Mills Lake and Jewel Lake, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Mills Lake and Jewel Lake - 6.2 miles

Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Looking up Glacier Gorge from Mills Lake (9,955')

Looking up Glacier Gorge from Mills Lake (9,955')

Round-Trip Length: 6.2 miles (includes Mills Lake and Jewel Lake)
Start-End Elevation: 9,240' - 9,955' (Mills Lake) : 9,967' (Jewel Lake)
Elevation Change: +727' net elevation gain to Jewel Lake (+938' total roundtrip elevation gain to Jewel Lake)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Mills Lake and Jewel Lake - 6.2 Miles Round-Trip

Mills Lake is located 2.65 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It lies at the foot of an immense glacial gorge and alpine valley. Mills Lake's photogenic backdrop attracts large crowds, however little of it spills over to neighboring Jewel Lake.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Jewel Lake is smaller and requires additional effort, but has a comparable aesthetic with greater opportunities for exploration and solitude. Both have excellent fishing and views of the peaks that define Glacier Gorge:

The Loch Vale Trail rises steadily through young aspen and mixed pine to Alberta Falls (.85 miles : 9,423').

A moderate climb continues to the North Longs Peak Trail split (1.6 miles : 9,768'), where it banks SW and levels through a narrow gorge between Thatchtop Mountain (12,668') and the Glacier Knobs.

The trail drops to Glacier Junction and splits left to Mills Lake (2.1 miles : 9,804'). It turns south across Glacier Creek twice and sections of cairn-marked rock slabs to Mills Lake (2.65 miles : 9,955').

Here you'll enjoy terrific views of Glacier Gorge: The Arrowhead (12,387'), Powell Peak (13,208) and McHenrys Peak (13,327') form the west wall, while Pagoda Mountain (13,497') and Keyboard of the Winds - a line of pinnacles near the summit of Longs Peak - rise to the east. Chiefs Head Peak (13,579') and The Spearhead (12,575') cap the upper valley.

The trail - now intermittently rugged, undulating and heavily rooted - follows the lake's east shore to its marshy juxtaposition with Jewel Lake (3.1 miles : 9,967').

The trail continues past Jewel Lake on more rugged terrain to the Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite (3.35 miles : 10,068'), Ribbon Falls (4.7 miles : 10,540'), and Black Lake (4.8 miles : 10,630').

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 18.621 W105 38.419 — Glacier Gorge Trailhead
  • N40 18.237 W105 38.289 — .85 miles : Alberta Falls
  • N40 17.982 W105 38.391 — 1.6 miles : North Longs Peak Trail junction
  • N40 17.842 W105 38.757 — 2.1 miles : Glacier Junction
  • N40 17.512 W105 38.597 — 2.65 miles : Mills Lake
  • N40 17.222 W105 38.387 — 3.1 miles : Jewel Lake
  • N40 16.911 W105 38.354 — 3.35 miles : Glacier Gorge Campground spur

Worth Noting

  • Arrive early to secure parking, avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. Jewel Lake's attractive shoreline - especially the west side - affords comparable views but appreciably more solitude than Mills Lake.

  • Mild grades and well-defined trails make Mills and Jewel lakes accessible to snowshoeing and cross-country skiers.

  • Ribbon Falls and Black Lake are 1.6 and 1.7 miles from Jewel Lake, respectively. Note the trail grows more difficult beyond Jewel Lake to these destinations.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Glacier Gorge Backcountry Campsite

  • There is one designated site located across Glacier Creek in a heavily forested area, 3.35 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. A marked sign leads you over the creek on a footbridge to the site. Use red arrowheads on trees for additional guidance. Camp safely away from dead trees, as near as possible to the silver metal arrowhead.

Bivouac Sites for Climbers

  • The Spearhead (Moon Pillar): 8 climbers

  • Chiefs Head Peak - Pagoda Mountain: 4 climbers

  • McHenrys Peak: 6 climbers

Rules and Regulations

  • A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Horses are not permitted beyond Glacier Junction (2.1 miles). There's a hitchrack located just beyond this junction where you may dismount.

Directions to Trailhead

Mills Lake and Jewel Lake are accessed from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, 8.4 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Just beyond the Beaver Meadows entrance station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is located on the left side of the road and has limited parking. Additional parking and alternative access can be found at the Bear Lake Trailhead. This will add an additional 1 mile roundtrip to the hike.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Emergency Dispatch:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"In the summer month use the shuttle, this reduces some stress. Take a map! Though this area is very well marked a GPS doesn't always work for you to "track". Try a circuit start at Bear lake, hike to dream lake, from there go to lake Haiyaha, (boulder hopping) then head down hill to the junction, go up to Lochvale lake. Now back down to the junction and head to Mills lake. Head back to the junction and back down and out to Glacier gorge trail head/parking lot This takes you by Alberta falls, shuttle out. Its about 9 miles and very do-able in a day. Carry rain gear. Showers daily around 2;00."
Chris McDuff  -  Estes Park  -  Date Posted: April 30, 2017
"The trail is pretty-well packed down, and you can probably make it without snowshoes, but spikes / poles are advisable. The turnoff @ glacier junction for mills can be a little confusing, with multiple sets of tracks splitting off on winter routes for the mills and the loch. The snow can be deeper here too. Just make sure to wind up on the east side of the outlet stream - if you arrive at the lake on the west side, it can be tricky getting over sketchy ice and rocks back to the east side."
D. Beltran  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: December 27, 2016
"Mills Lake is gorgeous! This trail has a very gradual incline, so it was easier than Emerald Lake, even though it's longer. We went to Mills Lake only and back. Took just over 4 hours with several stops to admire the beauty and a slow pace to take it all in as we went. Aspens are gorgeous on this hike. They were just starting to turn when we went. They'll be even prettier a little later in the season. Trail was a little crowded, but everyone was polite. Not nearly as crowded as Emerald Lake."
Vanessa  -  ILLINOIS  -  Date Posted: September 15, 2016
"The winter trail is still in use (you do not pass Alberta Falls). Snowshoes were very useful due to deep snow conditions. It was windy and cloudy and it was great! Best views in the park in my opinion!"
Rob Buettner  -  Fort Collins  -  Date Posted: April 11, 2015


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.