At the end of August this year we decided to hike to Black Lake in RMNP. We like to do one big day hike each year and this was it. My Fitbit reported it to be 10.9 miles and it took us about 6 hours. This hike is located in Rocky Mountain National Park which is of course, always a place for a good hike. It included two waterfalls and also three lakes.
To access Black Lake you need to hike from Glacier Gorge Trailhead which is just off of Bear Lake Road in RMNP. From Estes Park, follow Moraine Avenue out of town and you will find the Beaver Meadows entrance. From there, follow the signs to Bear Lake Road. The Glacier Gorget Lake Trailhead is about 8.5 miles from the entrance and located on the left side of the road. It is well marked. There are some parking spots here and if you are lucky you might get a spot, otherwise you can park at the Park and Ride and take the shuttle service.
Trail to Alberta Falls
Alberta Falls will be your first milestone on this trail. The path there is easy although there is some elevation. It is packed dirt with some rocks and steps. This part of the trail was busy with people from various hiking abilities on it, so quite doable. Lots of walking through the forrest and all in all a fairly easy hike. In addition, you can start to hear the roar of the falls as you get closer, builds the anticipation!
Alberta Falls is especially spectacular! As I mentioned, you will hear the falls long before you see them so when you do get there, it is magnificent! I have been to the falls many times and I am always amazed at how beautiful they are, even in the winter when they are frozen over they are still a site to see. Although there were a lot of people here, it did not feel extremely crowded.
The Trail to Mills Lake
The next milestone on the hike to Black Lake is Mills Lake. This part of the trail is a bit rougher but not too bad. I would call it moderate. As a matter of fact, there is more elevation, more of loose rock path, a few switchbacks and the elevation is getting higher. Again the path is very well marked. It is a lovely hike with views of mountain peaks, streams to cross, and generally typical of trails in this area. This trail was not as busy as on the way to Alberta Falls, but we saw a moderate amount of people until we took the Mills Lake turnoff. From here to Mills Lake we saw much less people.
Mills Lake is gorgeous. It is everything you would picture a mountain lake to be. Even though it was a bit cloudy and hazy from wildfires, it was still perfect. Mills Lake reflects the mountains and also you can see it has a beautiful rock bottom along the shore. It was very peaceful, as a matter of fact, we saw few people there, some relaxing and some fishing.
This lake was just beyond Mills Lake and didn’t take much time to come across it. The path was rocky and followed along the lake. Jewel Lake was almost a miniature Mills Lake. We saw no one there but passed a couple of people while hiking to it.
Trail to Black Lake
After passing Jewel Lake, the path became much more serious. Many downed trees to cross over, foliage, rocks and roots. Careful footing was needed as it would be very easy to trip. We saw no one along this path until we reached Black Lake. I would call this a difficult trail.
Shortly before Ribbon Falls we came across Glacier Creek running through a beautiful meadow, which followed to Ribbon Falls. We saw bits of Glacier Creek throughout the hike, although this seemed to be the most picturesque spot.
Even though it was the end of August, Ribbon Falls still was flowing well. You will have to scramble the rock alongside the falls to reach Black Lake. Although I love a scramble, I was pretty worn out, plus once you reach the top you have too step across some large boulders with water filled crevices. All in all it was still fun and worth it to reach the lake.
Black Lake is certainly a gem of RMNP and worth the hike to see it. Once we reached the lake we saw one other person there. We thought about walking around the lake, but it was getting late and we had a 2 hour hike back to our car, as it was, dusk was fast approaching when we made it back to the trailhead.
The hike to Black Lake in RMNP was fun but tough. In fact, it was a workout. In comparison, I enjoyed the Sky Pond hike a couple of years ago more and thought it was easier, but this hike was also amazing. All in all it took us 6 hours round trip and I had 10.9 miles on my Fitbit while Steve had 11.3 miles on his Apple Watch. As always, we love a good long hike and can’t wait for the next one!
Follow more of our Colorado adventures at these links:
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Colorado Chelsea, Hikes and Travels in Colorado and Beyond is a great resource for hiking in Colorado. Chelsea lives in Colorado and has blogged about her many different hikes giving great information on each.
Handstands Around the World is another great resource for hiking, especially in Colorado. Like Chelsea, Diana lives and Colorado and she hikes to so many places and has great information you can easily follow.
All Trails. All trails is a hiking App that gives information on most every hike known. You can use this app to get an idea of where or what type of hike you want to do. Directions are available as well.
I used Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park guide book to determine which hike I wanted to do. This book covers a lot about each trail listed along with difficulty level, distance, and location. In regards to location, it is additionally broken down by area and includes maps of each trail. It also has a lot of colored photos which I like.
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