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The Loch (Loch Vale) – Rocky Mountain National Park – Trail Map, Pictures, Directions & More

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Article Categories: Hiking

The Loch (Loch Vale) is a beautiful lake located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The lake sits at 10,190 feet, making this a great moderate hike. Accessible in all four seasons, this hike features stunning views of the surrounding peaks (Taylor Peak and Thatchtop Mountain).

Difficulty – Intermediate
Distance – 5.7 miles miles round trip (9.17 km)
Height – 10,190 feet (3,105.9 meters)
Elevation gain – 1,040 feet (316.99 meters)
Duration – 3 to 5 hours (book time)
Seasons – Year-round
Trailhead Location – Glacier Gorge Trailhead or Bear Lake Trailhead

 

Need To Know Information

 

Trail Map

Loch Vale Trail Map- Colorado

Loch Vale Trail Map- Colorado

 

Trails

There are two common starting locations for this hike, both are below (Bear Lake Trailhead has two route options):

 

Glacier Gorge Trailhead | 5.7 Miles| 1,040 Feet Elevation Gain

This is the most common path to head towards Mills Lake. If the parking lot is full, just continue on to Bear Lake Trailhead, park, and begin hiking from there.

Beginning at Glacier Gorge, hikers will travel .25 miles to the first junction of the Glacier Creek Trail, and the trail leading to Bear Lake. Hikers bear left, following the signs to Alberta Falls and Sky Pond.

.8 miles into the hike, hikers will reach Alberta Falls, a beautiful 30 foot waterfall that is extremely popular in summer months. The trails will have less people (but still quite a few) beyond this point.

1.6 miles into the hike, hikers will reach the North Longs Peak Trail Junction where hikers will need to bear right towards Sky Pond.

2 miles in, hikers will reach Mills Junction. To the left is Mills Lake and Black Lake, hikers will stay straight towards Loch Vale. Bearing right would bring hikers towards Sky Pond and Andrew’s Glacier. Hikers will arrive at the lake .8 miles after this junction.

Hikers can continue around the lake if they choose to.

 

Bear Lake Trailhead | 5.9 Miles | 1,050 Feet Elevation Gain

This route is only slightly different than starting at Glacier Gorge. The only difference is the first .4 miles. Here this trail descends to cross paths with where hikers will have started from Glacier Gorge. This portion of the trail is heavily trafficked year round. This route will add just a tiny bit of elevation gain, and .2 miles to your overall round trip. We recommend starting from Bear Lake if the Glacier Gorge trailhead has no parking.

 

Bear Lake Trailhead – Dream Lake, and Lake Haiyaha | 3.9 Miles One Way

Hikers can also choose to head towards Loch Vale from Bear Lake by bearing left at Dream Lake. This trail will take you past a spur trail towards Lake Haiyaha. This is a fantastic loop option. Starting from Bear Lake, heading to Lake Haiyaha, and then to Loch Vale is 3.9 miles one way.

 

Alternate Hikes

If hikers wish to extend the hike to the further lakes and nearby lakes, they should check out, Lake Haiyaha, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Sky Pond or Mills Lake as well.

 

Hiking Loch Vale in Winter

A frozen over Loch Vale is beautiful. Far fewer hikers are on this trail in winter, though it is still well traveled.  Traction is highly recommended (microspikes or snowshoes). Most of the trail is fully manageable without traction, but as always, traction should be brought for caution. Snowshoes may be needed during certain times of year and is defendant upon snowfall.

Both trailheads are open and can be driven to in winter months due to Bear Lake Road being nicely maintained. Check park road closures during snowy times to be sure.

The route from Bear Lake to Dream Lake and Past Lake Haiyaha is far less traveled in winter than the other routes.

 

Fishing Loch Vale

If you like fly fishing for greenback cutthroat and brookies, this is a great catch and release fishery.

 

Directions & Parking

These are two large parking lots (bear lake trailhead the biggest), but these are extremely popular areas. Parking fills up extremely quickly on nice days. In many cases, hikers will need to use the National Park shuttle system to get to these trailheads during the busy months. Information on this can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/shuttle_bus_route.htm 

 

To Glacier Gorge Trailhead

 

To Bear Lake Trailhead

Continue along bear lake road for .9 additional miles and you will reach the trailhead. This is the end of Bear Lake Road.

 

Current Weather Conditions

Here is a detailed weather forecast:

Allenspark, CO

Overnight
Mostly clear, with a low around 26. West southwest wind around 12 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.

Wednesday
A chance of snow showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms between noon and 4pm, then a slight chance of thunderstorms and a chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 45. West southwest wind around 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Wednesday Night
A slight chance of rain and snow showers before 9pm. Mostly clear, with a low around 30. West southwest wind 12 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday
Snow showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 44. West southwest wind 9 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Thursday Night
Snow showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a low around 27. West wind 17 to 38 mph, with gusts as high as 44 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Friday
Snow showers likely before noon, then snow showers and a chance of thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a high near 37. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Friday Night
Snow showers and a chance of thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a low around 24. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.

 

Additional Pictures

Trail Sign on Loch Vale Trail to Sky Pond

Trail Sign on Loch Vale Trail to Mills Lake

Mills Lake Views

Mills Lake Views

Trail Views to Sky Pond

Trail Views to Loch Vale

Trail Views Heading Towards The Loch

Alberta Falls (Winter)

Alberta Falls (Winter)

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about

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