“A wondrous trail that leads past some of RMNP's premier attractions.
— Brian Smith
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Access this trail from either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead or the Bear Lake Trailhead. The Loch Vale
Trail heads south and starts to ascend as it passes the Glacier Creek Trail
on the left and the Loch Vale - Glacier Knobs Trail on the right shortly thereafter.
As you run, take in the scenery of the beautiful pine forest and prepare yourself for Alberta Falls
, which are located at the 3/4 mile mark. Continuing past the falls, the trail keeps climbing for another mile, past an intersection with North Longs Peak Trail
to an eventual junction at Glacier Knobs.
Continue on Loch Vale Trail as it switchbacks gradually uphill on the western slope of the Glacier Creek drainage. Eventually, the trail will contour around the southern shoulder of the East Glacier Knob and then drop to a junction with Lake Haiyaha Trail
and Mills Lake - Black Lake Trail
Continue running along the Loch Vale Trail past this junction and prepare for drastically steepening grades over the next half mile. As the grade levels off again, the Loch will come into view along with some of the most amazing scenery in the park. Loch Vale, which translates to Lake Valley, is a splendid sight to see. Set in a rugged valley, the Loch is a reflecting pool of sorts that amplifies the majesty of the surrounding peaks and granite towers.
Continuing past the Loch, you'll be on your way to Sky Pond
. A little under a mile past the Loch, you'll come to a junction with the Andrews Glacier
Trail, which leads up to Andrews Tarn and, of course, the glacier. Continue for roughly 0.75 miles past this junction if you are bound for Sky Pond
is one of the most majestic glacial tarns in the whole park, making it one of the most desirable destinations. Set into an even more staggering cut in the mountains, Sky Pond
is a great location to take in the views of The Sharkstooth - a ridge top vertical rock spire to the northeast of Otis Peak.
Flora & Fauna
This trail leads from a riparian (wetland) ecosystem where lush plant life and dense wildlife are the hallmarks. Given the ascending nature of this trail, you will transition into a montane ecosystem.
Forests of pine and grassy hillsides dominate the montane ecosystem in the park. These areas may be drier than riparian areas but life still abounds. Look for critters leaping or creeping from tree to tree or poking their heads from underground.
As you gain elevation, you leave the montane areas and enter the subalpine ecosystem. The bent and gnarled bodies of spruce and fir trees tell the story of hard summers and harder winters near the mountain tops.