Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is a long but rewarding hike in the Glacier Gorge area of the park. The hike features a couple of beautiful lakes (including its namesake) and several waterfalls, including the elegant Ribbon Falls. Ribbon Falls is a thin slip of a waterfall that descends a wide section of granite just below Black Lake. Along the way, hikers are treated to several other cascades along Glacier Creek.
The hike to Black Lake starts at the Glacier Gorge trailhead. The trail climbs steadily to Alberta Falls, about a mile up the trail. The falls thunders over the rocks. Although it’s only a 25 foot drop, the falls is quite a sight. This is the end of the road for many a hiker. But the fun is just beginning. Another small waterfall can be found just a few switchbacks up the trail. The falls is tucked into a little hidden alcove. Continuing up the trail, you reach a trail junction at mile 1.7 and bear right. The left branch heads to the boulder field atop Long’s Peak. Here, the trail cuts across a flat section of trail and approaches the canyon where lakes are located. At mile 2.2, the trail divides again–the left branch heads toward Mills and Black Lakes, the right toward the Loch. The trail climbs a series of steps and crosses the creek just before reaching Mills Lake. Mills Lake is a calm respite and provides a good spot to grab a snack near the half-way point of the hike. Try and spot a trout in its calm, shallow waters.
The trail then goes along the left side of the lake and parallels the creek for the next mile. This section of trail ascends gradually and makes its way through an area of tree blowdown. At mile 4, the trail begins to ascend more steeply. The thunderous sound of Ribbon Falls greets you at mile 4.5. This is a hard waterfall to photograph given its unique structure. Going wide here will help. You can walk off trail and reach the bottom of Ribbon Falls. The next sight is the outlet of Black Lake. The mountains in the background frame the falls beautifully. Amending the steps above the outlet, you finally reach Black Lake.