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Mills Lake - Black Lake Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (50)

This rugged trail ventures deep into a spectacular glacial gorge visiting Mills, Jewel & Black Lakes


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Map Key

3.2

Miles

5.2

KM

83%

Runnable

11,204' 3,415 m

High

9,810' 2,990 m

Low

1,405' 428 m

Up

12' 4 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

21%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Waterfall

Snow often persists late into the summer.

Runner Notes

Rooty sections and slippery snow in places. Snow can make following the trail tough.

Description

From the busy Glacier Junction, head south crossing Glacier Creek twice and covering sections of cairn-marked rock slabs before arriving at Mills Lake (9,955'). Here you'll marvel at the terrific views up Glacier Gorge and admire the jagged ridges and peaks that define it. Follow the rugged, undulating trail around the eastern shore of the lake over innumerable roots to where Jewel Lake starts. This marshy area continues around the lake aided by a series of skinny elevated planks. If you are searching for solitude, you're more likely to find it on Jewel Lake's western shore than at crowded but picturesque Mills Lake.

Upon leaving Jewel Lake, run through unattractive forest with lots of blown down trees. Closely parallel Glacier Creek all the way to Black Lake, over steep ups and downs. It can be tough to find the trail here, when in doubt, follow the creek. Pass the Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite spur (10,068') and climb some newly built stairs. Ascend through thick forest and across another rock slab marked by rock cairns. Arrive at a mellow meadow with views of The Arrowhead (12,387'), Powell Peak (13,208) and McHenrys Peak (13,327') to the west, and Pagoda Mountain (13,497') and Keyboard of the Winds - a line of pinnacles near the summit of Longs Peak - to the east. Chiefs Head Peak (13,579') and The Spearhead (12,575') dominate the upper valley.

Many people turn around at Black Lake, as the trail gets much more difficult and barely maintained past this point.

The trail switchbacks steeply beside Ribbon Falls as they drain from the edge of Black Lake. Traverse a line of flat boulders across the end of Black Lake and climb a small ridge along the eastern shore. The trail soon becomes faint and disappears in open tundra, where unmaintained routes continue on to Blue Lake, Green Lake and Frozen Lake. Continue a short distance up the feeder creek for a unique perspective above the rocky basin.

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Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 50 votes

#1

in Bear Lake

#21

Overall
  4.6 from 50 votes
5 Star
68%
4 Star
28%
3 Star
4%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#1

in Bear Lake

#4

in Colorado

#21

Overall
65 Views Last Month
8,369 Since Jul 13, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
69%
8%
20%
2%

Photos

Mills Lake early spring sunset
Jan 30, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
Jewel Lake looking up Glacier Gorge
Oct 23, 2016 near Grand Lake, CO
basically the end of any real trail on the way to Frozen Lake
Jun 24, 2018 near Grand Lake, CO
Amazing views from Black Lake
Jul 13, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
Mill's Lake
May 4, 2015 near Grand Lake, CO
Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, June 2016.
Jun 4, 2016 near Grand Lake, CO

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