Hike to Black Lake and Beyond

In the mid-nineties, when I first began hiking, one of my first "big" ones in Rocky Mountain National Park was the ten mile hike up to Black Lake, in Glacier Gorge.

Click this map or any picture to see a larger image

I did the hike in June, 1996 which is still pretty early to be above 9,000 ft, as there was plenty of snow on the trail. I call hikes like this "wet hikes" as there is much in the way of water along the way: Glacier Creek, Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, Jewel Lake, Glacier Creek, and of course Black Lake.

The first time I did the hike I was blown away by the views about 4 miles in -- The view of Stone Man Pass, McHenrys Peak, and Arrowhead were very dramatic. I snapped a pretty decent photo in about 1996 with my last film camera. The picture came out so well that I used it on my business card for Mountain Data Systems. Later that year, I met my friend Ernie and when I handed him the card, he immediately knew where it was taken. And we've since hiked up into Glacier Gorge together, both in the summer and winter.

Just below Black Lake in Glacier Gorge, June 1996

Glacier Gorge continues to be my favorite hiking area in Rocky, and I never tire of its beauty. So when I had the chance this month, I left my house for the trailhead about 6:30am. When I rounded the curve near Moraine Park I was greeted with ground fog with morning light on Longs Peak. 

Longs Peak, above Moraine Park

The Glacier Gorge trailhead

Alberta Falls

On the trail past Alberta Falls. Thatchtop Mountain at left

Along the trail before Mills Lake

Mills Lake, with Longs Peak and the spires called Keyboard of the Winds (taken on the way down)

Along Glacier Creek near the Shelf Creek drainage

iPhone shot similar to my business card image from 1996

Stone Pass upper left, Ribbon Falls, McHenrys Peak and Arrowhead

I lingered here at Ribbon Falls, taking various shots of the falls with McHenrys in the background. 

Ribbon Falls with McHenrys and Arrowhead

While I was shooting here, another hiker showed up, so we stopped to chat. He introduced himself as Hiroki, from Japan, and we took each others pictures here. 

Me, just below Black Lake. Thanks, Hiroki! :-)

Hiroki in my panorama shot after arriving at Black Lake
After a short snack break at Black Lake, I started up the drainage climbing up above the lake to a rock we have affectionately named "Mike's Rock" because I've taken so many people up to it. 

Looking back down to Black Lake on the way up the drainage

"Mike's Rock" at left, straddling the drainage and overlooking Black Lake

Enjoying my lunch
After a break, and more photography, I wandered around near Blue Lake, but due to time, I didn't visit it this hike.

Above the drainage to Black Lake; Longs Peak and Keyboard of the Winds 

The view to the North, back up Glacier Gorge
Pano from just below Blue Lake
On the way down: some of the last blooms of Fireweed
A mini-waterfall in the drainage
Reluctantly, I left Black Lake and headed down, stopping once to filter some water out of Glacier Creek. 

I took a slight detour to take in all of Jewel Lake. 

Jewel Lake, just above Mills Lake
I took one last break to shoot this small waterfall not far from Alberta Falls. 

This hike never fails to amaze and recharge me, but I was tired and happy to get back to my car. 

Here's the elevation/speed profile for the hike.

As you can see, I can easily turn a 6 hr hike into an 9 hr hike :-)