Tag Archives: Rocky Mountain National Park

Black Lake

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.  

Trail Description

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.  


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Fern Lake

I hiked up to Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend.  I saw some beautiful waterfalls along the way and enjoyed fishing in the lake. The underbrush and ferns had started to turn so I saw some fall color as well. Unfortunately, I also dropped a neutral density filter into Fern Falls and watched it drop over a small cliff.  Luckily, I found a game trail down to the bottom and retrieved my filter from where it had lodged the rocks.  Thankfully, I had dropped the filter in its case so it was no worse for wear.  Whew!  Breakthrough filters are not cheap.

Fern Lake Trail

The trail starts at the end of the Moraine Park Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Parking is scarce so get there early.  The trail climbs gradually for the first two miles before it reaches the pool along the Big Thompson River.  This is the first of a couple of nice waterfalls.  Then the fun begins.  The trial climbs steeply above the Pool for the next mile before reaching beautiful Fern Falls.  This is one of the best falls in the park.  I can’t wait to go back next spring when it is fuller.  If it’s possible, the trail gets even steeper on its way to Fern Lake.  After about a mile, it finally level off and leads to a trail divide.  Take the short spur to Fern Lake and you will be rewarded with a beautiful spot for a picnic or fishing adventure.


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Dream Lake Snowshoe

I snowshoed up to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park last week with my kids.  This is the perfect trail for kids.  It is not too long and the kids love playing on the ice coating Dream Lake at the end of the hike.  At just over a mile in length, the trail is fairly easy with only a couple of steep sections.  It is heavily used so the snow gets packed firm.  Snowshoes aren;t even necessary most of the trip. The cleats certainly help on the ice, though.

The lake is a good spot to do winter photography.  The ice makes for some cool abstract compositions and the lake itself it surrounded by mountain peaks.  This place is a true test of HDR software, however.  The lake sits in shade while the peaks are bathed in sunshine.


To access Dream Lake, take the Bear Lake road until it ends in the national park.  The trail ascends to the left from the Bear Lake parking lot.  Dream Lake is 1.1 miles from the trailhead.   You can continue another 3/4 of a mile or so to reach Emerald Lake.

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