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Loch Vale

Intermediate
 4.8 (74) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

One of RMNP's premier hikes featuring some of the park's biggest draws.


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Map Key

6.0

Miles

9.7

KM

Out and Back

10,223' 3,116 m

High

9,136' 2,785 m

Low

1,083' 330 m

Up

1,086' 331 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

20%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Although the youngsters might not make it all the way to the Loch, a trip to Alberta Falls (just under one mile from the TH) is easily accessible.

Overview

Prepare for a visually stimulating hike as you set out to the Loch. This one has it all: waterfalls, stunning alpine terrain and picturesque glacial tarns.

Need to Know

This route begins at the Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead but could easily be done from the Bear Lake trailhead with a minimal increase in total milage. This is a very popular section of the park - set out early to avoid the crowds.

Description

The Loch Vale Trail heads south and starts to ascend as it passes the Glacier Creek Trail on the left and the Loch Vale - Glacier Knobs Trail on the right shortly thereafter.

As you hike, take in the scenery of the beautiful pine forest and prepare yourself for Alberta Falls, which are located at the 3/4 mile mark. After taking a moment (or many moments) to appreciate the power of Alberts Falls continue ascending on the Loch Vale Trail for another mile, past an intersection with North Longs Peak Trail to an eventual junction at Glacier Knobs.

Continue on Loch Vale Trail as it switchbacks gradually uphill on the western slope of the Glacier Creek drainage. Eventually, the trail contours around the southern shoulder of the East Glacier Knob and then drop to a junction with Lake Haiyaha Trail and Mills Lake - Black Lake Trail.

As you go further along the Loch Vale Trail past this junction, prepare for drastically steepening grades over the next half mile. As the grade levels off again, the Loch will come into view along with some of the most amazing scenery in the park. Loch Vale, which translates to Lake Valley, is a splendid sight to see. Set in a rugged valley, the Loch is a reflecting pool of sorts that amplifies the majesty of the surrounding peaks and granite towers.

This is the turnaround point for this hike, but you can continue past the Loch to Sky Pond for extra credit. See the description for the Loch Vale Trail for more detail.

Flora & Fauna

This hike leads from a riparian (wetland) ecosystem where lush plant life and dense wildlife are the hallmarks. Given the ascending nature of this trail, you'll transition into a montane ecosystem.

Forests of pine and grassy hillsides dominate the montane ecosystem in the park. These areas may be drier than riparian areas but life still abounds. Look for critters leaping or creeping from tree to tree or poking their heads from underground.

As you gain elevation, you leave the montane areas and enter the subalpine ecosystem. The bent and gnarled bodies of spruce and fir trees tell the story of hard summers and harder winters near the mountain tops.

Contacts

Shared By:

Brian Smith with improvements by Jack M

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 74 votes

#4

in Bear Lake

#59

Overall
  4.8 from 74 votes
5 Star
78%
4 Star
20%
3 Star
1%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#4

in Bear Lake

#21

in Colorado

#59

Overall
131 Views Last Month
6,851 Since Feb 3, 2015
Intermediate

0%
1%
78%
3%
18%
0%

Photos

The Loch, Rocky Mountain NP CO
Jan 15, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
Alberta Falls
May 2, 2018 near Estes Park, CO
The Loch lake
Jan 28, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
The view of the gorge will knock you off your feet
Nov 28, 2015 near Estes Park, CO
Alberta Falls
Jan 9, 2016 near Estes Park, CO
Glacier Creek, above Alberta Falls.
Oct 1, 2019 near Estes Park, CO

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Check-Ins

Sep 29, 2020
Machaela Christian
Beautiful, wish I would have made it to sky pond. Be in better shape lol 8mi
Sep 17, 2020
Christine Benedict
5.8mi — 2h 30m
Sep 9, 2020
Son S
Jul 24, 2020
Nic Dubois
May 30, 2020
Son S
May 30, 2020
Jonathan Nicholas
Mar 7, 2020
Mike Amolsch
Great, beautiful views- snow packed, Alberta falls frozen, Loche lake also but amazing day! Saw deer by visitors center- 7 miles, 5 hours! 7mi
Nov 10, 2019
Chrid McGraw