Hike to Dream Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park

hike to dream lake

The hike to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, is one of the most gorgeous hikes I’ve ever been on. It also happens to be one of the most accessible and one of the easiest.

Definitely put this hike on your to-do list the next time (or the first time) you’re in Rocky.

How to get there

The trailhead is on the east side of the Park, not far from Moraine Park Campground, where we were camping. Take Bear Lake Road off Highway 36, coming from Estes Park.

There’s a sizeable parking lot right there at the trailhead—which is also where the short paved walk to Bear Lake begins. But the parking lot fills up quickly during the busy summer season—as soon as 9:00 a.m! The best bet is to take a shuttle from the Park-and-Ride along Bear Lake Road.

(You can see all this on the Park map here.)

When we were last there in 2015, we had settled on seeing Bear Lake, so we took the shuttle there. Upon our arrival, a very helpful ranger suggested we take the trail to Dream Lake, too. She said the 2-mile round-trip hike was well worth it.

Are we ever glad we took her advice!

(Incidentally, this has happened to us before. If someone who knows suggests a hike, do it! We haven’t regretted it yet.)

Why we loved it

THE VIEWS ALONG THE WAY. Definitely the views! First we swung by Bear Lake, which is barely stepping away from the parking lot. Then proceeded up the trail on the way to Dream Lake.

Shortly after we hiked past the second lake, which is Nymph Lake, our son and nephew led the way scrambling up some rocks, like so…

hike to dream lake

We all decided to follow, and WOW—this was the treat in store for us:

hike to dream lake
Cousins Jason and Sebastian

Not bad, eh?! (The view I mean—although the boys are cute, too!) That’s Long’s Peak in the background, the highest peak in Rocky at 14,259 feet. Nymph Lake is below.

There were great views like this in several places along the trail.

AN EASY HIKE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. This trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip, with only 450 feet elevation gain. The path is wide and well-worn. Very suitable for both young children (we saw many) and older adults. The youngest in our group was 8, and he handled it very easily.

hike to dream lake

DREAM LAKE. Dream Lake is the quintessential mountain lake. The mountains seem to climb right up off its shores, wooded, clear and cold. (See the photo at the top of the page.) There’s plenty of places for the kids to climb around, and places to sit on the rocks and enjoy the view.

NO BUGS! As with Rocky in general, there are hardly any mosquitos and flies. Truly a blessed thing for those of us from the Midwest.

What’s not to love

THE CROWDS. It’s still very much worth it, even if you’re there on a busy summer day with dozens of others, like we were. But if you’d prefer a more solitary hike, avoid July and August certainly, and maybe even the last half of June. Or get up very early and be on the trail by 6:00 or 7:00 a.m.

Still, not everyone who’s there to see Bear Lake bothers to take the hike to Dream Lake—or maybe they don’t know how great it is because they didn’t ask anyone!

hike to dream lake

That’s really it. Just as a reminder why you should do this hike, here’s another view from along the trail.

Pretty gorgeous, huh?

What else to know

BRING RAIN GEAR. You’ll want rain gear with you just in case. An afternoon shower is common in the mountains.

If you notice from the pictures, it was a blue sky when we started out. By the time we headed back it was raining lightly.

THERE’S MORE HIKING TO BE DONE PAST DREAM LAKE. We didn’t take the time, but as you can see from the map, you can continue taking the trail to the west for Emerald Lake. Or take another trail toward the south and Lake Haiyaha.

I’m sure any of the trails in that part of Rocky are stunning.

The final word

If you’re planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, be sure to write this hike on your itinerary. Some of the most beautiful views in the Park are along this easy, accessible trail.

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