Winter Hike to Loch Vale

Colorado Glacier Gorge Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Winter

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1040 Feet

Forest
Lake
Scenic

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park under a blanket of snow on this scenic winter hike to a frozen and beautiful Loch Vale. This hike also grants the option to explore other scenic lakes that are all accessible from the same trail: Mills Lake, Lake Haiyaha, Glass Lake, and Sky Pond.

This winter adventure begins at the popular Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Make sure you arrive early as the parking lot fills up quickly! We started the hike with our microspikes on and carried our snowshoes. The park ranger informed us snowshoes may be necessary in some spots but the trail started off very nicely packed and microspikes sufficed.

The trail gradually rises as it winds its way through a forest of aspen. The first trail marker you will reach is at 0.3 miles and is the Bear Lake Junction. Continue on towards The Loch by veering left at this junction. The trail continues to rise from this junction until it reaches Alberta Falls at 0.85 miles. From here the trail breaks the trees every so often exposing sweeping views of Rocky Mountain National Park. At just over 2 miles you will reach Mills Junction with a 0.6 mile trail to the left taking you to Mills Lake, and a 1.9 mile trail to the right taking you to Lake Haiyaha. Continue onwards to Loch Vale by taking the trail in the middle. From here it is only another 0.8 miles to the Loch. Most of that distance will take you through a covered forest on a gradual incline but the final tenth of a mile or so is a steep climb. Trekking poles and traction devices are very useful in this portion. After the final climb you will be graced with beautiful views of The Loch.

Make sure to check the weather before heading out as weather can change rapidly (as is evidenced by the photos!). Make sure you are prepared with extra layers and food/water. It also is helpful to check in with a ranger about the current conditions of the trail to see what gear you will need.

Pack List

  • The 10 Essentials
  • Snowshoes or traction devices (check with a ranger about current conditions)
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera
  • Entrance fee for Rocky Mountain National Park
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Reviews

Overall rating: 

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I love Rocky Mountain National Park, and I especially love the hikes off the Glacier Gorge trailhead. I had never come to Loch Vale, and was excited to see it! In all honesty, the views weren't worth the effort for me. There is a giant uphill climb right before the lake, and the views there were almost better than the views at the top (don't get me wrong, it's still RMNP and it's still beautiful, but not up to par with other locations). I'm glad I snowshoed this trail, if only because it means I don't have to come back.

7 months ago
7 months ago

Hiked this last winter the first time i ever went snowshoeing. It was truly amazing. A really beautiful lake especially in the winter. We hike to Mills lake and then went to the Loch Vale so it was a pretty long and challenging trek. It also got real windy and cold at the lake so pictures weren't the best but it was still a great hike.

11 months ago
11 months ago

Hiked this trail this past February. Absolutely amazing views at the top of the loch. There was a ton of snow, so I'd recommend snow shoeing, but we accomplished it in regular boots. Overall it was a little challenging but definitely worth it!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Sonja SaxeExplorer

Seattle, WA based, adventuring everywhere. I'm on an endless journey to explore and photograph the national parks' scenic backcountry!

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