Glacier Gorge is a very beautiful valley south of Bear Lake in stunning Rocky Mountain National Park. The views are stunning of all of the peaks that ring the valley. The forest is in good condition, and the lakes are teaming with fish. This area of Rocky Mountain National Park is teeming with things to do. Just in the four mile stretch of Glacier Gorge, and the trail along it from Bear Lake, there are four waterfalls, eight lakes, and seven peaks. All along the valley there are spectacular views of all of the peaks in the area. One such great view is from Mills Lake, which is where the profile picture is taken from. One nice thing about this area is that the trail up to Alberta Falls is usually very crowded. However, once you reach Alberta Falls, most people turn around or go into Loch Vale. This lets you be able to enjoy the beauty of the area without there being too many people.
The main way to get to Glacier Gorge is either from the Bear Lake Trailhead, or the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. From either of these trailheads, follow the Loch Vale Trail south towards Alberta Falls. This is the most popular part of the trail as most people turn around when you get to pretty Alberta Falls. From Alberta Fall, continue on the Loch Vale Trail until you reach the intersection with the Glacier Gorge Trail on your left. Turn left on the Glacier Gorge trail and follow it to a small clearing. If you walk off the trail to the rocks on your left, you can look down on Glacier falls, a small waterfall going through the valley below. When back on the trail, follow it to Mills Lake and enjoy the panorama of the head of Glacier Gorge valley.
From Mills Lake, follow the trail as it follows Mills Lake, and then reach Jewel Lake. Go past Jewel Lake and continue up the valley. The trail gets steeper as it nears the end of the valley. Pass a small unnamed waterfall on your left, and then pass waterslide like Ribbon Falls on your right. Follow the trail up to Black Lake, nestled in a valley below upper Glacier Gorge. Black Lake is in a very beautiful position. There are steep rock walls with waterfalls going down them. It is a great place to enjoy lunch and just enjoy the spectacular position.
Meanwhile, there are two options along the valley to get more hiking.
Places to go off the trail
There are two main places to go off of the main trail in Glacier Gorge: the valley around Shelf and Solitude Lakes to the north of the main valley. To reach this pristine valley, go past Jewel lake for around half a mile to a clearing. Ford Glacier Creek and find a trail that improves as you climb up the slope above the valley. You will first come up to Shelf lake and enjoy the views looking down the valley. Continue up the valley and then reach Solitude Lake. There are options to climb two peaks from this isolated position.
The other place to go is upper Glacier Gorge. From Black Lake, the trail continues up above the lake before leveling out at the bottom of Upper Glacier Gorge. From here the trail ends and there are several options to go from here.
1. Blue Lake- from the end of the trail, head east and north to arrive at Blue Lake after a short time.
2. Green Lake- from the end of the trail, follow the outlet stream of Green Lake and follow it below the Spearhead to Green Lake. There is also a small lake beyond Green Lake.
3. Frozen Lake and Stoneman Pass- from the end of the trail, head west and slighly south around the west side of the Spearhead and reach cold Frozen Lake. To reach Stoneman Pass, continue west and then south and go up the steep slope to Stoneman Pass. Snow stays on Stoneman Pass for a while into the summer. From Stoneman Pass there is a view of Lake Powell, and this is a beautiful view.
All of these lakes are beautiful and are very nice to go and see. All of these lakes require some bushwhacking through willow bushes to make it to them, but it is worth it in order to get to the positions that are very isolated. It is a wonderful area to be with all by yourself.
There are seven Peaks that you can climb in this area, and they are listed from the base of the valley and going up and from right to left.
The specific routes are listed on its specific peak page.
Thatchtop- this can be climbed from Shelf and Solitude Lake. This is the easiest peak and has great views of the other peaks.
Arrowhead- This is climbed from the valley above Solitude Lake.
Chiefs's Head- this can be climbed from Stoneman Pass going west.
McHenry's Peak- this can be climbed Stoneman pass and going east.
The Spearhead- this peak's easiest route is up from Frozen Lake on its west side. This is a stunning peak as it rises right above upper Glacier Gorge.
Pagoda Peak- this can be climbed from Green Lake and a steep talus slope to the south.
Longs Peak- this can be climbed from the Longs Pagoda saddle and up a gully from alongside the Keyboard of the Winds to the base of the homestretch. Note- this route is not on SP, it is in Gerry Roach's 14ers Book.
There is one camping site in the Glacier Gorge valley. This is definitely the best way to enjoy the stunning beauty of Glacier Gorge. Because there is only one campsite here it means that you are all alone in the stunning valley. This valley, gorgeous during the day, is absolutely stunning at dawn or dusk as the peaks at the end of the valley are sunlit while the rest of the valley is dark. It is a truly beautiful sight and it makes the camping at the site so good. The main problem with camping at this site is that since there is only one site it fills up very quickly. If you want to be able to camp here, you need to book the site as soon as the reservations open.
The one other thing to do in this wonderful area is fishing. This is easiest to do when camping in Glacier Gorge because you are very close to Jewel Lake. The Lakes in the area are open to catch and keep fishing. You can keep a certain amount of Brook and Brown and Rainbow Trout, though cutthroat are not allowed to be kept. Please respect the fishing here and if you take fish only take what you need so that others can enjoy the wonderful fishing in the lakes in this valley.