The Nymph Lake Colorado hike is one of the most popular short trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), located near the town of Estes Park, Colorado.
This lake is part of the Emerald Lake trail, which is a nice, family friendly hike that features a total of three different scenic lakes on the main trail — Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake — plus two more optional lakes you can visit with side trails (Bear Lake and Lake Haiyaha).
Wildlife sightings are also common on this trail, and it’s a good starter hike for acclimating to the higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains.
This guide will explain how to do the Nymph Lake Trail, how to get permits and parking, where to find the trailhead in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and everything else you need to know before you go!
Where To Stay In Estes Park
- Distance: 1 mile (1.6 km) round trip
- Elevation Gain: 250 feet (75 m)
- Start Elevation: 9,450 feet (2,880 m)
- End Elevation: 9,700 feet (2,955 m)
- Duration: 40 – 60 minutes round trip
- Difficulty: Easy
*These stats are for the roundtrip hike to Nymph Lake without doing Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and the optional side trails for Bear Lake or Lake Haiyaha
Nymph Lake Trail: What To Expect
This lake is part of the Emerald Lake hike, which has three lakes on the main trail.
It’s a short and simple hike to Nymph Lake, and should be easily manageable for all ages and ability levels.
If you go past Nymph Lake to the other lakes (Dream Lake and Emerald Lake), the difficulty level increases a little bit, but not too much.
The trail starts with a brief ascent up to Nymph Lake, which is a paved path at first, but quickly turns into dirt and rocks.
Near the trailhead, you’ll come to a junction where you can turn right for Bear Lake, or turn left for Nymph / Dream / Emerald Lake. You can come back here later and see Bear Lake on the way out, if you want. It’s right by the trailhead, so it can wait.
After about 20-30 minutes of hiking, you’ll reach Nymph Lake, which is filled with lily pads. There’s a nice bench where you can sit and take a break from the trail.
In the early morning, we encountered a group of elk walking right across the hiking path! It seems to be common at this lake.
On some occasions, it’s also possible to see black bears, moose, deer, and other kinds of animals. Pets aren’t allowed, and you’ll want to keep small kids within sight.
This hike is extremely popular and often very busy, so it’s a good idea to start early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and you’ll also need to get access permits for Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ll explain that process in more detail in a minute.
Nymph Lake is nice, but it’s more of a pond than a lake. It’s not as good as Dream Lake or Emerald Lake. It’s more like a preview of those lakes. Keep going to the other lakes if you can!
The Other Lakes
After enjoying the views at Nymph Lake, you can continue hiking to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake, or retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
You can reach Dream Lake in just 20-30 minutes of hiking from Nymph Lake, and Emerald Lake is another 20-30 minutes from Dream Lake. There are also optional side trails to see Lake Haiyaha or Bear Lake.
If you have the time and energy, I would highly recommend hiking all the way to Emerald Lake, because it’s the best lake in the area by far! Dream Lake is also nice.
If you decide to continue the hike and visit Emerald Lake and/or the other lakes, you can read more about that in my complete guide for the trail.
Read More: Emerald Lake Trail
For most months of the year, you need a national park pass AND a timed entry permit to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, which also applies to the Nymph Lake trail since it’s part of RMNP.
The national park pass is easy to get and you can buy it online or in person. We normally get the annual pass and visit several U.S. parks in a year, but they also have daily passes. More information and current fees can be found on the RMNP website.
A timed entry permit is also required to do the Nymph Lake Trail. This one is a bit annoying, but it’s intended to manage crowds at RMNP. There are some exceptions to this rule if you arrive very early in the morning, or very late in the afternoon.
You can read more about the timed entry permit and how to get it on the RMNP website.
Nymph Lake Trailhead: How To Get There
The Nymph Lake hike starts from the Bear Lake trailhead, which is located at the end of Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Here are the GPS coordinates: 40.312007745083704, -105.64600936235149
You can also use the Google map below to navigate you directly to the parking area, which is a 45 minute drive from the town of Estes Park, or 2 hours from Denver Colorado.
On maps, it’s called the Bear Lake Trailhead, but you can rest assured that the Nymph Lake Trail also starts from this same location.
The road is paved and in good condition all the way from Estes Park to the Bear Lake trailhead, so you don’t need high clearance or anything special to reach it.
When you first turn into Bear Lake Road, there’s a booth with friendly rangers from the National Park Service checking entry permits. At the trailhead, there are some information signs, vault toilets, trash bins, a water bottle filling station, and a trail map.
The trailhead has a huge parking lot with more than 200 car parking spaces, but because of the crazy popularity of this hike nowadays, the parking fills up very quickly. If the parking lot is full, you can use the Park & Ride shuttle bus service provided by NPS.
U.S. National Park Regulations
The Nymph Lake Colorado hike is part of Rocky Mountain National Park, so the usual U.S. national park regulations apply.
As always, please remember to keep the trail clean, be considerate of other hikers, and leave no trace. Thanks and happy travels!
Estes Park Hotels
Best Time To Visit
The Nymph Lake Colorado hike is nice at any time of day, but I think it’s definitely best to go in the early morning.
It’s very hard to get parking for this hike because of its extreme popularity, and by going in the morning you also avoid a bit of the crowds and heat. It’s good for photography, too, because you can see reflections on the lakes.
The Nymph Lake hike is open all year, but the best months to visit are from May to October, when there isn’t snow or ice on the trail. You can check current trail conditions on the RMNP website before you go.
More Colorado Hiking Guides
Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this guide for the Nymph Lake trail in Estes Park (Rocky Mountain National Park).
Don’t forget there are a bunch of other nice lakes that you can visit on this same hike! You can read more about this in my complete guide for the Emerald Lake Trail.