“A splendid loop highlighting the natural beauty in and around the Bear Lake area.
— Brian Smith
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Beginning and ending at the Bear Lake
trailhead, this wonderful loop hits on many of Rocky Mountain National Park's biggest attractions. Along the way you'll have the opportunity to take in the views at four beautiful lakes as well as one stunning set of cascades.
Need to Know
As with many runs in Rocky Mountain National Park, this route travels through high elevation. Starting around 9,300' and topping out at 10,200', this trail could prove strenuous to unacclimated visitors.
From the Bear Lake
trailhead, follow the signs for Dream Lake
onto a well traveled, asphalt-sealed trail. Running is very easygoing along the Dream Lake Trail
as it contours at very mellow grades up the slope.
Just over 0.5 miles from the TH, you'll reach Nymph Lake, a picturesque mountain lake that makes for a good place to take in the surrounding peaks. Continuing up the trail, you'll eventually cross Tyndall Creek and come to a junction with Lake Haiyaha Trail
. Run just past this intersection to reach Dream Lake
is a spectacular, narrow lake that sits in a drainage on the rugged eastern slope of Flattop Mountain. Retrace your steps on Dream Lake Trail
back to the intersection with Lake Haiyaha Trail
and turn right (south).
Lake Haiyaha Trail
heads over the ridge then trail switchbacks its way through dense forest before quickly topping out and descending towards Chaos Creek. Cross the creek and start running up the southern bank past a junction with Lake Hayiaha Cutoff
. Soon afterwards, the trail descends to Lake Hayiaha.
Enjoy the beauty of the lake before retracing your steps on the Lake Hayiaha Trail to Lake Hayiaha Cutoff
. Turn right on Lake Hayiaha Cutoff
and follow it as the trail descends at moderate grades before flattening out drastically. The trail contours around the eastern flank of the West Glacier Knob before dropping down to the junction.
Turn left (east) onto Loch Vale Trail
and begin the descent along Glacier Creek. The trail is mostly flat to start as it passes through the Glacial Knobs but it steepens as it switchbacks down toward Alberta Falls
. At Alberta Falls
, Glacier Creek thunders down this spectacular waterfall that ranks as one of the park's more popular running destinations. Continue your descent along Loch Vale Trail
to a low spot and cross Tyndall Creek. Follow the trail up the northern bank of the drainage for a short climb back to the Bear Lake
Flora & Fauna
This route travels almost entirely through drainages that have been carved out by eons of runoff. These tributaries and their associated moisture contents create natural settings rich in ecological diversity. Look for riparian vegetation typical of this environment including various willows, mountain alder, and water birch with dark-colored bark. In a few places, blue spruce may grow near streams and sometimes hybridize with Engelmann spruce.