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Photograph Bear Lake

Estes Park, Colorado

based on 12 reviews


Added by Jason Hatfield

An iconic lake in Rocky Mountain National Park with year-round photography access.

Bear Lake is a popular tourist destination in Rocky Mountain NP, but when the sun is low in the sky or the stars are out you'll find the big crowd are gone. The lake is beautiful at sunrise and sunset but especially photogenic in the fall or at winter's end. While it doesn't have the darkest night skies it can still serve as an excellent location to watch meteors or photograph star trails above Hallet Peak. The area is also frequented by wildlife and you might capture an elk harem, flock of turkeys, or lone fox.

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Easy Parking
Family Friendly
ADA Accessible


I've walked around this lake during the spring, summer and winter. All four season offer a unique perspective to the lake. Winter was a personal favorite because the lake was frozen over and it was a beautiful sight. This is a great trail for all activity levels and ages.

My wife and I added this to an already packed day of hiking simply because it was so easy to get to on our way back from a sunrise hike to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. If you head up this way in RMNP, go check out this lake!

This lake is easy and handicapped accessed which is great but also makes it crowded. If you are planning on doing this early then you will find a spot, but I have also seen this parking lot fill up by 0700 on spring weekend

This parking lot is one of the busiest in the Rockies and I always make sure to get here prior to sunrise to make sure I had a space.

Go for sunrise!

We finished our hike to Emerald Lake and before returning to the car we decided to quickly check out Bear Lake. It was worth the very fast hike there. You can do a loop but we did not, we simply admired the lake, took a couple pictures and returned to our car. It was raining and the clouds were rolling in, making it particularly different and beautiful.

This is a pretty scenic starting point for a lot of hikes in RMNP. Consider arriving early to avoid the crowds.

This is a wonderful lake to visit during the Winter months if you're wanting to see the snow-covered mountains but don't want to hike to see them. The roads are generally well-maintained even after the snowstorms. After parking in the lot, it's just a few hundred feet to the lake and it's breathtaking after a snowstorm. Great for families with small children or elderly adventurers. If you are more interested in getting a bit of a workout, continue on to Nymph Lake about a half mile up, Dream Lake just a bit further from that and finally Emerald Lake at the top. Hiking boots are fine for Bear Lake but anything further you may want to consider snow shoes to make your trek easier. We rented ours from Estes Park Mountain Shop for $5 a day and it was well worth it.

One of my favorite things to do in CO, definitely a must see in RMNP

If I have family in town that has never been to RMNP but isn't necessarily up for a "hike," I take them to Bear Lake. Its a gorgeous spot that has a mostly handicap accessible path and incredible views of Long's Peak. It's such a great place to share the beauty of the park without the strain of hiking somewhere further away.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Climb Notchtop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Nymph Lake via Bear Lake Trailhead

Winter Hike Flattop Mountain

Snowshoe to Emerald Lake

Ptarmigan Lake via Bear Lake Trailhead

Hike Flattop Hallett Andrews Loop