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.
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.
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.
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.
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'll 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.