The 10 Best Lakes in Estes Park, Colorado You Must Visit

Pep Dekker

Updated on:

Gem lake Trail Estes park

If you’re planning a trip to Estes Park, don’t skip the chance to visit some of the most stunning lakes in Colorado! 

There are plenty of lakes in Estes Park that offer stunning views and make for a great day trip or afternoon activity.

Most of the lakes on this list are located inside Rocky Mountain National Park, so make sure you acquire the right permits before your trip. Also, some of the lakes are situated along hiking trails, so make sure you come prepared. 

We’ve included lakes that are suitable for all skill levels, families, seniors, and experienced hikers alike. So what are you waiting for?

This blog will cover:

  • The best lakes to visit in Estes Park
  • Some activities you can do at the lakes
  • The lakes we highly recommend visiting.

Let’s dive right in!

What are the most popular lakes in Estes Park?

Let’s get into our picks of the best lakes in Estes Park! Every lake listed is located in or around Estes Park, and these are all options you should consider when planning your trip:

1. Bear Lake

This is one of the most stunning lakes on this list. You’ll find Bear Lake located just inside Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s a parking lot nearby, which makes this lake accessible for the whole family.

Picture gorgeous pine trees circling the sparkling water. There are plenty of things to do at Bear Lake, from taking a casual stroll around the outside of the lake to having a relaxing picnic by the water. 

You’ll also find plenty of hikes to do nearby from the Bear Lake Trailhead if you want to make a day out of it. Bear Lake is open year-round, so bring your snow boots in winter!

However, it’s also one of the most popular lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’d recommend getting there early to secure a parking spot – especially in summer or on weekends.

2. Dream Lake

Dream Lake is another lake that’s located inside Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll have to complete a short hike to reach it, but the lake is worth it! It’s the second lake you’ll come across along the Emerald Lake Trail. 

The terrain is fairly easy, and Dream Lake is the perfect spot to take a breather if you’re not keen on hiking up to Emerald Lake. You can turn back here, or stick around to enjoy the scenery.

We recommend visiting this lake in the morning so you can glimpse the reflections of the mountains on the clear water. 

The trail is open year-round but more popular in the summer, so get there early! The hike is easily accessible from the Bear Lake Trailhead.

3. Emerald Lake

If you continue following the trail past Dream Lake, you’ll soon reach Emerald Lake. This scenic lake features breathtaking mountain views, and you might even spot a waterfall!

However, the hike past Dream Lake does get slightly more difficult, so we’d recommend it for moderately experienced hikers. 

It’s more elevated, and there are stairs in the final stretch. Once you make it past, however, the view will make you feel glad you climbed all those steps.

The trail takes a couple of hours to complete, so it’s a good activity if you want to make it a day trip and pack some lunch to eat next to the lake!

It’s also a very popular spot, so we’d recommend heading out in the morning so you can snag a parking spot and reach the lake by lunchtime.

4. Sprague Lake

Also located inside Rocky Mountain National Park, Sprague Lake is a popular lake known for its accessibility. You’ll find stunning views of the surrounding mountains, which make for the perfect backdrop to any lake walk!

The trail around the lake is fairly easy, which makes it a good option for families and seniors. The path uses packed gravel which is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

You can find Sprague Lake along Bear Lake Road. There’s a parking lot and restrooms nearby, and we’d recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Alternatively, try going at golden hour in the evening for spectacular sunset views!

5. Nymph Lake

Another lake that’s close to Bear Lake, you’ll find this one along the Emerald Lake Trail. 

It’s the first one you come across and also makes for an easy one-mile round trip if you’re not keen on going all the way to Dream Lake or Emerald Lake. The trail slowly ascends through the forest to reach the small lake.

The unique aspect of Nymph Lake is that in the summer it’s full of pretty lily pads! It was originally named Lily Pad Lake until it was changed to Nymph Lake after ‘Nymphaea polysepala,’ which is the scientific name for lily pads.

This trail is open as long as Bear Lake is open. Like the other lakes on this trail, we’d recommend going early if you want to grab a parking spot near Bear Lake.

6. The Loch

Along the Glacier Gorge Trail, you’ll find Loch Lake. This is a popular fishing and hiking spot and the perfect challenge for moderately-experienced hikers. It’s not a beginner-friendly trail! 

You can expect to spend three hours completing a roundtrip and to be met with gorgeous views upon reaching the lake. Did you know it’s one of the most photographed lakes near Estes Park?

If you keep following the trail, you’ll reach Sky Pond which is equally as impressive. However, this route is slightly more challenging, so if you’re less experienced, starting with The Loch is a better option. 

It also gets windy up there, so bring an extra layer!

7. Sky Pond

For the more experienced adventurers, Sky Pond is definitely a must-see! The hike to this lake begins at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, on Bear Lake Road. 

It’s about a nine-mile round trip and has some very difficult terrain, which makes it more suitable for hikers looking to up their difficulty.

The journey and the destination are what make this hike worth it. You’ll pass stunning rivers along the way, as well as Loch Lake. Sky Pond is surrounded by shark-tooth-shaped rock spires and craggy rocks. 

We recommend bringing bug spray with you, as lots of insects hang around the rivers during the summer. It can also get a bit windy, so bring an extra layer!

Additionally, make sure you acclimatize to the altitude before attempting this hike so you don’t get altitude sickness along the way.

8. Fern Lake

If you’re looking for a hidden gem, Fern Lake is one not to overlook! This quieter lake is located inside Rocky Mountain National Park and is often left off people’s hiking plans. 

However, this means the lake is less crowded, so you’re left with a peaceful experience!

The trail is suitable for moderately experienced hikers. It has some elevation gain, but it’s not too bad. We also recommend packing bug spray, as mosquitos are common. 

Along the trail, you’ll find Fern Falls which is an impressive waterfall. And if you go early enough, you might be able to spot some moose along the way!

You can also fish here if you’re looking for more activities on this route. However, be sure to check local fishing regulations beforehand.

9. Bierstadt Lake

Named after the landscape painter Albert Bierstadt, this lake offers spectacular views of the Continental Divide. You can access this alpine lake from Bear Lake Road but be warned that it’s a moderately difficult trail. 

The hike to the lake won’t be scenic, but the views at the end are well worth it. 

The lake is surrounded by thick pine trees, giving it a very serene look. We’d recommend this hike for people who are looking for something slightly more challenging!

10. Lake Estes

This is the only lake on this list that isn’t located inside Rocky Mountain National Park! It was formed by a dam on the Big Thompson River and has plenty of things to do!

You can go for a leisurely stroll around the lake, which provides panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains as well as chances for wildlife spotting. 

There are also plenty of other activity options, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, and fishing!

This lake is perfect to enjoy with the whole family. We’d recommend checking out this lake if you have a dog as there’s a dog park on the south side. If you’re looking to go boating, we’d also recommend booking in advance as it’s very popular!


There are so many stunning lakes in Estes Park that it can be hard to decide what to visit! Overall, we’d suggest checking out as many as you can. 

For example, you can take the Emerald Lake trail to see Dream Lake and Nymph Lake as well as the stunning Emerald Lake at the end! 

If you’re a beginner or have kids, we’d recommend checking out Sprague Lake or Bear Lake as these are the most accessible.

Finally, if you’ve got the experience and want a challenge, we’d definitely suggest the hike to Sky Pond for some truly breathtaking views!


  • Pep Dekker

    Hey. I’m Pep, Paige's husband, and dad to Juliana, Lucille and Maxine. I'm founder and writer here at I've been living full-time in Estes Park for 3 years now and been visting the Estes Valley for 8. I'm a seasoned traveller, and all around expert on all things Estes Park, Colorado and I'm excited to share all that I've learned with you.