Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Tag: Colorado

Hiking the Dream Lake Trail

The Dream Lake trail was my absolute favorite hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. It branches off from the Bear Lake area and takes you up to a series three more alpine lakes: Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. We stopped at Dream Lake thanks to non-ideal hiking conditions, but online photos make me think it’s the prettiest of the three anyway.

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Bear Lake Trail

The trail to Dream Lake leaves from the Bear Lake area. We spent some time wandering around this much easier trail before beginning our hike. In mid-May, there was still plenty of snow and ice on the lake and the trail, but it was passable and there were lots of hikers and families with kids out exploring. This is one of the easier trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, and its proximity to a large parking area makes it perfect for non-experienced hikers.

We only had to wait for a couple of minutes to get a parking spot in the Bear Lake lot, but I’m told that during the busy season you have to show up really early or take the park shuttle if you plan to park there.

The hike to Nymph Lake

Once we had our fill of Bear Lake, we started up the trail to see the smaller lakes at higher elevations. There was a lot of snow that slowed us down – it was starting to melt and very slushy and slippery – and we considered turning back a couple of times, but we kept going.

Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Keep hiking. It gets prettier!

To be honest, Nymph Lake was a bit underwhelming. I wouldn’t make the hike just to see it. Dream Lake isn’t too much further, and it’s worth the extra distance to see a prettier lake. Plus, my boyfriend stepped onto thin ice and got his hiking boots wet. He was a trooper though and wrung his socks out and we kept going further up the mountain.

Snow along the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

This is why ski lifts are a thing.

The Dream Lake Trail

Viewpoint along the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

The trail from Nymph Lake to Dream Lake gets steeper, but offers some spectacular views. We stopped on this large bare boulder to take a break and enjoy the splendor of the mountain scenery (and attempt to dry my boyfriend’s socks a bit more). Standing up there, I felt like John Muir or something.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I wore a Red Wings shirt because the first time I visited this park was in 2002 right after they’d beaten Colorado’s team in the playoffs en route to a championship. They were better back then.

When we finally reached Dream Lake, I was blown away. Even partially covered in ice, it was spectacular. It’s cliché, but the water really was like glass, reflecting the peaks behind it.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

People were lounging all around the shore, on rocks and fallen trees, and anything that wasn’t buried in snow. A couple nearby had packed a picnic lunch and were enjoying it nearby. Talk about a meal with a view.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As much as we didn’t want to leave, we eventually turned around and made our way back, pausing several times to enjoy views that we had missed on the way up. Working our way back down to Bear Lake was a bit harder as we were now sliding downhill. At one point the snow/slush was so slippery that I just crouched down, sitting back on my heels and scooted myself down with my hands. My boyfriend was amused and I thought it was lots of fun.

View from the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

The details

The Dream Lake Trail is located on the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park, just northwest of Denver, Colorado. All Trails has it listed as 2.1 miles long, with a 498 foot gain in elevation. Park admission is required, and charged per vehicle at the entrances. I’d recommend staying in Estes Park when exploring this area. Park at or take a shuttle to the Bear Lake trailhead to pick up the trail – you’ll begin by following the signs to Nymph Lake. All Trails always has good information about trails, and is a great resource for planning hikes.

Twisted tree near Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I loved this twisted tree we spotted along the way. Living things fight so hard to survive.

You’ll want to wear good hiking shoes, and consider bringing snowshoes during the winter and spring. Visit during the summer for optimal (but most crowded) hiking conditions. Wear layers too – the weather in the mountains is unpredictable. We were hiking on several feet of snow pack, yet my boyfriend was wearing shorts.

Check out these posts for other Rocky Mountain National Park hikes:

Don’t forget to save it on Pinterest for later!

The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible trail that offers spectacular views of mountain lakes. Colorado | Rocky Mountain National Park | Bear Lake | Nymph Lake | #Colorado | #RMNP | #RockyMountainNationalPark | #ColoradoHikes | #EstesPark

The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible trail that offers spectacular views of mountain lakes. Colorado | Rocky Mountain National Park | Bear Lake | Nymph Lake | #Colorado | #RMNP | #RockyMountainNationalPark | #ColoradoHikes | #EstesPark The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible trail that offers spectacular views of mountain lakes. Colorado | Rocky Mountain National Park | Bear Lake | Nymph Lake | #Colorado | #RMNP | #RockyMountainNationalPark | #ColoradoHikes | #EstesPark
Tips for and photos of driving Pikes Peak

Driving to the Top of Pikes Peak

Driving Pikes Peak is one of those classic American experiences that everyone should try at least once. My dad went as a kid, and it’s always been on my list of things to do. I finally got a chance to make the drive this year and it was amazing!

Pikes Peak (known as a fourteener because it tops 14,000 feet high) is located in Colorado Springs and the peak can be accessed by driving, taking a cog railway ride, or hiking. We chose to drive the 19-mile road to the top. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

The drive up Pikes Peak

Switchbacks on the drive to the top of Pikes Peak

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Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Alberta Falls

The Alberta Falls trail is fairly easy and offers a rewarding view of a cool little waterfall. The trail to the falls is about 1.6 miles, and hikers can continue past the waterfall for a few miles to view some scenic lakes and ponds. We decided to turn back after reaching Alberta Falls because we wanted to explore some other areas on our last day, and it made for a perfect morning warm-up hike.

Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

The destination

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First Timer’s Guide to the Garden of the Gods

I’d somehow never heard of Garden of the Gods until I started planning a trip to Colorado Springs. As soon as I saw pictures of it, I knew I’d have to visit. It’s an incredible naturally formed area full of red rock formations that will dazzle you. I loved wandering through the enormous boulders and spires and marveling at the power of nature. Bring your camera and some hiking boots and be prepared to explore some awe-inspiring scenery. Best of all? It’s free!

What to Do

Perkins Central Gardens Trail

Kissing Camels formation in Garden of the Gods Colorado Springs

So cute!

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Hiking the Gem Lake Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park is full of gorgeous scenery and offers all kinds of hiking trails, from an easy stroll around Sprague Lake to a climb to the summit of Longs Peak. As Midwesterners (aka from low elevation) of average fitness level, we stuck to the easy/moderate rated trails. Mostly. Our last hike of the weekend challenged us a lot more than we expected, and left us so exhausted that we barely made it out for dinner that night.

Hiking the Gem Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park taught us a very important lesson: always be very clear about your level of fitness when inquiring about hiking trails in the mountains. We were pointed toward Gem Lake by a NPS volunteer at one of the visitor centers and eagerly headed off to check out the views he talked about. The problem: when we told the first park volunteer that we were looking for a moderately easy trail to fill up the rest of the afternoon, she called over this other guy and didn’t relay the message that we weren’t looking for something strenuous. Based on his enthusiastic recommendation, we set off to hike to Gem Lake, with stomachs full of elk and bison burgers, fries, and pop.

Gem Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

There will be a lot of stairs along the way.

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