Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park - Day Hikes Near Denver

April 14, 2016 Comments (1) 4-6 miles, Creek or Brooks, hikes near estes park, Lake Hikes, Lakes, Medium, More than 90 Min, Rocky Mountain National Park, Wildflowers

Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike up to Mills Lake is a steady, uphill, 5.6 mile trek into the breathtaking Glacier Gorge trail system of Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll be entranced by spectacular views of mountain ridges, rugged peaks, and the color of wildflowers along the trail. Glacier Gorge provides surprises at almost every turn. Explore the full Mills Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.



Trail Snapshot: Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Hike Distance: 5.6 mile Round Trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: Approx 2-3 hrs Round Trip
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Starting Elevation: 9240′ at Trailhead
  • Elevation Gain: +750′
  • Seasons: May-September
  • Dogs: Prohibited in RMNP
  • Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge
  • Denver Drive Time: 2 hr
  • Driving Directions to Glacier Gorge Trailhead: Click for Google Map
  • Town Nearest Hike: Estes Park, Colorado
  • Beauty: Waterfall, wildlife: elk, deer, marmots; meadows, lakes, streams, wildflowers, aspen trees
  • Activities: Hiking, photography
  • Fee: Park Pass Required


Parking & Trailhead Information for Mills Lake RMNP

The trail up to Mills begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has more limited parking, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you’ll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. In the event that parking at Bear Lake is full, you’ll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link.

alberta-falls-haiyaha-loop-hike-ben-cash-creative-commons

Alberta Falls – Courtesy of Bert Cash

The Hike to Mills Lake RMNP

The first destination–and one you can’t miss because it’s right along the trail–is at .8 miles, Alberta Falls. After the waterfall, the trail climbs toward an eventual trail junction. The way to Mills Lake is to follow the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail that bears right. This trail ascends for about another half mile to a second major trail junction with three options. The left-hand trail leads into Glacier Gorge and to Mills Lake.

mills-lake-shrouded-in-mist-rmnp

Mills Lake, Shrouded in the Mists of an Afternoon Rainstorm

Mills Lake is one of the fishable lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake is known to contain rainbow trout, brook trout, and Greenback cutthroats. Most of the high mountain lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park are not completely thawed and warmed up until mid-summer. As a result, you may experience–like I have–some pretty lethargic fish at Mills in the early days of summer.

Photographers will find Mills Lake an equally perfect place to make that big catch. The lake, in the early morning hours, can be placid enough to reflect the backdrop of the beautiful east ridge of Glacier Gorge that has been named, the Keyboard of the Winds.



glacier-gorge-columbines-near-mills-lake

A Bunch of Columbine Growing Trailside Near Mills Lake

Tips & Resources for Hiking Mills Lake RMNP :

  • Bugs: You might need a bug spray in the summer months when the mosquitos multiply.
  • Parking Tip: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead, or you can park at the Bear Lake Trailhead.
  • Rain Gear Recommended: On every occasion I’ve been into Glacier Gorge, it’s been gorgeous weather–and it rained. So, bring Rain gear. In the summer months, thunderstorms can form quickly in this area, especially in the afternoon.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Conditions: Click for RMNP Trail Conditions
  • Trail Map: Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Steve Bratman for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.
  • After the Hike: Inkwell Brew Coffee


Weather

Estes Park, CO
43°
sunny
40% humidity
wind: 7mph NNE
H 41 • L 25
47°
Thu
38°
Fri
35°
Sat

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions



One Response to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  1. Walter Eaton says:

    A nice moderate 2-3 hour hike. I happened upon deer within a 10 foot span from me on the trail. Waterfalls brooks, nice views and perhaps easier than the loch valentine which I did the previous day. Well worth it for all levels of expertise.

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