Hiking Emerald Lake Trail at Sunset

A pink glow settles on the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park at sunset. Dusk is my favorite time in the park because visitors are rarely seen as the cool air invites elk and deer to roam the trails. A crisp, pine breeze greets you as the paved trail steadily climbs alongside a babbling creek. The trail features three lakes with Emerald Lake topping the trail at 10,110 feet. The deep green waters attract hundreds of visitors a day

Emerald Lake Trail at Dusk

We found that Emerald Lake is surprisingly not the best spot to watch the colorful sky dance on the water. The trail’s namesake is an impressive view, surrounded by snowy mountain peaks and towering pines, but these features obscure the sky. Dream Lake is where you’ll find the best place to watch the horizon light up at dusk. Start your hike two hours before sunset to make it to Dream Lake when the sky is neon and waters are calm.

Emerald Lake Trail takes you past three lakes: Nymph, Dream and Emerald. About 10 minutes into the trail you’ll stumble upon Nymph Lake. This calm and quiet lake is dotted with lily pads and reflected steep mountain peaks that caught the first rays of sunset with an orange hue. Dream Lake is the longest lake on the trail and is known for catch-and-release fly fishing. The lake brimmed with wildlife including trout, chipmunks, marmots, and deer. This is the best place to watch sunset because the mountain peaks separate to the east allowing you to see the neon horizon.

Nymph Lake after sunset

Before the sun starts to set continue past Dream Lake another 15 minutes to Emerald Lake. This is the hardest part of the trail but making it to the snowy peaks surrounding Emerald Lake is worth it. The breeze picks up at the end so pack an extra jacket. We explored the deep green lake stirring with wildlife before heading to Dream Lake for sunset.

When you reach Dream Lake again cross the small creek to your right and relax on the west side of the lake. The mountain peaks separate to the east allowing the glowing horizon to shine through. We had the lake to ourselves and watched the night settle upon the park with a enchanting sweep of color.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As we strapped on headlamps before our hike down the mountain, I knew this was a hike for the books. This trail is known to have the most picturesque backdrop during the day but very few people witness the magic of twilight on Emerald Lake Trail. This is one of the best national parks and this epic sunset is not to be missed during your next trip to Colorado. Send me your sunset pictures on Emerald Lake Trail and check out a blog on my favorite national park.

Here are some extra pictures from our trip, all shot on an iphone:

The winding path of Emerald Lake Trail follows a creek
The trail gets dark quickly towards the end of sunset
The trail includes moderate steps
Dream Lake at sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park

Planning your next winter trip? Here are the best Southwest Hikes in Winter.


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