Considering a Dream Lake hike or a Dream Lake wedding? Have you ever been someplace so magical it felt like you were in a dream? This is Dream Lake, Colorado a majestic alpine lake tucked into the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park where outdoor lovers come from all over the world to behold the wonders of this national treasure.

Hey, we’re Emmy & Brittany anniversary and elopement guides and photographers here at Celebrate Again. We exist to help you live your best life and empower you to keep celebrating the joys of life whether you’re planning your wedding, anniversary trip or just exploring the great outdoors, we love providing our decade of experience living in this beautiful state.

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Dream Lake Hike | Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
The Hike

Table of Contents

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Dream Lake Colorado Wedding:
The Dream Lake Hike

My (Emmy here) family grew up adventuring, from four wheel driving and hiking around the San Juan mountain range in southern Colorado to road tripping across the country to visit new places. Exploring runs deep in my bones.

 

So, when I finally got to explore Dream Lake Colorado with a couple snowshoeing in the middle of winter, I immediately fell in love. You see, Dream Lake is a popular place in Rocky Mountain National Park and rightfully so.

 

 

Dream Lake Hike:
What's The Hike Like?

couple running at Dream Lake Colorado during winter.

Dream Lake Hike
What Is The Dream Lake Colorado Hike Like?

Dream lake is a short hike (roughly 2 miles out and back) with only a 450 foot elevation gain. It’s a very accessible hike even for novice hikers. The hike itself will only take you at the longest an hour there and back–well, that is unless you have little legs coming with you.

If you have children hiking with you I highly recommend our family favorite Deuter Hiking backpack. It may take longer snowshoeing or if you aren’t used to the altitude at 9905 feet above sea level.

Even living in Denver myself I found that frequent stops were necessary, granted, walking in snowshoes always adds a level of difficulty to any hike. Not to mention the fact that we were hiking in the dark to catch the morning alpine glow (which by the way is SO worth the 4am wake up call!)

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Dream Lake Hike | Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
What You'll See

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Dream Lake Hike:
What's You'll See

Dream lake Colorado photo of an alpine lake in the middle of winter as the sun comes up creating an alpine glow

What You’ll See at the Dream Lake Hike

National parks are the best to see wildlife. There are strict rules and regulations, such as staying on the trail, no dogs allowed on trails and requiring permits for most anything outside of hiking and driving. This helps keep these parks majestic and its wildlife protected. 

As you begin your hike you’ll first see Bear Lake to your right. You’ll pass through Nymph lake, catching a beautiful sneak peek into the peak that Dream Lake is renowned for. 

 

 

If you visit Dream Lake Colorado in winter before snowfall has covered the lake but long enough for the lake to freeze, you may even catch the wonders of ice waves.

Dream Lake Hike:
How you'll feel

Bear Lake Photo in winter what you’ll see on your way to Dream Lake Colorado

How You Feel Hiking Dream Lake

If you aren’t adapted to the high altitude, especially hiking, you may get out of breath sooner than expected. If you find yourself dizzy, lightheaded or fatigued please take a break and listen to your body, these are signs of altitude sickness.

Pro Tip: Make sure to stay hydrated even more than you think is necessary. We are especially obsessed with our Camelbak hydration packs to store copious amounts of water with our favorite electrolyte enhancer- lemon or limes, but like the juice of a WHOLE lemon or lime or two. 

Check out our Camelbak Review here!

We hope altitude doesn’t bother you one bit because the views are ones that will take your breath away anyway 😉 But don’t leave that mouth open for too long, mosquitoes hang around the lakes. Don’t worry though, the bug level in Colorado is nothing compared to the south. Bug spray may not be a bad idea in the summer months.

Dream Lake Hike:
Gear

Suggested Hiking Gear For The Dream Lake HIke

While you can certainly enjoy this hike with a good pair of tennis shoes and some fresh water in the summertime, we highly recommend a few extra things like a rain coat, sunscreen and bug spray. Snacks are always a good idea because no one ever likes a hangry (hungry/angry) hiking buddy!

If you’re hiking in the fall, winter or spring, you’ll want to include crampons just in case you hit some ice. In the winter months snowshoes may be necessary in some parts of the trail as the snow can get pretty deep! 

Pack your compass and bring a map because cell service isn’t around out here. Or download your route ahead of time. Dream Lake Colorado winter is especially the trail isn’t always straight forward.

For more packing suggestions check out our Colorado Packing List!

Dream Lake Hike:
Weather

Dream Lake Colorado Weather

While I wish I had a solid answer for you on this one, the fact of the matter is that the wild rocky mountains will always be unpredictable. My best advice is to prepare for all types of weather and pack accordingly. 

September-June can still experience snow in the park. High winds are always possible as well as thunderstorms and lightning. Look at the weather forecast ahead of time. If you’re not sure check with the rangers on your way into the park. 

Summer will be the mildest weather but afternoon thunderstorms are common in the mountains. July tends to be the wettest month and warmest month.

How To Get To the Dream Lake Hike | Dream Lake Colorado Wedding

If you’re coming from Denver there are a few routes to get you to Rocky Mountain National Park. You can drive up I-25 through Longmont or drive the backway through Golden and Boulder for a bit more scenic route. 

If you’re coming from Grand Lake, Colorado you can enjoy the jaw-dropping views of Trail Ridge road. 

Pro Tip Staying in Grand Lake is a lot less crowded than Estes Park and, in our opinion, well worth the extra scenic drive. Since it’s a small town, we highly recommend looking at home rentals versus hotel stays. We love comparing rates and finds on VRBO, Turnkey and Airbnb

No matter which way you come into the park, if you’re visiting in the summer months (June – August) I highly recommend checking out Trail Ridge road. Although if you aren’t comfortable driving this intense mountain road many tours will take you up the road and stop off at the gorgeous lookout points.

P.s. Check out our curated list of 20 airbnb wedding venues in Colorado!

Dream Lake Hike:
Where is the Trialhead?

View of trail ridge road in Rocky Mountain national park on the way to Dream Lake Colorado

How to get to Dream Lake Hike Trailhead

If you’re coming from Estes Park you can enter Rocky Mountain National Park through the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center entrance.
  • Stay on US-36 West for  1.3 miles past the entrance
  • Turn left onto Bear Lake Road
  • Drive 9.4 miles to Bear Lake Trailhead. 
  • Follow the signs for the hike to Dream Lake!
Check out RMNP website for details about cost of entry and special regulations during COVID which may require a reservation to enter into the park.  Travel time from the park entrance to the trailhead can be 20 – 40 minutes depending on traffic. The roads are smaller and have some switchbacks.  Traffic may get backed up on this two lane road as many tourists will stop and look at wildlife. Be patient and trust us, it’ll all be worth it.  Or skip the crowds and do an early Dream Lake sunrise hike or sunset hike. Make sure to pack your headlamp!

How to get to Dream Lake from Bear Lake

Finally! To the actual hike! Having done this hike for the first time in the dark while snowshoeing, I highly recommend having a printed map and compass especially in winter as cell service is scarce and the trail isn’t super obvious to find, especially in the snow.

  • You’ll first follow the signs to dream lake. 
  • Head up the mountain for .4 miles
  • You’ll arrive at Nymph lake where you can loop up and around it to the right or north 
    • Or you can cut straight across the lake straight too. This route had a tight edge in snowshoes so be mindful if you take this shortcut
  • Follow the trail and you’ll arrive at Dream Lake. 
    • First you’ll see some trees then up over the hill is the majestic Dream Lake, Colorado

For even more adventure, you can head up the trail further to hike to Emerald Lake which is a mile further up the same trail. 

You’ll park at the Bear Lake trailhead. Parking can get full in the summer months so have a plan B adventure especially if you’re in the park on a weekend during peak hours (9-5).

Click here for more Colorado Hikes.

Dream Lake Colorado:
Other Activities

Other Activities at Dream Lake

If you love hiking but are also an avid fisher, camper or water lover, you may also love dream lake.

Water Activities At Dream Lake

While you cannot swim in Dream Lake you can hike up with your SUP, canoe or kayak and enjoy the open waters. Check with the rangers about the water levels and if they require any permits before you head up. 

Bear Lake does not allow any watercraft so if you don’t want to hike up you may want to check out other lakes like Sprague Lake. 

Couple in a boat rowing on an alpine lake

No motorized boats are allowed in the alpine lakes of RMNP.

Dream Lake Hike Camping

While we also wish you could camp at Dream Lake, you can reserve a wilderness camping spot around Rocky Mountain National park. The Sourdough Site is the closest designated camping spot near Dream Lake, but is not on the actual trail.  For more details about Dream Lake Camping check out RMNP website on Wilderness campingand don’t forget your wilderness permit! You can find more details about that here

Not ready for this type of camping? Check out Hipcamp to explore more camping areas around RMNP. 

Dream Lake Hike Fishing

You can fish at Dream Lake Colorado but you must catch and release only. No bait is allowed. You must use barbless hooks. A Colorado fishing license is also required.  For more information about fishing at dream lake visit RMNP site about fishing.

Having A Dream Lake Wedding

Keep reading or click to read more!

Dream Lake Hike
Celebrating Your Anniversary

If you’re traveling for your anniversary we’d love to come alongside you and plan one epic day together to document and craft a day of fun, adventure and connection with you and your partner joining in on the Celebrate Again movement and learn what to do for your anniversary to make it epic!

Looking for more places to go on your anniversary trip? Check out our best anniversary trip ideas!

Download our free anniversary trip planning guide

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Dream Lake Hike | Dream Lake Colorado Wedding:
When To visit

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When To visit Dream Lake

The beauty of Colorado is that you can visit Dream Lake anytime! Summer is the most popular time to visit but you can still enjoy the park in any season.

Dream Lake Hike:
Fall

dream lake hike in the fall

Dream Lake Colorado In The Fall

Fall is particularly beautiful as the leaves change colors, but it can be hard to arrive at their peak. Having a flexible window is helpful for catching the colors as no one knows when they’ll arrive until late August and even then one snow storm can turn the golden leafs to brown blobs in a day. 

Dream Lake Hike:
Winter

dream lake hike in the winter before sunrise is full creating an alpine glow on the mountain peak

Dream Lake Colorado in the Winter

Winter is also so magical. Do keep in mind winter doesn’t usually hit its peak here in Colorado until January and February. So while visiting around the holidays there may not be as much snow as you’d wish. Although we have had very snowy Decembers before! 

Dream Lake Hike:
Spring

Dream Lake In The Spring

Spring is dear to my heart because it is usually the least busy in the park outside of most spring breaks. Don’t forget it can snow until June so plan for a winter mountain adventure anytime from March – June but know it can also be in the 50s, sunny and wonderful.

If you also hit late May and early June you’ll find the most magical time here as everything turns green and blooms!

Dream Lake Hike:
Summer

rocky mountain national park in the summer dream lake hike

Dream Lake In The Summer

Sumer is absolutely magical in Rocky Mountain National park, but it does come with the caveat of being extremely busy. Evening a sunrise hike to Dream Lake may be a bit more busy than expected. 

Don’t expect to find parking in the parking lot after 9 or 10am in the summer months. It can get packed fast. Make sure to have an alternative hike plan just in case! 

Evening on the other hand may be a good idea if you have the proper gear and experience to hike back in the dark. The sun does dip behind Dream Lake sooner than the sunsets in the park so be mindful of when you’ll loose your light having headlamps and a good map to guide you back!

What you’ll need to be prepared

As we’ve mentioned already, plan for all four seasons at any given day no matter the month in the park. Weather is unpredictable up here in the Rocky Mountains which is why we’ve created a Colorado Packing List to help you be prepared!

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Dream Lake Hike | Dream Lake Colorado Wedding

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Dream Lake Colorado Wedding

While we truly wish we could say you can have your actual wedding ceremony here, the reality is Rocky Mountain National Park does not allow your actual ceremony to be at Dream Lake. 

Although, that certainly doesn’t mean you cannot include this hike as a part of your wedding day experience! A fun idea would be to begin your wedding day with this hike and meet your beloved at the top for your first look, maybe even as the sun came up? 

For more info on how to have a Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding check out our guide!

couple at dream lake in winter

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding Quick FAQs

Can you have your wedding at Dream Lake?

You cannot have your ceremony at Dream Lake, but you can take pictures here with your photographer if you have a wedding permit or portrait permit. Visit RMNP’s website for full rules and details.

Pro Tip

 If you’d like an alternate place close to Dream Lake for your wedding ceremony check out our Sprague Lake Wedding Guide to help you navigate all the rules and locations around having your wedding ceremony at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Best time to have your Dream Lake Colorado Wedding

Since you cannot have your wedding here, we highly recommend taking pictures here at sunrise to skip the crowds and the afternoon storms.

If you’re really not a morning person, we highly recommend looking into midweek vs weekend dates to avoid crowds. The winter months (though not around holidays) also tend to be less busy in the park. 

Spring is also an excellent time in the park, but do note and plan for it to still be full on winter!

Check out this wedding at Moraine Meadows Wedding Photos for an example of a Spring wedding in RMNP.

How To Have A Dream Lake Colorado Wedding

Since you cannot have your ceremony here, you’ll want to check with RMNP’s website for current locations for where you can have your actual ceremony.

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Grab your outfits:

P.S. We love Lulu’s dresses for elopement style dresses and all the handmade additions or dresses from Etsy!

Women's clothing

 rings, vows and…

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Shoes

If you have some amazing high heels or wedges you want to wear, make sure to bring other shoes to walk in. While the trail to Sprague Lake is flat, it could be muddy or generally unpleasant in those fabulous shoes. I promise you, your feet will thank me later. Always got you covered here, friend. 

If you’re planning to adventure elsewhere in the park later, such as taking a hike in another area, please bring proper hiking shoes. Mud and tennies aren’t fun, just saying, and snow… yes snow can stick around year round on the trails.

Crampons are also a good idea for extra adventuring.

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Car

You’ll want to have your own car to get to RMNP, an Uber or other car service could become very expensive especially if you’re coming from Denver. 

You don’t need a four wheel drive car unless you plan to have your wedding after late September when snow storms are possible within the park. 

If you’re coming during snow season (October – May), you’ll want to have a four wheel drive car and possibly chains to get through the mountain passes up to Estes Park and into the park. An emergency blizzard kit in your car is also a very wise idea (flashlight, water bottles, warm blankets, an extra set of clothes, dry food, snow shovel, winter snow gloves, etc.)

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Flowers (optional)

Make sure to check with your florist about safe flowers for the environment. Or snag some amazing silk flowers from our favorite Denver silk florist vendor or find some on Etsy.

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Don’t Forget To Make It Legal

You’ll want to make sure to get your marriage license from the local county and clerks office before your wedding day. Most have online forms to do this a week or few days before your wedding. Many couples do this when they fly into Denver or the city they are staying in.

In the state of Colorado you can sign your license yourselves without an officiant performing your ceremony, though you still could have one! You also don’t need witnesses. 

 

Elopement weddings can include guests and an officiant if you want too. Learn more about how to elope anywhere or if you’re loving Colorado learn how to elope in Colorado!

couple smiling at each other as they elope in colorado

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Plan Out Your Wedding Day Experience

We truly believe that wedding days should be about experiences and adventures. 

While most couples looking to elope or have a smaller wedding only think about their ceremony, we want to encourage you to dream bigger. 

As elopement photographers and guides we want to encourage you to envision a whole day full of the adventures you love and all the experiences that fit who you are.

Think morning adventures as you first see each other with the sun rising over the mountains. The birds sing their morning songs as you get ready and head to your ceremony site. Exchanging your vows with only those you want to be there. You can adventure around, go paddleboarding or canoeing on the lakes, or catch the sunset up at Trail Ridge Road as you get swept away in your love and the majestic landscapes all around!

For more epic location and experiences check out our Colorado Elopement Locations guide or some of these weddings below.

When To Have A RMNP Wedding

Summer really doesn’t arrive in Rocky Mountain National Park until mid June and sometimes not until July. Estes Park and Denver may reach the 80s and even into the 100s during the summer, but inside the park, especially at Sprague Lake, it will probably not get warmer than the high 70s and can be as cool as 30 or 40 degrees in the evenings. 

Weather is very unpredictable inside the park so make sure to plan accordingly and have a Plan B for your wedding. 

Mornings in the mountains tend to be calmer, so if you are concerned about the weather, earlier in the day is your best bet!

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Fall Mountain Weddings

Rock Mountain National Park weather is a bit unpredictable in the fall. While I really wish I could give you the complete insider’s guide to the exact date of when to find the magical changing leaves of Fall, the reality is that no one really knows until about late August. Then you can usually Google “colorado peak colors” and find a map for when that will hit RMNP (which is just north and slightly west of Denver/Boulder area on a map)

 

To all the Marissa’s in the world, you may be able to get more info from a park ranger about when the colors will peak and where to find the best ones. Who the heck is Marissa? Story time!

 

Dining out at a local brewery, our dear friend Marissa started to talk to the table behind us while we were waiting for our food. She struck up an amazing conversation and within the hour, she scored us free drinks and a private tour of the brewery because her newfound friends knew one of the owners. So, if you’re like Marissa, try talking to one of the rangers to find those super insider secrets!

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Winter RMNP Elopements & Weddings

Winters here in Colorado are fickle. Seriously, if you were dating winter here in Colorado, you’d feel like you were in the most dramatic, bipolar relationship of your life. 

In Denver, it can be 70 degrees mid winter and about 50 degrees within the park. With the sun out you’d hardly notice that it’s winter, let alone need a jacket. Heck, bring out the sunscreen and hat because the heat is on! Ok but really, you should still wear sunscreen especially in the winter, snow reflects the sun which equals sunburns way faster than you thought possible.

My point being, prepare as if you’re going to meet the nastiest blizzard you’ve ever seen but pack layers because it could also be freaking amazing. 

On the other hand, if you’re a snow bunny and imagine a winter wonderland, then late January, February and early March are your best chance to catch some beautiful snowfall in the park. 

Don’t forget your crampons for icy patches or snowshoes so you don’t sink deep into the snow if it’s recently snowed a lot. I promise they will both be worth having! 

Check out our Colorado Packing List for some of our favorites and other helpful winter gear to have.

Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Spring Mountain Elopements & Weddings

Spring, flowers blooming, tulips, allergies, grass and all the greenness. Sounds amazing? Well friend, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Spring in RMNP is really just winter. May is usually when things start to bloom and come alive, but it can still be full of blizzards into May and sometimes June. If you want to hit up Trail Ridge Road, make sure you wait until late June or July as the road sometimes doesn’t even open until then.

Pro Tip Since the weather is so fickle in spring, it’s one of the best times to elope in the park! You’ll find way fewer crowds than in summer and early fall! Make sure to have your four wheel drive car and gear for winter travel just to be safe!

Ready to start crafting a timeline? Check out our elopement timeline guide to help you!

Hire an
Elopement Dream Lake Colorado Wedding
Photographer + Guide

We would also adore coming alongside you to help you navigate all the rules, permits and locations around the park for your wedding experience as your guides and photographers.

Brittany and Emmy, Colorado and oregon elopement photographers in a beautiful location

We believe that your wedding day is meant to be cherished as an experience and not just an event. We’d love to help guide you in crafting a wedding day experience that you’ll never forget. Learn more about hiring us as your Colorado elopement photographers.

Looking for locations check out our Colorado elopement locations guide!

NEED HELP PLANNING YOUR ELOPEMENT?

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE COLORADO ELOPEMENT PLANNING GUIDE

Ready to make wedding planning easier? Download our free planning tool kit!

We respect your privacy. If you don’t see your download immediately after signing please check your spam/prompotionals folders or email us 

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Dream Lake Hike & Dream Lake Colorado Wedding Guide
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dream lake hike and wedding guide with images of couple at dream lake at sunrise
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COMMENTS

9 Responses

  1. I have never been to a frozen lake and I really want to go to one like these because they just look so gorgeous. I didn’t even know Colorado had such beautiful scenery!

  2. Wow! What a cool guide to hiking to Dream Lake AND having an elopement or wedding there. Definitely find value in all the information you’ve laid out for the engaged couples looking for an adventure on their wedding day. What a dream!

  3. Wowwww how incredibly dreamy. I can’t wait to visit dream lake next time I’m in Denver. You gave so many great tips, I’ll have to bookmark this page!

  4. I went to Nymph/Dream/Emerald Lake in August so my scenery was definitely super different but it’d be so cool to go check it out every season! Your photos are gorgeous!

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About the Author

emmy on mountain to laughing
Hey, I’m Emmy, the main voice behind Celebrate Again. Here you’ll find ways to live the Celebrate Again lifestyle. I want to help you to embody the joy of life by learning to Celebrate Again in everything from the practice of intentional breath to taking on major life events. I believe your life should be full and be what you make it. Whether you’re joining me to plan your wedding, celebrate an anniversary, adventure around the USA, stay connected to your beloved, practice yoga or whip up a plant-based recipe, I’ve got you covered, friend.

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