Elevation: 10,620 Feet
Distance: Approximately 9.5 Miles
For an easily accessed hike that will bring you deep into Glacier Gorge, consider a trip to Black Lake. The trail passes Alberta Falls; Mills Lake; and Jewel Lake, while Storm Peak; Longs Peak; Thatchtop; and McHenry’s Peak surround the area. Although this is a popular winter destination, an early morning start will afford you peace and solitude while providing ample opportunities to spot shooting stars on the way out.
Start your adventure by parking at either the Glacier Gorge or Bear Lake Trailhead. Even in December, it’s possible the trail will be broken for easy travel in winter boots, until the last mile where snowshoes are helpful. Snow depths can range from knee deep to thigh deep depending on how far off trail you travel, and fresh snow can make the trail indiscernible; be sure you know the direction you’re bound beforehand, and carry a map with you.
Thick ice on Mills Lake provides fun travel across the lake and inspiring perspectives unique to winter in the Rockies. The name Mills Lake honors Enos Mills, a man considered to be the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park,” whose deep devotion to nature was arguably unparalleled… how better to be forever remembered?
Make your way to the southeast corner of Black Lake and look west toward 13er McHenry’s Peak; the trip to Black Lake is worth this view over and over again! Depending on wind and temperature conditions, this may be a great spot to hydrate, snack, and capture photos. Large ice slabs grow just above Black Lake’s western edges, and it is not uncommon to spot ice climbers challenging themselves up to these beautiful formations.
While Black Lake is a worthy destination, consider continuing east up a gully to higher alpine lakes—Blue Lake, Green Lake or Frozen Lake—all of which would make excellent additions to your Glacier Gorge adventure.
This trip is out-and-back.