Bear Lake is an easily accessible, picturesque lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The lake is perched in the high Rockies near the Continental Divide at an elevation of 9,475 feet. Scenic views of the water and surrounding mountain peaks can be seen by walking the 0.6 mile long Bear Lake Nature Trail that loops around the lake.
Bear Lake sits just 300 feet from the parking area at the end of the eight mile long Bear Lake Road. The parking area also provides access to trailheads to Fern Lake (4.7 miles), Flattop Mountain (4.4 miles), Nymph Lake (0.5 miles), Dream Lake (1.1 miles), Emerald Lake (1.8 miles), and Lake Haiyaha (2.2 miles). In summer, a free shuttle provides transportation to trailheads along Bear Lake Road from the Moraine Park Visitors Center.
The Bear Lake Nature Trail is an easy walk around the lake. About a quarter mile of the trail closest to the parking area is wheelchair accessible. The rest of the path is mostly flat with a few small hills. Both times I’ve been to Bear Lake so far, once in January and once a few days ago (March), the trail has been snow covered. This last time, the Front Range towns were enjoying record high temperatures (75 degrees) and the trails near the lake were covered with three feet of snow in some places. Many people wore snowshoes and had trekking poles. I did fine on the short hike with just hiking boots, but I did sink in up to my knees in a few spots.
Bear Lake is a great spot for people who want to see a picturesque mountain lake without a long hike. For those looking for a longer hike, the lake can be easily combined with other area lakes, waterfalls, or peaks.
UPDATE: I returned to Bear Lake on 6/2/2013 and the lake was finally unfrozen and the trail was mostly free of snow and dry. I added a few photos to the end of this post.