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Lake Haiyaha Trail: The Best Hidden Gem in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its beautiful mountainscapes, sweeping pine tree forests, and colorful alpine lakes. And lucky for you, you can actually experience all of these elements on one of the most underrated hikes in the national park! Here’s everything you need to know about the Lake Haiyaha Trail, the best hidden gem in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

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Woman standing on the shores of Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park
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About the Lake Haiyaha Trail 


4.0 miles

Elevation gain

846 feet

Couple sitting on a boulder and overlooking Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park




No, like most hikes in national parks, you’ll need to leave your pups at home for Lake Haiyaha Trail. 

Trail map

Pssst… cell service is spotty, at best, in this section of the park so I’d suggest downloading Google Maps and the trail map on AllTrails before heading here.  

You'll need the AllTrails+ version of the app to download offline maps so that you can track your hike using GPS without cell service. Luckily, you can get a 7-day free trial, PLUS our awesome readers get a sweet 30% off discount for their first year—just use the code “Uprooted30” at check out! 

How to get to the Lake Haiyaha Trail

To access the Lake Haiyaha Trail, you’ll use the trailhead for Bear Lake, located here. It’s about a two hour drive from Denver, an hour and 20 minutes from Boulder, and 40 minutes from Estes Park. 

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

To enter Rocky Mountain National Park, it costs $30 for a one-day pass or $35 for a one-week pass per private vehicle. Alternatively, if you’re as big of a national park lover as me, I’d suggest picking up an America the Beautiful pass, which allows you unlimited access to all of the national parks (and over 2,000 other federally managed lands!) for just $80 a year. 

It’s important to note that, as of 2024, you are required to have a Park Access Plus Timed Entry permit to drive along Bear Lake Road, which is home to some of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, like the Sky Pond or Emerald Lake Trail, from May 26 through October 22, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

This should not be confused with a Park Access Timed Entry permit, which does not include access to the Bear Lake corridor. You can find out more about how to reserve your permits and make your reservation here

If the permits are sold out during your visit, you are welcome to enter the Bear Lake corridor before 5 AM—just be prepared for a very early morning wake up call! 

Shuttle in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Bear Lake parking lot of Rocky Mountain National Park

Alternatively, you can try to grab tickets for the hiker shuttle, which runs during the busy summer and fall seasons and departs from the Estes Park Visitor Center and drops you off at the Rocky Mountain National Park’s Park & Ride Transit Hub on Bear Lake Road. From here, you’ll have to take another (this time, free!) shuttle to the trailhead. You can learn more about the hiker shuttle here.

Even if you snag a timed entry permit, the Bear Lake parking lot tends to fill up pretty early, especially during Rocky Mountain’s busy periods, like weekends in September through the beginning of October. Accordingly, I’d suggest getting here early (like, before 6 AM) if you visit during a busier period. For what it’s worth, my husband, Justin, and I came to the Bear Lake parking lot around 6:45 AM on a Thursday in early October and there were plenty of parking spots available—so you have a lot more latitude if you’re visiting on a weekday. 

Woman walking through the Bear Lake parking lot in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you don’t feel like an early morning wake-up call and the lot is full,  you can park at the aforementioned Transit Hub along Bear Lake Road and take the park-provided free shuttle from there. Just note that the lines for this shuttle can get pretty long when the park is busy—so the earlier that you can get here, the better!

What to Expect Along the Lake Haiyaha Trail

From the trailhead, follow signs to the left, heading towards Lake Haiyaha, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake. 

Sign at the Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park

The trail to Dream and Emerald Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, so be prepared to share the path with lots of other hikers, especially if you get here later in the day. However, the crowds significantly thin out once you branch off on the trail to Lake Haiyaha. 

The trail immediately starts gently sloping upwards through a dense forest of aspens and ponderosa pines. At about 0.6 miles into your hike, you’ll come across the first (of three!) stunning lake along the trail, Nymph Lake, with lush pond lilies floating on its surface as Hallett Peak towers above.

Man standing at Nymph Lake along the Lake Haiyaha Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Continuing on, the trail gets quite a bit steeper, but you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Keyboard of the Winds, a series of jagged spires along Longs Peak, and, in the summertime, a plethora of alpine wildflowers. 

After hiking for a mile, you’ll arrive at the junction for the Lake Haiyaha Trail; however, turn right here and walk a few hundred feet to catch a glimpse of Dream Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the lake’s eastern shores, you’ll have jaw-dropping views of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain, each towering over 12,000 feet above sea level.

Woman looking at Dream Lake along the Lake Haiyaha Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Once you’re done drinking in the views, continue up the Lake Haiyaha Trail. The path will narrow considerably and transition to a series of steep switchbacks that cut through a spruce and fir forest. There are a few steep drop-offs along the way, so when there’s ice or snow, I’d recommend bringing microspikes and using caution if you’re hiking. 

After 1.6 miles along the trail, you will cross a river using a fun lil’ log bridge and eventually get to a large granite boulder field, which actually sits on the shores of Lake Haiyaha. 

Lake Haiyaha surrounded by granite boulders in Rocky Mountain National Park

You have to scramble around these boulders a bit to find a good spot to take in the views of the lake’s famed robin egg blue waters and the surrounding valley, but, with a little bit of patience, there are plenty of flat, wide rocks to relax on. These enormous boulders can get slippery when they’re wet or icy, so please be careful here! 

When you’re done enjoying the views, retrace your steps along the trail. Be sure to pop over to Bear Lake by the trailhead—it offers a wide, flat path around the lake’s shores, with stunning vistas of the surrounding pine tree forests and beyond, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

When to Visit Lake Haiyaha Trail

The best time to enjoy the Lake Haiyaha Trail is from June through October, when the trail is mostly snow and ice free. 

Man walking along a wooden boardwalk to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

You can certainly hike this trail in the wintertime, but check recent trail reports on AllTrails to see whether you need microspikes or snowshoes (my husband, Justin, has this pair and I have this pair).

Things to Know When Visiting Lake Haiyaha Trail

It’s not as blue as the internet says it is.

Listen, Lake Haiyaha is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, but I was expecting it to be a neon shade of Gatorade blue… which it’s definitely not. So don’t be too disappointed when the lake isn’t quite as spectacularly colored as Instagram would suggest!

Couple sitting on a boulder overlooking Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park

Come prepared. 

Be sure to bring along:

  • Water: Rocky Mountain National Park is at high elevation, so be sure to stay nice and hydrated here! Justin and I have these comically giant Nalgene bottles that we always take on hikes. 
  • Sunscreen: Same thing as above—a decent amount of the trail is exposed and, given the high altitude, it’s super easy to get sunburnt. 
  • Warm layers: It can get pretty chilly up in the mountains, especially near the alpine lakes, which can get pretty windy. Bring along a few warmer layers to throw on, even in the summertime.
Woman walking along the Lake Haiyaha Trail with Longs Peak in the background in Rocky Mountain National Park

Consider adding on Emerald Lake. 

If you’re willing to tack on just a mile and a couple hundred feet of elevation gain, add on hiking to Emerald Lake—yup, you’ll get to pass four beautiful alpine lakes in just five miles! The lake is gorgeous, with sparkling emerald green water and the rugged slopes of Hallett Peak.

Woman sitting on the banks of Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Where to Stay Near the Lake Haiyaha Trail

If you’re exploring Rocky Mountain National Park for a couple of days (which you absolutely should!), there’s a number of places in the charming mountain town of Estes Park that you can make your homebase during your stay:

  • Mountain Shadows Resort: This secluded resort has lots of cozy features, including in-room fireplaces and hot tubs, plus a terrace with stunning mountain views.
  • 4 Seasons Inn on Fall River: Located along the rushing Fall River and just five minutes from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, this inn is perfect for a mountain getaway, with in-room fireplaces, a cozy hot tub, and lots of wildlife that like to frolic around the property.
  • Silver Moon Inn: This hotel offers free breakfast, an incredibly friendly staff, and, like any good mountain getaway spot, a hot tub to relax in after all your Rocky Mountain hiking.
Couple standing at the shore of Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Enjoy the Lake Haiyaha Trail while it’s still relatively under-the-radar to most visitors. Do you have any questions about this hike? Let us know in the comments below!

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