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blue Loch Vale

  4.7 ( 44 ) Favorite

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Trail

6.0 mile 9.7 kilometer loop
86% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 1,088' 332 m
Descent: -1,095' -334 m
High: 10,212' 3,113 m
Low: 9,129' 2,783 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 20% (11°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Brian Smith

One of RMNP's premier runs featuring some of the park's biggest draws.

Brian Smith

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Prepare for a visually stimulating run as you set out to the Loch. This one has it all: waterfalls, stunning alpine terrain and picturesque glacial tarns.

Need to Know

This route begins at the Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead but could easily be done from the Bear Lake trailhead with a minimal increase in total milage. This is a very popular section of the park - set out early to avoid the crowds.

Runner Notes

Mostly moderate grades, with the exception of a few steep spots, make this a very runnable route. In the summer especially, set out early to avoid the droves of other hikers and runners.

Description

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. After taking a moment (or many moments) to appreciate the power of Alberts Falls continue ascending on the Loch Vale Trail 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 contours 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.

As you go further along the Loch Vale Trail past this junction, 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.

This is the turnaround point for this run, but you can continue past the Loch to Sky Pond for extra credit. See the description for the Loch Vale Trail for more detail.

Flora & Fauna

This run 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.

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Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 44 votes

#4

in Bear Lake

#102

Overall
  4.7 from 44 votes
5 Star
75%
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23%
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Rankings

#4

in Bear Lake

#32

in Colorado

#102

Overall
144 Views Last Month
4,203 Since Feb 3, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

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