Hiking Lake Haiyaha Rocky Mountain National Park: A Spectacular 4-Mile Adventure

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Are you looking for an unforgettable experience in Rocky Mountain National Park? Set your sights on the stunning Lake Haiyaha, a hidden gem tucked away in the depths of the park.

The hike to Lake Haiyaha is a fairly short but incredible journey to one of the most spectacular sites in Rocky Mountain National Park, with gorgeous alpine views and dramatic boulder fields along the way leading to the lake.

With careful planning and some essential tips and tricks, you can have an unbelievable time exploring this unique landscape. So come join us as we explore the wonders of Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Where is the Lake Haiyaha Trail?

The Lake Haiyaha Trail is located at the Bear Lake trailhead at the end of the Bear Lake Corridor, which is most easily accessible from Estes Park via the Beaver Meadows entrance.

This is one of the most popular entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s also closest to the trailhead.

A paper trail map, like this one from National Geographic, is essential to help you navigate the park’s roads and trails.

You can also get to the trail from other entrances in the park, but this one will be your shortest driving route once inside.

Since this is a prime destination for hikers, you’re going to want to plan ahead and arrive early in the morning if you want to secure a parking spot near the trail. It can fill up quickly during peak season!

A wooden trail marker points towards alpine lakes and waterfalls from the Bear Lake Trailhead.
One of the first trail forks on the way to Lake Haiyaha from the Bear Lake trailhead.

Lake Haiyaha Hiking Stats

  • Trailhead: Bear Lake
  • Distance: 4.2 miles roundtrip
  • Starting Elevation: 9475 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 745 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Best Time to Visit: July through September

Lake Haiyaha is one of the more popular trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s easy to see why! This easy-to-moderate 4.2-mile hike climbs less than 1,000 feet through a spectacular alpine landscape, offering breathtaking views of mountains and valleys along the way.

Along the way, you’ll pass by small streams that make for great photo ops or nature breaks. The trail can be completed in a couple of hours or less, depending on how many stops you take along the way.

Although it’s not overly strenuous, hikers should be prepared with plenty of water and appropriate footwear as there are some rocky sections near the lake that can get especially slippery.

All in all, Lake Haiyaha is a beautiful place to experience in Rocky Mountain National Park. But how do you get there?

Parking & Trailhead Info

If you’re planning a trip to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll first need to know the best place to park your vehicle and start your hike.

The nearest trailhead is located at Bear Lake, which can be reached by car or shuttle bus from nearby Estes Park.

The parking lot at Bear Lake is fairly large but fills up quickly during peak seasons, so it’s good to plan ahead and arrive early, definitely before 8 am if you want to think about parking there.

If parking is full, you can take the shuttle from the Park & Ride across Bear Lake Road from the Glacier Basin Campground to the Bear Lake Trailhead. You’ll travel the last 4.5 miles on Bear Lake Road via a bus to reach the trailhead. This service was free when we visited in 2022, but the latest information can always be found on RMNP’s website.

Cars can be found filling the Bear Lake Trailhead parking area, with mountain peaks in the background.
The parking lot at the Bear Lake Trailhead is fairly large.

What You’ll See on the hike to Lake Haiyaha

Once you’ve reached the Bear Lake Trailhead, the trail is simple to follow. Begin on the main trail directly behind the ranger quarters, which also leads up to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes. “Nymph, Dream, and Emerald” is one of the most popular easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Immediately, you’ll take the trail to the left, heading through the trees. The one on the right circles Bear Lake. At the next fork maybe 100 yards further down the trail, stay right. The trail to the left will take you toward the Glacier Gorge Trail and Alberta Falls.

Nymph Lake

First along the trail, you’ll reach Nymph Lake. This lake is on the smaller side, but still beautiful. Surrounded by lush greenery and often covered with lilypads during the summer months, there are also windows through the trees for mountain views, too.

The next section, as well as the short climb just past the next fork in the trail, are the segments of the hike we found most difficult.

Nymph Lake with a mountain backdrop, covered in lilypads.

Dream Lake

After almost a mile, just before you reach Dream Lake, there is a split where you’ll turn left onto the path for Lake Haiyaha. Continuing right just 100 yards or so leads to views of Dream Lake. Dream Lake would be a great spot to stop and enjoy a view if you need a break before heading on.

From the fork in the trail, it’s only 1.2 miles further to Lake Haiyaha!

Prepare to be amazed as you make your way up to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the next mile of the trail, the trees open up at points to provide views of the ridge line, as well as bird’s eye views of Bear and Nymph Lakes below.

Mountain reflections in Dream Lake being captured in a photo by a photographer in the far right of the frame.
Capturing a view of Dream Lake.

Chaos Creek

Further along, you’ll cross the outlet stream from Lake Haiyaha named Chaos Creek, which was the same milky blue color as the lake during our visit (more on that later). A small wooden plank bridge allows you to easily cross over the flowing water of Chaos Creek.

Keep an eye out for wildlife like elk and deer along the trails, but you’re not far from Lake Haiyaha. When you reach the large boulders, you’re nearly there! Hop, scramble, and step just a couple hundred feet, and you’ll be treated to stunning views!

Milky blue waters flow through Chaos Creek on the way to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The view from the small wooden bridge over Chaos Creek

Lake Haiyaha

Lake Haiyaha — a magical lake surrounded by dramatic cliffs awaits.

You’ll want to spend some time exploring the area along the boulders next to the lake. The views are spectacular.

The lake isn’t always this color, though. Here’s why.

Lake Haiyaha suddenly changed colors?

During the summer of 2022, the picturesque Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park underwent a dramatic transformation. The lake suddenly changed colors from its crystal-clear blue to a milky turquoise which is very uncommon for Rocky Mountain National Park’s lakes.

The cause of this incredible color change was not algae blooms or pollution. It was a result of a much more natural occurrence: a landslide that occurred above the lake!

While it may seem strange for a landslide to affect the water’s color, it is entirely possible and more common in other parts of the country. Landslides and rockslides can cause different glacial sediment to be exposed to the elements, and the summer rains brought these different sediments into the lake.

This sudden influx of “glacial flour” is what caused Lake Haiyaha’s beautiful hue to change so rapidly, not algae!

Panorama view of Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park
Panorama from Lake Haiyaha during our visit in July 2022

Get a Timed Entry Reservation!

Planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer or fall? Make sure to get a timed entry reservation before you go! This reservation is required for all vehicles entering the park and helps to ease overcrowding. The Bear Lake Corridor option is necessary to access the trailhead for this hike.

With your ticket, you’ll be able to enter the park at your scheduled time. There will still be lines and crowds, but this timed reservation helps to make the lines a little shorter.

Be aware that if you choose some of the later timed entry reservations for Bear Lake Road, there may or may not be a parking spot at the Bear Lake Trailhead for you. You may have to take a bus to the trailhead from the park & ride, 4.5 miles back up the road closer to the entrance.

You will need a valid park pass in addition to the timed entry reservation, so make sure you have both. Rangers ensuring reservations at the entrance will check and make you go to the back of the line if you are not prepared! Purchase park passes through Recreation.gov.

If you aren’t able to secure timed entry during the reservation period, you’ll have to enter the corridor before 5 am or after 6 pm.

How to Have the Best Hike to Lake Haiyaha

Hiking to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park is a breathtaking experience and one that is much easier to complete than others like Sky Pond and Lake of Glass.

To make sure your hike to Lake Haiyaha is as enjoyable as possible, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First, make sure you’re properly prepared for the high altitude. Make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and layers of clothing so you can adjust to changing temperatures throughout the day.

Taking it slowly, this is a great hike to use to acclimate to altitude prior to tackling more difficult hikes in the park, like the hike to Sky Pond.

Begin your hike earlier in the morning during the summer because thunderstorms are common in the afternoons, around 2 pm. If you hear thunder, get back to the trailhead. Lightning strikes are a risk and not something to take lightly.

Finally, take some time while at the lake to soak in the scenery and take lots of pictures! You’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge along with lush alpine meadows full of wildflowers and the opportunity to spot wildlife.

With these tips in mind, you’ll have everything you need for an unforgettable experience hiking to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Small wooden bridge over Chaos Creek on the way to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Crossing Chaos Creek on the way to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park

Add These Destinations to your Lake Haiyaha Hike

The Lake Haiyaha hike can be combined with many other beautiful views in the park. Some of our favorite options include:

  • Dream and Emerald Lakes: Add 1.4 mi
  • Around Bear Lake: Add 0.5 mi
  • Alberta Falls: Add 4.5 mi for a loop or 2 mi out-and-back
  • Mills Lake: Add 5.7 mi for a loop to also include Alberta Falls (0.6 mi from Mills Junction)
  • Loch Vale: Add 6.3 mi for a loop to also include Alberta Falls (0.9 mi from Mills Junction)

A paper trail map, like this one from National Geographic, is essential to help you navigate the park’s roads and trails.

Having a paper trail map with you is great in case you’re feeling great and want to extend your hike! While enjoying the views at Lake Haiyaha, pull out the map and take a look at the routes to these other beautiful locations.

Hiking to Lake Haiyaha: What to Pack in Your Daypack

Hiking to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park is an incredible experience, but it also comes with some essential packing requirements. Before you set off on your adventure, make sure you have all the necessary items in your daypack.

Items we’d recommend including:

Is Lake Haiyaha a hard hike?

Hiking to Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular adventure for many outdoor enthusiasts. But, is it a hard hike? The answer depends on your experience level, fitness level, and preparation.

For the most part, the hike to Lake Haiyaha is considered moderate in difficulty. It’s just over 4 miles roundtrip with less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, making it a good choice for those who are looking for a small challenge but a very achievable hike.

However, if you’re new to hiking or have limited physical fitness, this may be more difficult than expected.

Lake Haiyaha is a great hike to do in your first couple of days in the Rocky Mountains if you’re hoping to acclimate and tackle more difficult hikes later in your trip.

Enjoy these panoramic views on the way to Lake Haiyaha. Nymph & Bear lakes are over there on the left in the distance!

Can you fish Lake Haiyaha?

Yes, you can fish in Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as many of the other lakes and waterways.

However, it’s important to note that fishing regulations and rules are strictly enforced in the park to protect natural resources and preserve fish populations.

To fish at Lake Haiyaha or anywhere in RMNP, you’ll need a valid Colorado fishing license, which you can purchase online or at a local sporting goods store. The park also requires anglers to follow certain guidelines, such as using mainly lead-free artificial lures and sinkers, practicing catch-and-release, and using barbless hooks.

Trail markers are very clear, pointing towards the many different beautiful views and lakes in the Bear Lake corridor.

Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty and majesty of the park. Don’t leave this one off of your Rocky Mountain National Park itinerary!