The popular Dream Lakes hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is a scenic and easy hike. It is possibly the most popular of all the hikes in the park. As a warm-up for our Mount Massive climb, Allen and I stopped here after climbing Wyoming's Medicine Bow Peak.
From the Glacier Gorge trailhead, follow the obvious signs leading to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes. Much of the year you'll need to park your car and take a shuttle bus up to the crowded parking lot. We drove into the park in a light rain, but were lucky enough for it to clear up right as we started our hike. As mentioned earlier, the hike is crowded and popular with families, so do not expect solitude, or courteous hikers.
The first part of the trail is paved towards Nymph Lake. Along the way a search and rescue group wheeled down a woman who had been injured climbing, we never did hear the details of the accident. It is a short hike to tiny Nymph Lake, laden with lilypads. Rugged Hallett Peak sits beyond and is visible from much of the hike. Photos of the lakes with Hallett are common. As you round Nymph Lake you'll be able to see Longs Peak in the distance. A climb of a couple of hundred feet (and more good views of Longs) brings you to Dream Lake. I thought this one was the prettiest of the three. The view of Hallett beyond is outstanding, and if you go past the lake, the view back of the lake with the trees is another classic.
Beyond Dream Lake, the trail began to get muddier on this July 4th holiday. Many of the small children or older hikers were having difficulty, but it is nothing an avid hiker would struggle with. A final short hike leads to Emerald Lake beneath Hallett Peak. This lake was also pretty, but didn't offer as much shore to walk around (of course, part of this is because of the crowds). It would be an interesting hike to continue up past this lake into the bowl north of Hallett and climb either Hallett or nearby Flattop Mountain. Both are well over 12,000 feet. The elevation at the highest lake you're at is about 10,000 feet.
The hike out is short and easy, only difficult from the hoards of people coming and going. The hike can be done at a gentle pace in about two hours, faster hikers on quieter days could easily be done in about an hour. Nearby Bear Lake also offers a loop hike around it's shores from the same parking lot. Another nearby trail heads for Glacier Gorge and Mills Lake under Longs Peak. Unfortunately we didn't have time for any other hikes on this day.