Hiking to Loch Lake in Winter
On a previous weekend we had snowshoed to Mills Lake, but couldn’t take many pictures because it was snowing the whole time. A few weeks later, in mid-April, we went back to the same area of Rocky Mountain National Park to hike 5.5 miles back and forth from Loch Lake.
Because several weeks prior the snow as already packed in most areas, there were many people not wearing snowshoes. Figuring a few weeks later the snow would be even more packed from the many visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, we opted for hiking in our microspikes instead.
To get there in winter, you have to park at the Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead. It’s best to get there early, around 8:00-8:30 am in order to get a reasonable parking spot.
Loch Vale Trail
The trek starts out on Loch Vale Trail, which provides a relatively slow ascent for the first mile or so. About 0.8 miles in you can find Alberta Falls, but when we visited in March and April it was completely frozen over and covered in a thick layer of snow. It seems many people visit there for a casual out-and-back hike.
Further up the trail, you start seeing sweeping views of the Rockies through the pine trees.
There are a couple hills that start to get steep.
The trail curves off to the side at one point, where we could see impressive cliffs –
And also beautiful pine trees gracing the snowy hills.
Just over a mile and a half in, there are beautiful views of the mountains.
The wind was strong that day, and we could see it blowing snow off the mountains. There was so much snow blowing off, it almost looked like clouds.
Glacier Knob Ice Climbing
As we continued along the trail, we saw a large group of about 20 ice climbers setting up to climb Glacier Knob – the mountain we were hugging to the left on the way out.
On our way back we saw the climbers using their ice picks to climb, too –
After reaching a junction about 2 miles in, we continued straight along Loch Vale Trail.
Continuing on Loch Vale Trail
It’s only about another 0.7 miles from the junction to Loch Lake. The first half of this part of the trail is relatively easy, with a gentle incline.
Just before the lake, however, there is a sharp incline, which you can start to see at the top of the trail in the below picture.
You can get an even better idea of the scale of the incline from this picture we took closer in.
The climb was tough and was the only point on the trail that we thought we might want snowshoes. However, I’m not sure they would have helped a lot due to the steep incline. The snow was so soft that we kept falling through it or falling down. You had to try to find the way previous hikers had gone and stick to walking on that area. Even then, it wasn’t completely stable.
On the way back we had to slide down a part of this hill.
We arrived at the lake after the considerable effort of climbing uphill. The lake was frozen and the view was amazing.
The view looking out to the lake –
And a close-up of the mountain –
The view looking back where we came from –
The wind was quite strong that day, as you can see the snow blowing off the ground –
Telephoto picture of my husband walking to the middle of the lake –
The picture that he took from the middle of the lake –
Me walking to the middle of the lake –
More telephoto pictures from features around Loch Lake –
I took this photo of my husband with my telephoto lens –
While he was taking this picture of me with his wide-angle lens!
Recommended as a Moderate Hike
This hike was a bit challenging, especially for that final push up the hill to Loch Lake, but the effort was well worth it. By this time in late April it’s likely the lake is starting to melt, as I’ve seen multiple pictures of the alpine lakes in the area doing so. I would definitely recommend this trek as a day hike. It’s best if you can take microspikes for added traction in the snow.