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.
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:
Mostly sunny, with a high near 66. West wind around 13 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 47. West wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.
Sunny, with a high near 70. West wind 9 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 46. South southwest wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 65. West wind 8 to 12 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 46.
A chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 63. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Views from The Loch (Loch Vale)