By: Mark Munson (@markonthemove)
Mills Lake Trail
Trail Length: 5.3-6.3 Miles
Trail Type: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 780 feet
Dog Friendly: No
Temperatures are warming up state wide and spring is just around the corner! Although we didn't have much precipitation throughout the winter, in the high country rivers are starting to flow and the greenery is beginning to blossom. Rocky Mountain National Park is always a great option when considering winter hikes since there is a lot of traffic through the park almost everyday, keeping the snowpack firm and easy to maneuver. Mills Lake is no exception with beautiful scenic views the entire hike especially once reaching the lake itself!
Your hike to Mills Lake can either begin from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead or the Bear Lake Trailhead. If you choose to start from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead you will add an extra half mile each way, compared to starting from the Bear Lake Trailhead. Starting from the Bear Lake Trailhead, the hike begins by descending down through an evergreen forests, over some small rivers, and through some aspen meadows. About a mile into the hike you will hit Alberta Falls, which in the winter is completely frozen over, but you will still be able to see the water flowing beneath the ice. If you have snow shoes, micro spikes, or crampons, you can descend down into the riverbed and check out the falls and ice formation up close. In the spring and summer, Alberta Falls is powerful 30 foot waterfall that offers a great place to cool off or enjoy a quick break. Continuing up the trail you will have great views of Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain to your right, and outstanding views of the rock formations in Estes Park behind you. Make sure at all junctions to follow the signs for Mills Lake.
If you want to add an extra mile to your hike, you can continue on another half mile to Jewel Lake by following the trail along the left side of the lake. The further you follow the trail along the lake the photographic opportunities only increase! If you have been looking for a good winter hike you can actually complete, and get to your destination without having to trek through deep snow, THIS is the hike for you!
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