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Mills Lake Hike – Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park – Trail Map, Pictures, Directions & More

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Article Categories: Hiking

Mills Lake is yet another beautiful alpine lake located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The lake sits at 9,940 feet, making this a great moderate hike with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. This is a great hike in all four seasons.

Difficulty – Intermediate
Distance – 5.6 miles miles round trip (9.01 km)
Height – 9,940 feet (3,029.7 meters)
Elevation gain – 780 feet (237.7 meters)
Duration – 3 to 5 hours (book time)
Seasons – Year-round
Trailhead Location – Glacier Gorge Trailhead or Bear Lake Trailhead

Need to know: Dogs are not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Trail Map

Mills Lake Colorado Trail Map

Mills Lake Colorado Trail Map

 

Trails

There are two common starting locations for this hike, both are below:

 

Glacier Gorge Trailhead | 5.6 Miles| 780 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 turn left here. Bearing right would bring hikers towards Sky Pond and Andrew’s Glacier.

A short distance after turning, hikers will cross Glacier Creek. Near the crossing, there is a side trail that will take hikers to a gorgeous little waterfall. Only .6 miles from the junction (2.6 total miles in), hikers will reach Mills Lake. The trail continues along further, and hikers should walk along to get some nice vantage points of the lake.

Retrace the path back to the parking lot from here. Hikers may also choose to continue on to the beautiful black lake, or take some detours on the way back.

 

Bear Lake Trailhead | 5.8 Miles | 800 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.

 

Hiking Mills Lake in Winter

Mills lake is stunning in winter. The amount of people on this trail dissipates in winter making it very enjoyable. The trail, views, and lakes look entirely different as well. 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.

 

Fishing Mills Lake

Mills lake has quite a solid population of brook trout and greenback cutthroat trout. This is a great fishing spot in summer months.

 

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

Juneteenth
A chance of showers and thunderstorms before 3pm, then showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy. High near 50, with temperatures falling to around 48 in the afternoon. South wind around 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Tonight
A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy. Low around 39, with temperatures rising to around 41 overnight. South southwest wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Thursday
A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny. High near 59, with temperatures falling to around 56 in the afternoon. South southwest wind 9 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Thursday Night
A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 43. Southwest wind 9 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Friday
A slight chance of rain showers before 9am, then showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 55. West southwest wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Friday Night
A chance of showers and thunderstorms before midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 44. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Saturday
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 59. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

 

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 Mills Lake

Views from The Loch (Loch Vale)

Trail Views Heading Towards Mills Lake

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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