Rocky Mountain National Park: Boulder Brook to Glacier Gorge

Rushing waterfalls, mountainous views, and a healthy dose of altitude highlight this 6.3-mile loop in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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Rushing waterfalls, mountainous views, and a healthy dose of altitude highlight this 6.3-mile loop in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This 6.3-mile shuttle hike south of Moraine Park links the Boulder Brook and Glacier Gorge trails and can be completed in either direction. Start at the Storm Pass Trailhead off of Bear Lake Road for a shorter but steeper climb and a more gradual descent. From the small parking area, hike south through a grassy meadow rimmed by conifers and rocky peaks. After half a mile, the trail enters the forest and begins climbing alongside (and crisscrossing) Boulder Brook.

Tree cover becomes sparse near the top of the climb as the trail nears the junction with North Longs Peak Trail. In autumn, golden aspen groves create a striking contrast with the evergreen forest. After 2.4 miles, Boulder Brook Trail dead ends at North Longs Peak Trail; turn right and start the gentle descent to Glacier Gorge. (Stunning views of the park’s snow-capped peaks appear between the gaps in the trees.)

At mile 4.5, cross over Glacier Creek on a wooden bridge—grab your camera, the rushing creek pours through a rocky gorge below the bridge. From here, the trail snakes to the north, passing Alberta Falls, one of the park’s more popular (and accessible) spots waterfalls. At the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, take the free shuttle to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, cross the road, and follow the path back to Storm Pass Trailhead.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo

-Mapped by Backpacker's Map Team

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.1

Waypoints

GLA001

Location: 40.320068, -105.620003

From the small parking area at the Storm Pass Trailhead, head south through a grassy meadow rimmed by conifers.

GLA002

Location: 40.319641, -105.619698

Continue straight @ 3-way junction.

GLA003

Location: 40.319149, -105.618103

Cross Glacier Creek on a wooden bridge.

GLA004

Location: 40.31823, -105.616798

Keep right @ 3-way junction.

GLA005

Location: 40.316792, -105.615799

Continue straight @ 4-way, heading south.

GLA006

Location: 40.31374, -105.616898

Pass a cascading waterfall on the left side of the trail. More climbing ahead.

GLA007

Location: 40.311359, -105.616898

Cross the first of three stream crossings in the next 0.5 mile.

GLA008

Location: 40.296112, -105.617813

The forested lower reaches of the trail give way to several meadows filled with young trees.

GLA009

Location: 40.293411, -105.617424

Continue straight @ 3-way junction with Boulder Brook Campsite #2. A similar spur trail to Campsite #1 is 200 yards up the trail.

GLA010

Location: 40.288944, -105.617493

Turn right onto North Longs Peak Trail @ T-junction. A group campsite (with privy and bear boxes) is located straight ahead.

GLA011

Location: 40.289118, -105.618407

This split-log bridge makes an easy crossing of the Boulder Brook tributary (the water source for the group campground uphill).

GLA012

Location: 40.301196, -105.631957

Along this gentle downhill section, you'll catch views of the entire valley and the Glacier Gorge Trailhead below and to the right.

GLA013

Location: 40.299011, -105.638276

A wooden bridge spans this deep, gushing gorge and connects to a slickrock-like section of trail before jogging left.

GLA014

Location: 40.299691, -105.639371

Admire the valley views at the rest stop just before the 3-way junction. From here, it's just 1.7 miles to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

GLA015

Location: 40.301376, -105.640411

Stop at this overlook for far-reaching views across the valley.

GLA016

Location: 40.303909, -105.638199

Alberta Falls is a highlight of this route and a turn-around point for many day hikers who started at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

GLA017

Location: 40.304634, -105.638626

Heading downstream, the trail skirts the log-jammed river. Stop for an upstream peek at several tumbling cascades as you head downhill.

GLA018

Location: 40.306206, -105.638908

A few user-created trails lead to the edge of a deep ravine. Stick to the main trail: overgrowth and tree-cover make for a less than spectacular scene.

GLA019

Location: 40.306613, -105.641484

Cross the stream on a bridge. There is another crossing a few-hundred feet ahead.

GLA020

Location: 40.307678, -105.643402

Pass a wooden barrier on your right before turning east @ the 3-way junction. Follow signs to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

GLA021

Location: 40.307728, -105.642929

Continue straight @ 3-way junction.

GLA022

Location: 40.308433, -105.642075

This bridge marks the end of a rock-step descent.

GLA023

Location: 40.310196, -105.64054

The long descent ends near a rock-walled section of trail near the parking area and shuttle bus stop.

GLA024

Location: 40.311283, -105.639282

Glacier Gorge Trailhead: Take the free shuttle to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, cross the road, and follow the path back to Storm Pass Trailhead.

Trailhead Sign

Location: 40.319972, -105.619984

©Kim Phillips

Trailhead Views

Location: 40.319817, -105.619919

©Kim Phillips

Waterfall

Location: 40.313786, -105.616806

©Kim Phillips

Bridge Crossing

Location: 40.311432, -105.61689

©Kim Phillips

Rocky Terrain

Location: 40.290897, -105.617363

©Kim Phillips

Trailside Views

Location: 40.296223, -105.624489

©Kim Phillips

Rocky Peaks

Location: 40.297333, -105.625351

©Kim Phillips

Mountainous Views

Location: 40.298347, -105.625778

©Kim Phillips

Rocky Mountains

Location: 40.299331, -105.626807

©Kim Phillips

Trailside Views

Location: 40.299331, -105.628309

©Kim Phillips

Aspen Grove

Location: 40.299755, -105.634186

©Kim Phillips

North Longs Peak Trail

Location: 40.299656, -105.635651

©Kim Phillips

Views of the Park

Location: 40.29903, -105.636986

©Kim Phillips

Rushing Creek

Location: 40.299134, -105.638126

©Kim Phillips

Creek Views

Location: 40.299052, -105.63819

©Kim Phillips

Bridge Crossing

Location: 40.299232, -105.638448

©Kim Phillips

Rocky Mountains

Location: 40.299322, -105.638502

©Kim Phillips

Overlook

Location: 40.301392, -105.640282

©Kim Phillips

Trail Junction

Location: 40.29974, -105.639596

©Kim Phillips

Alberta Falls

Location: 40.303913, -105.638161

©Kim Phillips

Alberta Falls

Location: 40.303848, -105.6381

©Kim Phillips

Chipmunk

Location: 40.305973, -105.638954

©Kim Phillips

Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Location: 40.311081, -105.639252

©Kim Phillips