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Base Camp

Words are powerful and stories can be moving. Base Camp is an outlet for like-minded outdoor enthusiasts to feature their past travels, lessons learned, weekend wins, gear reviews, photography tips, and recipes to fuel exploration.

Winter Hiking in Colorado: Dream Lake & Alberta Falls

Mark Munson

Finding a hike suitable for all skill levels with good trail conditions in the winter can be a daunting task. You usually end up endlessly scrolling through All Trails, changing filter settings to maybe find a hike with a recent review. Or better yet, you do some Google searches for winter hikes in Colorado only to find the hikes you've already done. Rocky Mountain National Park is a fantastic option when looking for winter hikes, especially Dream Lake and Alberta Falls. Both of these trails depart from the Bear Lake Trailhead, one of the more popular areas in Rocky Mountain National Park. Due to its year round use, it is recommended you get there early to secure yourself a parking spot. In the summer, there are shuttles running from the lower lots to the Bear Lake Trailhead, but those are unavailable in the winter.

Dream Lake - Photo Credit:  @markonthemove

Dream Lake - Photo Credit: @markonthemove

Dream Lake Trail
Trail Length
: 2.2 Miles RT
Trail Type: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 410 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog Friendly: No

Dream Lake Trail is an simple stroll for your average hiker. There isn't much elevation gain, the snow is packed the entire way up to the lake, and common winter gear like crampons, micro spikes, and trekking poles are not necessary. Regular hiking boots will suffice and getting to the lake won't require too much effort. There are a few good scenic vistas on the way up to Dream Lake. One of my favorite lookouts offers a higher view of Nymph Lake and the valley, creating perfect sunrise and sunset opportunities.  Winter conditions usually bring gusty winds at high mountain elevations so dress in layers. Once up to Dream Lake, you are greeted by Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain from the east side of the lake. These picturesque mountains offer outstanding views. If you decide to walk out onto the lakes, be careful, as the ice can be thin in spots!

Directions to the Dream Lake Trailhead

Alberta Falls - Photo Credit:  @markonthemove

Alberta Falls - Photo Credit: @markonthemove

Alberta Falls Trail
Trail Length
: 1.6 Miles RT
Trail Type: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 219 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dog Friendly: No

Alberta Falls features serene beauty, not only in the summer, but the winter too. The falls are frozen over completely for most of the winter, but water continues to run under the ice which makes for a unique sight. 

The trail can be accessed from either the Bear Lake Trailhead or Glacier Gorge Trailhead and begins with some light undulations. Since Alberta Falls is less than a mile from the trailhead, the snowpack will be firm and winter hiking gear won't be necessary. The trail meanders through gorgeous pine forests and aspen groves until you reach Alberta Falls. In the summer, the falls are 30 feet tall, but are about half that height in winter due to freezing conditions. The rock slabs surrounding the Falls are a great place to explore and picnic. The perfect trail to get outside and enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park!

Directions to the Alberta Falls Trailhead

Written by Mark Munson