Monday, November 22, 2010

Loch Vale Hike

Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation: 8,787 ft - 10,220ft
Elevation Gain: 1,433 ft
Critters: Stellar's Jay
Tags: #rmnp, #coloradooutdoors, #hike, #mountainlake

Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park

Loch Vale is a classic hike in Rocky Mountain National Park that many visitors do on their summer vacations. It is relatively easy, has interesting milestones along the way, and ends at a spectacular lake. It is suitable for beginning hikers.

The well groomed trail starts out in a grove of young Aspens.
The trail follows Glacier Creek, which is particularly attractive in the fall.

Another trail segment
The trail to Loch Vale begins at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. At 0.9 miles is Alberta Falls, which rages in the spring and is frozen over in the winter. Tourists gather about the rocks snapping pictures of themselves. Be sure to stop here and look down into the gorge as well. This part of the trail is broad and well manicured. It winds through juvenile Aspens and conifers.

Alberta Falls
Above Alberta Falls, the trails switchbacks up the hillside until it enters Glacier Gorge, a wind tunnel filled with stunning rocks and "peak-a-boos". Along the way are large pull outs for landscape photography.

Looking north from one of the many view points along the trail to Glacier Gorge
At 2.23 miles is the junction with Mills Lake and Lake Haiyaha. From this point, the trail heads up a series of switchbacks with views of the gorge. The switchbacks are not long or arduous. At the top is Loch Vale. There is a trail that circumnavigates the lake and lots of "beaches", rocks, and peninsulas to lounge on.

The left side of the Glacier Gorge
Looking up Glacier Gorge
In the winter, this spot is one of the coldest in Colorado, but on this trip in early October it was balmy. My friend and I sat by the lake and ate lunch. An aggressive Stellar's Jay kept us company and ogled our sandwiches.

Heading up the switchbacks to the Loch Vale

Looking up the Gorge that we snowshoe in winter. Those boulders are much larger than they look.

If you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, add this trail to your list. It won't disappoint. Add one mile to your trip and visit Mills Lake on the way back. From the LochVale/Mills trail junction it is a short 0.5 miles and minimal elevation gain to Mills.

Wind blown Bristlecone Pines on a peninsula jutting out into the lake


Linda said...

What's the story about it being a loch rather than a lake? I'm intrigued to find a Scottish name.

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Linda,
I tried to research that very question myself when writing the post. I could not find an answer. Vale of course is another foreign word for valley. Perhaps the namer was just trying to be different. There must be 2 million Blue Lakes and 4 million Lost Lakes in Colorado.