Rocky Mountain National Park is best experienced by getting a little dirty. If you're visiting the park then chances are you're looking to do some hiking.
If you're looking to do some hiking you'll want to read on and learn about what Dream Lake has to offer visitors!
Accessed from the Bear Lake Corridor, this lake sits at nearly 10,000 feet or about 3,000 meters.
Situated just below the tree line, this trail offers views of Hallett's Peak and multiple mountain lakes.
Have a specific question about visiting Dream Lake? Jump ahead using the table of contents below:
Don't forget that Rocky Mountain National Park is now on the timed entry reservation system during peak season (end of May through early October). If you don't have a reservation be sure to head over to Recreation.gov to lock that in!
If you aren't familiar with that system - do not fear! I've put together a post highlighting how to get through the reservation process along with other useful tips. Check out my National Park Timed Entry Guide here!
Once you're finished reading this guide, be sure to check out the Rocky Mountain National Park Video Guide I put together over on my YouTube channel. It includes tons of great footage I shot during my visit throughout the park.
You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!
Where is Dream Lake Located?
Dream Lake is best accessed from the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park via the Beaver Meadows entrance station.
Without traffic the drive from Estes Park to the Bear Lake trailhead Parking lot should take you between 30 and 45 minutes.
Most of the drive time occurs after entering Rocky Mountain which means you'll be able to take in the parks beautiful scenery along the way!
If you're visiting Dream Lake be sure to hit Bear Lake first! Bear Lake is located right by the main parking lot and there's a nature walk that loops around it. If you haven't already, you can learn more about this stop by reading my post on Bear Lake here!
As you hike on from Bear Lake towards Dream Lake there is one other detour you won't want to miss out on. Nymph Lake is located roughly halfway between Bear and Dream Lakes. It's a great spot to pull over and take a quick break. I put together a full post on what to expect when visiting Nymph Lake. Be sure to add that stop to your Rocky Mountain itinerary!
If you're entering Rocky Mountain from the west, near Grand Lake, you'll have to drive across the entire park to reach the Bear Lake trailhead which can take nearly two hours. Considering many of the parks best hikes and sights are located along the Bear Lake Corridor, it's not a surprise that most people suggest staying in Estes Park over Grand Lake.
What to Expect When Hiking to Dream Lake?
Dream Lake is one of the easier hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park with AllTrails pegging the roundtrip journey at 2 miles or about 3.2 kilometers.
There's a slight elevation gain as you work from Bear Lake to Dream Lake, but despite the trails elevation making breathing slightly more difficult, this is a trail that welcomes hikers of all skill levels.
The trail leading to Dream Lake is well maintained and offers modest tree coverage which provides some protection against the mountain sun.
While this hike isn't the most challenging, you might end up being out in the elements for a few hours especially if you stop at Bear Lake and Nymph Lake along the way.
Be sure to bring essentials like water, sunscreen and light snacks. This is especially important if you plan to continue hiking from Dream Lake to Emerald Lake. The Bear Lake trailhead serves as the starting point for all of these destinations.
Where do I Park for Dream Lake?
Unfortunately like many other popular National Park destinations the parking situation for Dream Lake is pretty brutal since it utilizes the popular Bear Lake trailhead and parking lot.
When I visited Rocky Mountain in late July we had a 9am timed entry slot which included Bear Lake Corridor access. We entered the park around 9:30am and reached the Bear Lake parking lot around 10am. At this time rangers were directing traffic.
Looking for tips to save on airfare? Check out a full post I wrote on the subject here!
Most cars were being turned away and told to park at an overflow lot (with shuttle access) down the road. Some way, some how, we were the last car they allowed to park here before the main parking lot was shut down again.
Unless you're arriving very early you should probably just plan on parking at the overflow lot and taking the shuttle service to the Bear Lake trailhead. Shuttles are plentiful so you shouldn't need to wait long for one.
Other Things to Know About Dream Lake
Is There Cell Phone Service at Dream Lake?
Cell phone service throughout most of Rocky Mountain National Park is minimal. You may get intermittent cell phone service around Dream Lake but don't count on it. The higher points of the park (towards the Alpine Visitor Center) will offer better opportunities to get a signal.
How Much Does Dream Lake Entry Cost?
There isn't a fee specific to accessing Dream Lake. The Rocky Mountain National Park entry pass and timed entry reservation are all you need to access Dream Lake. You can check out current rates at the National Park Service's website.
How Long Does it Take to Visit Dream Lake?
Start off by budgeting 30-45 minutes of driving time from Estes Park. From there let's assume you park at the overflow lot and need to wait 10 minutes each way on the shuttle for pick up so you'll need to budget about one hour for logistics. The trail itself isn't too long but assuming you make stops at Bear Lake and Nymph Lake along the way, your whole adventure could end up taking three hours or so.
Are Pets Allowed at Dream Lake?
Sadly, pets are not allowed at Dream Lake. While your pet is welcome to enter Rocky Mountain National Park, don't expect to take them with you at Dream Lake or any of the other trails. Pets are only welcome around parking lots and certain campgrounds.
Are there Bathrooms at Dream Lake?
There are bathrooms at the Bear Lake trailhead parking lot. There are no other facilities along the trail.
Should I Bring any Special Hiking Gear for Dream Lake?
Hiking gear isn't necessary for Dream Lake. Hiking boots never hurt, but the trail is well kept and the distance is relatively short so even these aren't required. Just be sure to pack essentials like water, snacks and sunscreen!
What is the Best Time of Day to Visit Dream Lake?
Given the short duration of this trail you can really visit any time of day. Keep in mind that during the summer months Rocky Mountain often experiences afternoon thunderstorms. Arriving early or late in the day can improve your prospects at parking in the main lot and cut down on crowds around the lake.
Also - don't forget to check out the Rocky Mountain National Park Video Guide over on my YouTube channel if you haven't already!
Looking for hiking gear recommendations?
Chances are if you're visiting Rocky Mountain National Park you'll be doing some hiking. If you're doing some hiking you'll want to have the right gear in order to have the best experience possible.
Finding gear that's functional, not overpriced, that also looks good can be a challenge.
For your convenience I've laid out some of my favorite hiking apparel below. All of the gear I link to below are items I personally own and have tested out on the trails. Quick disclaimer, I am an affiliate of several referral programs and I may earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
Hiking day pack - If you're in the market for a hiking day pack I'd suggest browsing REI's selection. If you've never owned one before you can go into a retail store and they'll ensure you find one that fits properly with any of the bells and whistles you may require!
Water reservoir - I have reservoirs from Platypus and Gregory that I really like. While these come in a variety of sizes I wouldn't bother with those smaller than 3L. You can always just fill up the larger ones part way if you're concerned about weight since they collapse to the same size.
Moisture wicking t-shirts - Patagonia makes really great hiking t-shirts that keep you dry all day long. They also perform well under multiple layers of clothing.
Hiking socks - I absolutely love the FEIDEER brand of hiking socks. I've tried some other hiking sock brands, but I think these take the cake! They make great socks for women and men.
There's nothing worse than missing out on a great hike because you didn't come prepared, don't be that person!
Check Out Our Timed Entry Reservation Guide
There's one mistake you cannot afford to make when visiting US National Parks. Showing up without a timed entry reservation is a surefire way to blow up what should be an otherwise stress free day exploring some of Americas most beautiful destinations.
Fortunately - we have put together a guide walking you through that process. We also provide useful tips on how to get the best time slots and what to do if you find yourself without a reservation.
You can access our Timed Entry Reservation Guide here!