From Glacier Gorge Trailhead, follow the well-traveled path as it winds through a thick pine and fir forest with shivering aspens. Pass the crowds gathered at Alberta Falls (mile 0.6) and climb around boulders to a rocky point above the canyon formed by Glacier Creek. To the north, craggy peaks guard the mouths of Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale.
Enjoy a downhill stretch to the junction for Mills Lake and Loch Vale. Stay right and switchback up to the Loch, a gorgeous tarn with a backdrop of jagged peaks at mile 2.5. Pass the Loch on the northwest side as you continue the gradual climb south up Loch Vale. A half a mile above the Loch's shores, Cathedral Wall rises to your right; pause and search for climbers high on this popular crag.
Timberline Falls rushes below Lake of Glass, and reaching the lake requires a fun scramble up wet (or icy) rocks on its far west side. Top out the climb on the windy aquamarine shores of Lake of Glass, then look for cairns to the right that reveal an easy scramble to a trail on rock through krummholz—stunted, twisted fir and spruce trees—above the lake's western shore.
The Cathedral Spires dominate the skyline at Sky Pond. Find a comfy rock and kick back, have a snack, and break out the binoculars to spy on climbers on the Sharkstooth, Petit Grepon, and Saber (left to right).
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 Jenn Fields
- Distance: 13.0
Location: 40.310556, -105.640197
From Glacier Gorge Trailhead, hike southwest toward Glacier Creek.
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Cross a bridge over Glacier Creek.
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Bear right at Y-junction, following signs for Loch Vale.
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The trail travels past the popular Alberta Falls. Stop to get a look at this photogenic waterfall that pours over massive boulders. The crowds fade ahead.
Location: 40.298428, -105.64006
The path rounds a corner and travels above Glacier Creek. From here, you can see the tall knob that divides the entrances to Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale.
Location: 40.297473, -105.646108
At the Y-junction veer right and follow signs for Loch Vale.
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Turn right at Y-junction.
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The Loch: Many hikers stop at the windswept shores of the Loch. Take in the ragged peaks that form the backdrop, then continue along the trail.
Location: 40.288054, -105.66438
Cross Andrews Creek, then continue left at the Y-junction. The trail to Andrews Glacier enters on the right.
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Climb up talus and rock ledges; water runs down the rocks along this stretch. Note: This can get icy in early fall, so exercise caution.
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Glass Lake is picturesque, but windy; plan your snack break elsewhere.
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Sky Pond: Kick back in a wind-protected spot and enjoy the view of the Cathedral Spires to the west. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.
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Glacier Gorge Trailhead
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Trail Sign 1
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Trail Sign 2
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Switchbacks above Alberta Falls
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Trail Sign 3
Location: 40.299494, -105.639574
Above Glacier Creek
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Junction: Loch Vale-Mills Lake
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Talus and slick rock through waterfall.
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