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Mills Lake - Black Lake Trail



3.2 mile 5.2 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 1,405' 428 m
Descent: -12' -4 m
High: 11,204' 3,415 m
Low: 9,810' 2,990 m


Avg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Trail Master

This rugged trail ventures deep into a spectacular glacial gorge visiting Mills, Jewel & Black Lakes

Trail Master

Features Views · Waterfall

Snow often persists late into the summer.


From the busy Glacier Junction, head south crossing Glacier Creek twice and covering sections of cairn-marked rock slabs before arriving at Mills Lake (9,955'). Here you'll marvel at the terrific views up Glacier Gorge and admire the jagged ridges and peaks that define it. Follow the rugged, undulating trail around the eastern shore of the lake over innumerable roots to where Jewel Lake starts. This marshy area continues around the lake aided by a series of skinny elevated planks. If you are searching for solitude, you're more likely to find it on Jewel Lake's western shore than at crowded but picturesque Mills Lake.

Upon leaving Jewel Lake, hike through unattractive forest with lots of blown down trees. Closely parallel Glacier Creek all the way to Black Lake, over steep ups and downs. It can be tough to find the trail here, when in doubt, follow the creek. Pass the Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite spur (10,068') and climb some newly built stairs. Ascend through thick forest and across another rock slab marked by rock cairns. Arrive at a mellow meadow with views of The Arrowhead (12,387'), Powell Peak (13,208) and McHenrys Peak (13,327') to the west, and Pagoda Mountain (13,497') and Keyboard of the Winds - a line of pinnacles near the summit of Longs Peak - to the east. Chiefs Head Peak (13,579') and The Spearhead (12,575') dominate the upper valley.

Many people turn around at Black Lake, as the trail gets much more difficult and barely maintained past this point.

The trail switchbacks steeply beside Ribbon Falls as they drain from the edge of Black Lake. Traverse a line of flat boulders across the end of Black Lake and climb a small ridge along the eastern shore. The trail soon becomes faint and disappears in open tundra, where unmaintained routes continue on to Blue Lake, Green Lake and Frozen Lake. Continue a short distance up the feeder creek for a unique perspective above the rocky basin.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna


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Sep 2, 2019
Jenny and Brent Weber Jarvis
Hard but worth it! 6mi
Aug 4, 2019
Rachel Reinhardt
11.6mi — 5h 00m
Jul 25, 2019
Kim Scalamandre-Lee
Jul 5, 2019
Abigail Powers
Crowded trail during the summer, but gorgeous nonetheless. Gets significantly harder after passing Mills.
Jun 25, 2019
John H
8.75 miles from Bear Lake Trailhead. 8.8mi — 5h 00m
Jun 19, 2019
Lonnie Kragel
Jewel Lake. Turned back from Black Lake. Too much snow. 2.5mi
May 27, 2019
Sam F
Snowy/icy in the morning, used micro spikes. 6mi
May 19, 2019
Wendy La
Snowing, trails were covered and difficult to find path. Views really pretty 6.4mi — 3h 30m

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Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 40 votes


in Bear Lake


  4.6 from 40 votes
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