Experienced Colorado hikers know this golden rule: It’s always better in winter. Colder? Yes. Tougher? Yes. Worth it? Oh yes. Winter is the “slow season” for fair weather hikers, which means it’s “go season” for the rest of us.
Nowhere is this truer than in Rocky Mountain National Park. The crowds of summer and fall disappear as winter descends and the park is transformed by snow. Even the most popular trails are suddenly quieter, calmer, and relatively empty.
The hike to Emerald Lake is probably the most popular hike in the entire park. In the warmer months, it’s overwhelmed by throngs of both tourists and locals. But in winter, parking is ample. The trail feels spacious. There is peace and quiet to be found. And now, more than ever, you can really appreciate the beauty of this classic alpine lake hike.
Note: Weather and trail conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park can be drastically different from those in Boulder. Be sure to check weather reports and current conditions for both roads and trails before heading out.
To snowshoe or not to snowshoe? If the Bear Lake area received significant snowfall prior to your hike, snowshoes may be needed. If not, a good pair of boots and traction will usually suffice. The trail is well traveled and gets packed down quickly. The National Park Service maintains a very helpful page solely for Bear Lake conditions.