Mills Lake and Jewel Lake, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Mills Lake and Jewel Lake - 6.2 miles
Glacier Gorge Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.2 miles (includes Mills Lake and Jewel Lake)|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,240' - 9,955' (Mills Lake) : 9,967' (Jewel Lake)|
|Elevation Change:||+727' net elevation gain to Jewel Lake (+938' total roundtrip elevation gain to Jewel Lake)|
Mills Lake and Jewel Lake - 6.2 Miles Round-Trip
Mills Lake is located 2.65 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It lies at the foot of an immense glacial gorge and alpine valley. Mills Lake's photogenic backdrop attracts large crowds, however little of it spills over to neighboring Jewel Lake.
Jewel Lake is smaller and requires additional effort, but has a comparable aesthetic with greater opportunities for exploration and solitude. Both have excellent fishing and views of the peaks that define Glacier Gorge:
The Loch Vale Trail rises steadily through young aspen and mixed pine to Alberta Falls (.85 miles : 9,423').
A moderate climb continues to the North Longs Peak Trail split (1.6 miles : 9,768'), where it banks SW and levels through a narrow gorge between Thatchtop Mountain (12,668') and the Glacier Knobs.
The trail drops to Glacier Junction and splits left to Mills Lake (2.1 miles : 9,804'). It turns south across Glacier Creek twice and sections of cairn-marked rock slabs to Mills Lake (2.65 miles : 9,955').
Here you'll enjoy terrific views of Glacier Gorge: The Arrowhead (12,387'), Powell Peak (13,208) and McHenrys Peak (13,327') form the west wall, while Pagoda Mountain (13,497') and Keyboard of the Winds - a line of pinnacles near the summit of Longs Peak - rise to the east. Chiefs Head Peak (13,579') and The Spearhead (12,575') cap the upper valley.
The trail - now intermittently rugged, undulating and heavily rooted - follows the lake's east shore to its marshy juxtaposition with Jewel Lake (3.1 miles : 9,967').
The trail continues past Jewel Lake on more rugged terrain to the Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite (3.35 miles : 10,068'), Ribbon Falls (4.7 miles : 10,540'), and Black Lake (4.8 miles : 10,630').
- N40 18.621 W105 38.419 — Glacier Gorge Trailhead
- N40 18.237 W105 38.289 — .85 miles : Alberta Falls
- N40 17.982 W105 38.391 — 1.6 miles : North Longs Peak Trail junction
- N40 17.842 W105 38.757 — 2.1 miles : Glacier Junction
- N40 17.512 W105 38.597 — 2.65 miles : Mills Lake
- N40 17.222 W105 38.387 — 3.1 miles : Jewel Lake
- N40 16.911 W105 38.354 — 3.35 miles : Glacier Gorge Campground spur
- Arrive early to secure parking, avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. Jewel Lake's attractive shoreline - especially the west side - affords comparable views but appreciably more solitude than Mills Lake.
- Mild grades and well-defined trails make Mills and Jewel lakes accessible to snowshoeing and cross-country skiers.
- Ribbon Falls and Black Lake are 1.6 and 1.7 miles from Jewel Lake, respectively. Note the trail grows more difficult beyond Jewel Lake to these destinations.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite
- There is one designated site located across Glacier Creek in a heavily forested area, 3.35 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. A marked sign leads you over the creek on a footbridge to the site. Use red arrowheads on trees for additional guidance. Camp safely away from dead trees, as near as possible to the silver metal arrowhead.
Bivouac Sites for Climbers
- The Spearhead (Moon Pillar): 8 climbers
- Chiefs Head Peak - Pagoda Mountain: 4 climbers
- McHenrys Peak: 6 climbers
Rules and Regulations
- A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
- Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Horses are not permitted beyond Glacier Junction (2.1 miles). There's a hitchrack located just beyond this junction where you may dismount.
Directions to Trailhead
Just beyond the Beaver Meadows entrance station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is located on the left side of the road and has limited parking. Additional parking and alternative access can be found at the Bear Lake Trailhead. This will add an additional 1 mile roundtrip to the hike.
Rocky Mountain National Park