Rocky Mountain National Park’s Glacier Gorge valley is a place filled with beautiful lakes. The Loch is not only very scenic, it’s just three miles from a parking lot.
The hike starts at the Glacier Gorge trailhead (directions below). Drop down a few steps to a wide, dirt path. At the first trail split, don’t turn left. That trail goes to Sprague Lake and Glacier Basin. Instead, go a short distance until you see the sign directing you to turn left for Alberta Falls, Mills Lake and Loch Vale. Signs in this area call “The Loch,” “Loch Vale.”
Here the trail levels out as it winds through the trees and across a stream. As hikers approach the canyon of Glacier Creek Gorge, they hear the water before they see it. Look over the edge (just don’t get too close) and into the colorful canyon carved out by the river. Continue hiking up the now rockier trail to Alberta Falls.
This 25-foot waterfall is a treat in all seasons. Come in the winter and you’ll find it mostly frozen. Come in the spring to see it gushing strong with snow melt. Come in the summer to enjoy the refreshing spray. Come in the fall for a picture of the falls with the turning leaves.
From here, the trail gets rockier and steeper. About a mile from Alberta Falls, hikers come to a trail split with a sign that says The Loch is 0.8 miles away. What the sign doesn’t tell you, is that there’s a treat along the way, a long cascading waterfall in a canyon. That canyon is the winter trail to The Loch, you climb right up that waterfall when it’s covered in snow. But in summer, there’s a hiking trail that switchbacks up the hill to your first view of The Loch. The trail can take your breath away and the first view of The Loch is breathtaking.
The Loch is a large lake surrounded by craggy peaks and some snowfields. Work your way through the trees for different views of the lake. If you see a waterfall in the distance, that’s Timberline Falls. Hikers actual climb the side of that waterfall to get to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond.
The Loch is a beautiful destination. Pick a rock with a view for lunch. And if you want a little more exercise, consider hiking about 0.4 of a mile around the side of the lake to see another view of the lake in the valley.
For the winter hike to The Loch, click here. For more great hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and throughout the west, click here.
Details: The hike to The Loch and back is about 6 miles roundtrip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Denver, take I-25 to U.S. 36. Follow U.S. 36 through Boulder, through Lyons, to Estes Park. At the first light in Estes Park, turn left and follow U.S. 36 to the Beaver Meadows entrance. After the entrance, take the first left on Bear Lake Road. If you’re arriving early, drive about 9 miles to the Glacier Gorge parking lot. If not, drive to the shuttle bus stop and take the shuttle bus to the Glacier Gorge parking lot. If the Glacier Gorge lot is full, you can park in the Bear Lake parking lot and take the trail to Alberta Falls, adding about a quarter mile of distance each, but several hundred feet of elevation gain on the return trip.
Don’t miss any of my hiking reports, click on the “subscribe” button at the top of this article for an alert each time I publish. And follow me, HikingDebbie on Twitter or DenverHikingExaminer on Facebook.