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    Black Lake Hike

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    15.6 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    501 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Black Lake Hike is a stunning excursion reserved for intrepid adventurers. Hike the primitive trail up through the Glacier Gorge, past Alberta and Glacier Falls, up to the basin cirque. This escapade, though challenging, is incredibly rewarding in its unparalleled scenery. If you are seeking a scenic, but strenuous hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park, then add the Black Lake Hike to your list.

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    Route Description for Black Lake Hike

    The Black Lake Trail packs the perfect amount of strenuity and scenery. Get your blood pumping as you ascend the forested paths up to the subalpine lake. Reserved for experienced hikers, this trail demands stamina. Make sure you are wearing sturdy hiking shoes and consider trekking poles to help you maneuver the technical terrain. Furthermore, this diverse trail will weave its adventurers through several typographies with varying levels of tree shade. As insurance against inclement weather at the lake and along the exposed sections of the path, we recommend wearing layers. There are many places to filter water along the trail, so you won’t have to pack all your provisions, just some tasty snacks! Note that the trailhead parking lot is busy, so arrive early to secure a spot. Located within the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), trail goers are required to purchase a pass.

    Though challenging, the Black Lake Hike is epic. There is no shortage of things to look at along this stimulating trail. Hike along streams, past cascading waterfalls, through pine groves, past shimmering lakes and up a glacial gorge to a mountain cirque looming with craggy, snow-capped peaks. This adventure is stunning, and the diversity of the Front Range region is displayed. Make sure to charge your camera because this scenic adventure presents an abundant amount of photo opportunities.

    Begin your adventure up the Black Lake Trail from the Bear Lake Trailhead and Ranger Station. From here, take the leftmost, connecting trail. This brief path will guide you over Chaos Creek before merging with the Glacier Gorge Trail. Hike the Glacier Gorge Trail along the namesake’s creek and you will eventually confront Alberta Falls. On the left side of the path, notice the cascading waterfall. Enjoy the ambiance of the rushing waters and the hypnotic sights of the cascading water. When you are ready, continue south along the Glacier Gorge Trail.

    At the next junction, keep right. As you ascend the forested path, you will eventually meet another fork—veer left here. You will be diverted up to Glacier Falls. Appreciate another waterfall before tracking the path to Mills Lake. From Mills Lake, enjoy sights of the Thatchtop Mountain towering above. Rest your tired feet and rehydrate before beginning your final ascent to Black Lake.

    The rearmost segment of the Black Lake Hike is the most primitive and the terrain becomes increasingly technical. From Mills Lake, trek south up Glacier Gorge and past the dispersed campsites. Tree coverage will become sparser as you climb altitude. The primitive path up to Black Lake will guide you past two more cascading waterfalls before delivering you to the crystalline lake.

    Located within a basin cirque, Black Lake is hemmed by impressive snow-dusted craggy peaks. McHenry’s Peak is the prominent peak in the west and Arrowhead Peak will be to its right. Also, notice Chiefs Head Peak in the south and The Spearhead in the east. Revel in the grandeur of the flanking cliffs and enjoy the scenery of the crystal-clear lake. Though tempting, the water is freezing, but it presents a good opportunity to rejuvenate those tired feet. Explore the lake’s shore and refuel prior to your descent. When you are ready to roll, simply retrace your steps along the paths back to the trailhead and parking lot.

    Trail Highlights

    McHenry’s Peak

    McHenry’s Peak is a proud member of the Colorado 13ers. Sitting at 4,062 m in elevation, the McHenry’s Peak ranks 318th of the 584 Colorado 13ers. McHenry’s Peak is a dominant feature of the Black Lake Hike, this summit is one of four peaks that flank the cirque basin. Named by Rocky Mountain pioneer Abner Sprague, the McHenry’s Peak was named after a college professor that summer in Estes Park. Sprague went on a camping trip under his charge and named the mountain after him as he was a “nice old man”. Since then, McHenry’s Peak has become a prominent peak in the RMNP that is lightly trafficked. If you are looking for a secluded mountain hike, consider hiking up the hidden gem that is McHenry’s Peak. From the summit enjoy expansive vistas of neighboring peaks and Black Lake in the deep cirque basin.

    Insider Hints for Black Lake Hike

    • The Black Lake Hike is primitive and unmarked in sections, so we recommend using the trail GPS to help navigate the technical terrain.
    • If you venture this path in the autumn or winter months, ensure to wear microspikes or snowshoes and bring trekking poles to help maneuver the icy trails.
    • This route travels through diverse terrain, some of which is shaded, and some is exposed, so wear layers as insurance against varying conditions.
    • After your hike, head into Estes Park and grab a delicious brew at the Rock Cut Brewing Company.

    Getting to the Black Lake Hike Trailhead

    The Black Lake Hike departs from the Bear Lake Trailhead off Bear Lake Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Route Information

    Black Lake Hike Elevation Graph

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