- 9.6 mile loop (flexible)
- Elevation gain: 1,390 feet
- 3-4 hours
- Easy to moderately strenuous
- 2 lakes & 2 waterfalls!
Distance from Denver: 2 hours
Parking: Free (but $20 park entrance fee)
This peaceful, mostly flat hike takes you right by one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most famous waterfalls and along two tranquil mountain lakes.
Begin the hike at Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead, which you can reach via car (there are some small lots nearby so you probably won’t find parking if it’s busy season) or the Bear Lake route of the free park shuttle for which you can park at the Park & Ride across from Glacier Basin Campground (the shuttle operates late May through October).
Follow signs toward Alberta Falls & Black Lake, making an initial left and then walking parallel alongside Glacier Creek until reaching beautiful Alberta Falls after one mile (this is a great abbreviated version of the hike if you’re short on time). Continue on the trail, staying straight toward Black Lake at a couple junctions. Next, you’ll pass Mills Lake, a long quiet lake with some impressive boulders and mountain views.
Continue along Glacier Creek until you see Ribbon Falls on your right side. Make a final climb up the hill and you’ll arrive at Black Lake. You can return back the way you came or if you want an extra challenge and a bit more variety – after Mills Lake make a left onto Glacier Gorge trail and take that past a few different lakes and creeks, following signs for the Bear Lake Trailhead. From the Bear Lake Trailhead, you can hop on the park shuttle or take a short path back to your origin (Glacier Gorge Trailhead).