Readers' Choice Mountain West: Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain NP

Get big payoffs on an easy hike.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Santa Maria Spring, Grand Canyon NP | Mr. Bubbles, Yellowstone NP | West Maroon Pass, CO | Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain NP | The Colorado Trail | Gunsight Pass, Glacier NP

The series of life-list-caliber rewards you’ll see on this hike is almost longer than the trek itself. In 2.8 miles, you’ll pass thundering waterfalls, local David Bohn’s pick for prettiest alpine lake, and a humbling scene of the area’s highest peaks—with just 780 feet of elevation gain.

From the Glacier Gorge trailhead, take the Mills Lake Trail southwest on a nearly flat ramble through the aspens lining Glacier Creek; at .8 mile, 25-foot Alberta Falls’ impressive torrent explodes through blocks of granite. From there, you’ll climb steadily over giant granite slabs and through forests of wind-stunted firs and pines to reach Mills Lake at 9,950 feet. Sheer, hulking peaks frame the sapphire water: To the west looms 14,259-foot Longs Peak, the tallest in the park. “The view is better than anything on park postcards,” Bohn attests.


Driving Trailhead parking is tight. From June to September, take the park shuttle from the lot on Bear Lake Rd. to Glacier Gorge Junction.

Map and Guide Trails Illustrated Rocky Mountain National Park ($12,, Rocky Mountain National Park Day Hiker’s Guide, by Jerome Malitz ($15,

Contact, (970) 586-1206

Trip ID31724

Trending on Backpacker