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Mills Lake - Black Lake Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (47)

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


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Map Key

3.2

Miles

5.2

KM

Point to Point

11,204' 3,415 m

High

9,810' 2,990 m

Low

1,405' 428 m

Up

12' 4 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

21%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Waterfall

Snow often persists late into the summer.

Description

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.

Contacts

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Trail Master

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 47 votes

#1

in Bear Lake

#21

Overall
  4.6 from 47 votes
5 Star
68%
4 Star
28%
3 Star
4%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#1

in Bear Lake

#6

in Colorado

#21

Overall
323 Views Last Month
7,589 Since Jul 13, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
72%
4%
22%
2%

Photos

Mills Lake early spring sunset
Jan 30, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
Waterfalls, high peaks, and blue skies!
Jun 19, 2016 near Grand Lake, CO
Jewel Lake looking up Glacier Gorge
Oct 23, 2016 near Grand Lake, CO
basically the end of any real trail on the way to Frozen Lake
Jun 24, 2018 near Grand Lake, CO
High up at the base of the Spearhead
Jun 19, 2016 near Grand Lake, CO
Amazing views from Black Lake
Jul 13, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 23 hours ago See History
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Check-Ins

Aug 9, 2020
Chris Farwell
Trail was clear and well marked. Stopped at Black Lake. 5.2mi — 2h 49m
Aug 2, 2020
Jon Wolfe
Rugged past Mills but Great Lake views 3.2mi — 6h 00m
Jul 25, 2020
Dani Gauch
Rainy first half, but stopped right as we got to the lake. Still very cloudy (peaks were mostly covered) but still an amazing view. 3.2mi
Oct 26, 2019
Mike Sanders
Oct 12, 2019
Jack G
Icy trail up to Mills Lake, deeper snow to Black Lake.
Oct 1, 2019
David Rubin
Sep 2, 2019
Jenny and Brent Weber Jarvis
Hard but worth it! 6mi
Aug 6, 2019
Sierra Weatherford

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