥾 About 3 miles roundtrip, easy to moderate 

Bierstadt Lake is a gorgeous lake at the end of a 1.5-mile long hike (roughly 3 miles roundtrip). The trail leading to the lake from Bierstadt Trailhead is the most challenging one, while the trails starting at Bear Lake Trailhead or from the Park and Ride lot are less demanding. 

Bierstadt Lake has a thick line of trees surrounding the lake, flanked by a sweeping view of the mountain range. On days when the water is calm, and the skies are in the right condition, the lake reflects the surrounding scenery.

If you’re looking for a hike that’s not too long or difficult, try hiking to Bierstadt Lake!

Emerald Lake  

clear lake with a rocky bottom at the base of snowy mountains

🥾 3 miles roundtrip, moderate

Emerald Lake is one of the more popular and accessible lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Starting from Bear Lake, it takes just a 1.5-mile hike to get there (3 miles roundtrip), and on the way, you’ll also pass by Dream Lake and Nymph Lake.

Emerald Lake is encircled by several famous peaks in RMNP, including Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. At times, the water in this lake can be a deep blue-green color, hence the name Emerald Lake.

If you’re planning a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park and have limited time, Emerald Lake is a great option to get the best bang for your buck.

Gem Lake  

still river cutting between a rocky mountain and grassy bank

🥾 3 miles roundtrip, moderate

Gem Lake, a tiny little gem of a lake, is nestled within an area just north of Estes Park. The hike is a 3.5-miles roundtrip, and you’ll have to hike over some large rocks and scramble up the last stretch of the trail to get to the lake. 

Gem Lake is surrounded by large granite domes, and it does not have an inlet or outlet stream, so the water in the lake actually comes from snowmelt and rainwater. From the lake, you’ll see a beautiful view of the mountains of Estes Park.

I think that this is one of the cutest lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, so take my advice and go for a visit!

Lake Haiyaha 

emerald colored lake at the foot of mountains with trees scattered throughout

🥾 4 miles roundtrip, moderate 

On the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Haiyaha is accessed by a moderately difficult 4-mile roundtrip hike that begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead. You’ll have to climb some boulders near the end! In total, the trip to and from Lake Haiyaha may take around two or three hours. 

Lake Haiyaha has a rugged shoreline peppered with large boulders and ancient trees, making for a beautifully rugged view. From the trail, you can also spot Bear Lake and Nymph Lake in the distance, making this one of the best lake hikes in rocky mountain national park.

In addition, this is the prettiest lake we’ve seen in the Denver area. It’s way less busy than the rest of the Emerald Lake Trail!

Mills Lake  

clear lake with a rocky bottom in the mountains

🥾 5.5 miles roundtrip, moderate 

The picturesque Mills Lake, one of the many stunning lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park, is nestled beneath the undulating peaks of Glacier Gorge, at the end of a nearly 3-mile long hike (about 5.5 miles roundtrip). The hike is moderately difficult but very scenic.

There are highlights at every turn, starting from Alberta Falls to the mountain views and creeks flowing through the trees.

Mills Lake is accessible from both Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge. The lake itself is long and has plenty of flat rock outcroppings that extend into the lake, where you can take a break and soak in the splendor.

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Jewel Lake  

🥾 6 miles roundtrip, moderate 

Of all the lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, Jewel Lake, a stunning alpine lake, has one of the most stunning shorelines and mountain views.

The moderately challenging 6-mile roundtrip hike to get to Jewel Lake will take you past Alberta Falls and Mills Lake, and because these two locations are so popular, traffic on the trail will often decrease after reaching them. 

When you reach Jewel Lake shortly after Mills Lake, you’ll see an incredible view of the tree-filled southern shore of the lake and the ridges of the Keyboard of the Winds in the background. Jewel Lake and the valley beyond it are simply extraordinary, so definitely don’t pass this one up! 

Fern Lake  

lake in the mountains with ferns lining the lake's edge

🥾 8 miles roundtrip, moderate 

Located on the east side of the park, Fern Lake involves a moderately challenging but delightful hike to get there. The hike is 8 miles roundtrip, and you’ll hike past several waterfalls, cascades, and some massive house-sized boulders at Arch Rocks. Visitors have been known to spot moose and other wildlife near this trail as well!

If you come prepared with a good amount of food and water, along the trail from Fern Lake, you’ll pass several other lakes in RMNP that are worth visiting, including Spruce Lake, Odessa Lake, and Lake Helene. 

Odessa Lake  

sandy bank leading to clear mountain lake edged with green trees

🥾 9 miles roundtrip, moderate 

As mentioned, Odessa Lake is one of the lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park that is accessible via the trail to Fern Lake. It’s only a mile past Fern Lake, making it a roughly 9-mile roundtrip hike, and the alpine scenery there is just as beautiful.

Keep in mind that during certain times of the year, the trail will get snowy and icy. If you do attempt to hike to Odessa Lake and you’ve never hiked in these conditions before, you may want to come prepared with ice picks or snowshoes! The views from the shores of Odessa Lake are so breathtaking, that you won’t regret trying!

Sky Pond 

green mountains reflecting off of a clear lake

🥾 9 miles roundtrip, difficult 

Sky Pond is a spectacular lake with plenty to explore, but be ready for a trek! The 9-mile roundtrip trail to the lake is challenging but rewarding. After hiking past several waterfalls, a beautiful set of cascades, and the gorgeous Lake of Glass, you’ll finally arrive at Sky Pond.

There are so many different landscapes to admire at Sky Pond, from the dramatic jagged Sharkstooth peak to the waterfalls spilling into the lake, to the grassy patches of wildflowers at the right times of the year. Getting to Sky Pond, especially on a warm summer day, takes effort, but it’s definitely worth it! 

Chasm Lake

lake surrounded by large rocky mountains

🥾 9 miles roundtrip, difficult 

Chasm Lake is tucked into a bowl-shaped depression between the base of Mt. Lady Washington and Longs Peak. The 4.5-mile hike (9 miles roundtrip) out to Chasm Lake is rocky and difficult, and the lake as well is one of the most rugged yet stunning out of all RMNP lakes. 

Try to start this hike early in the morning, as thunderstorms often roll in during the afternoons. Towards the end of the hike, you’ll need to do some route finding up the rock face, but push through! If you make it through to the end, definitely reward yourself with a dip in the lake!

Ypsilon Lake  

🥾 9 miles roundtrip, difficult

Another challenging hike of similar length to the Sky Pond Hike is the Ypsilon Lake Hike. Closer to the north of the park, Ypsilon lake sits at the base of Ypsilon Mountain and Mt. Chiquita, in Mummy Range, a mountain range that is named after its resemblance to a mummy at rest. 

The trail to Ypsilon is steep and rocky, and you’ll have to navigate over and under the fallen trees on the forest floor. The forest is thick in these areas, so you may not see much on the way there, but you’ll be rewarded at the end of your hike with a gorgeous roaring waterfall at Ypsilon Lake. 

Thunder Lake  

🥾 12 miles roundtrip, difficult

Thunder Lake is one of the less traversed lakes in RMNP, but if you’re an experienced hiker, it’s definitely worthwhile. In total, the hike to Thunder Lake is 12 miles roundtrip, and depending on the time of year, you may encounter several inches of snow and icy patches, so be careful!

What makes Thunder Lake special is that it’s located in Wild Basin, which is one of the largest protected mountain basins on the east side of RMNP. The area is rugged yet stunning. Just make sure you do your research on the various routes you can take because there are several!

Bluebird Lake  

🥾 13 miles round trip, difficult

One of the longest hikes, which is a great option for experienced hikers, is the one to Bluebird Lake. Like Thunder Lake, Bluebird Lake is also located in the Wild Basin of RMNP. The 13-mile roundtrip hike to get there is challenging but full of scenery. After several waterfalls and some gorgeous cascades, including the Calypso Cascade, you’ll arrive at Bluebird Lake. 

You also have the choice, along this trail, to head to Ouzel Lake. Be prepared for the mileage and for some serious elevation gain. You may also encounter some snow during the last few miles!

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Final Thoughts: Rocky Mountain National Park Lakes

There are enough lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park for a lifetime’s worth of visits, so I hope this list makes the park’s lakes feel a bit more approachable. Whichever ones you decide to visit, you really can’t go wrong—all of them are stunning and unique in their own ways! 

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  1. Almost all of these lakes are on the east side of the park, which tends to be overcrowded. My best experiences have been on the west side (better wildlife, less crowded, less paved trails). Some standouts include Parika Lake, Lake of the Clouds, Timber Lake.

  2. Shelf and solitude lakes are definitely worth the bushwhack. I would definitely have loved to see those two bc of their fantastic view

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