Help keep our trails and parks open during COVID-19 by committing to social distancing. Some trails or park services may be closed this weekend so check with local authorities before heading out.
Learn more

Black Lake Trail is a 9.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Estes Park, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from March until October.

Length 9.7 mi Elevation gain 1,643 ft Route type Out & Back

Hiking

Nature trips

Bird watching

Forest

Lake

River

Views

Waterfall

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Bugs

Muddy

Rocky

Fee

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (0)
Getting There

Reservations to enter the park will go on sale through Recreation.gov at 8 a.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, May 28. Reservations will be available to enter the park from June 4 through July 31. The next release will be on July 1, for the month of August and any remaining days that have not been booked for July. On August 1, reservations will be available for the month of September and any remaining days that have not been booked for August. On September 1, reservations will be available for the month of October and any remaining days in September that have not been booked. Permits issued using the reservation system will allow park visitors to enter the park within two-hour windows of availability between 6 a.m. through 5 p.m. This process will facilitate advance payment of entrance fees, minimize contact between park entrance station staff and visitors and limit congestion in parking lots. The permit system will apply to all areas of the park. In the initial opening phase, the park will open approximately 60 percent of the park’s maximum parking capacity or 4,800 vehicles (13,500 visitors) per day. RMNP has an entrance fee of $25. As shown, this trail starts at the Bear Lake parking lot (although you can save about a mile in the round trip by starting instead at the Glacier Gorge parking lot). The first 0.5 mile is a steady descent to the Glacier Gorge parking lot, after which you steadily regain altitude, passing Alberta Falls at 1 mile. At 2.3 miles (after passing the Glacier Knobs on your right), you reach an intersection where you turn left (going straight leads to The Loch), climbing into the entrance to Glacier Gorge at which point the trail levels out somewhat. At 2.7 miles, you reach Mills Lake, then Jewel Lake at 3.2 miles, after which you start upward again, with the last bit more steep, reaching Black Lake at 4.8 miles. All along the gorge, the views are wonderful, with particularly beautiful spots at Mills Lake and finally at Black Lake.

Take Hwy. 36 out of Estes Park to the RMNP entrance, go to Bear Lake Rd., drive it to the Glacier Gorge Th.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (217)
Photos (2823)
Recordings (93)
Completed (852)
Maddie O
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 12, 2020
HikingBugsGreat!Rocky

Arrived at the trailhead at 6:30 AM on a Tuesday. Parking at Glacier Gorge Junction was completely full and parking at Bear Lake was roughly 90% full. This trailhead serves many different trails, hence the nearly full parking. The trail to Mills Lake was relatively quiet and easy. Continuing past Mills Lake to Black Lake was a bit steeper and we rarely encountered anyone. Didn't come across any wildlife but did see some mountain lion tracks in certain places. Both lakes were amazing! Return trip was very busy and difficult to social distance in some places. Great hike to do in RMNP!

Jessica Miranda
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 11, 2020
Hiking

If you loved Sky pond, you will love this hike.

Jordan Serati
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 2, 2020
Hiking

The trail was in great condition! We hit some rain around 1:30 but the storm went right around us! Highly recommend this hike- beautiful scenery and fairly challenging!

View Jordan's Recording
Kate Majerus
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 2, 2020
HikingGreat!Rocky

This was a great hike! We started a little late after having a hard time finding parking at Bear Lake and Glcier Gorge Trailheads so had to take the park and ride. We spent a few hours at Black Lake once we reached it and only had a few other people on trail with us once we passed Mills Lake.

View Kate's Recording
Monica Napolitan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 24, 2020
HikingBugsRocky

Hiked 7/24/2020. This has been my favorite trail for years. We started the trail from the glacier gorge trailhead at 8am. There were a lot of people at Alberta Falls (no surprise). Mills Lake had a decent crowd too. After Mills there is a smaller lake, Jewel. The park has built new cross walkways for part of the trail up to Black Lake over the muddy terrain. You walk thru the destroyed woods (damage from straight line winds), but there is some new growth showing. After that you get to enjoy meadows, small waterfalls in the distant, and the creek. Once you get to the big waterfall next to the trail you are almost at the lake. Once at the lake head left and pick a spot to enjoy. We saw 3 marmots up at the lake today. In July there are so many mosquitoes at the lake...you have been warned!

D P
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 22, 2020
Hiking

Delightful!! Arrived at 5:50am. Crowds already in parking lot. Passed a few groups to Alberta Falls but pretty sparse after that continuing on to Mills. Stunning views. A well kept trail with foot bridges, wildflowers, steps. Went on up to Black Lake, worth the extra effort. Serene. *Bring bug spray - pesky flies and mosquitos even at 8am. Possibly my fav RMNP hike to date.

Melanie L.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 21, 2020
Hiking

Fabulous trail. Wildflowers. Elk. Waterfalls. Views. Lakes. GG trailhead parking full at 5:50 am on a MONDAY .

Jessie Youtz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 19, 2020
Bugs

My friend and I hiked a little past Black Lake today. I had my 8 month old in a hiking backpack and was able to get 6.6 miles before I decided to turn back. It was challenging, but beautiful. A more difficult Nymph, Dream, Emerald if you will.

Jd Hatter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 15, 2020
Hiking

Fantastic hike through a variety of terrain—waterfalls, lakes, forest, rocks, marshes, etc. arrived at the park before 6 am and intended to go only to Mills lake. Saw a couple of doe elk with spotted babies at Mills Lake. The sun was still behind the mountains so continued on to Black Lake. So glad we did. Great views of Longs, Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda, McHenrys. The last half mile to Black Lake is a bit steep with some scrambling but not bad. Some of us had energy left to scramble up the waterfall to the east of the lake. Great view looking back down on the lake. Wish we had known about the fire road bypass of Alberta Falls as that part felt like a mule train going back down with all the crowds. No parking at Glacier Gorge even at 6 am so the Bear Lake lot adds a half mile each way, uphill on the way back so be forewarned. But no regrets for this great hike.

Elizabeth Fulk
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 14, 2020
Hiking

Another beautiful trail in RMNP. We took the fire trail bypass to cut off time and it was a good trick but only do this if you are ok with missing Alberta Falls (which are gorgeous). The gain is spread pretty evenly so nothing too technical or grueling. It does seem like the steepest parts are toward beginning and end. So much water! Lots of river to enjoy and a lot of marshy areas too. Didn’t see any moose on our hike but looks like their habitat big time. Major mosquitoes - especially up at black. You will NEED bug spray. You get right up into the glacier gorge on this hike - very cool!

Brendan Douthit
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 12, 2020
HikingGreat!Off trailScramble

This hike is criminally underrated. The lake is beautiful and the hike there has lots of variance in what you're walking through. You cross large flat rock faces, dense forest, thin forest, streams, all while getting an incredible view of the meadow and where you hiked from. Even better, you can hike past Black Lake up to Spearhead (which is off trail for quite a ways). Do the hike early so if you get lost you have time to get back on route. This is my FAVORITE hike in all of RMNP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve Griffiths
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 12, 2020
Hiking

Great hike! We actually took the fire trail bypass.

View Steve's Recording
Bob Taylor
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 10, 2020
Hiking

Arrived at the gorge trailhead at 0445am and the lot was half full. Hit the trail as the sun was coming up and it was nice and cool for the hike. Took our time and stopped for lots of pictures. The last mile up to black lake was quite gnarly but the scenery when we neared was worth every step. The trail on the way down was really busy from Mills especially near the waterfall.

View Bob's Recording
Elizabeth H.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 8, 2020
Hiking

One of my favorite longer hikes in the park. The entire hike is beautiful. Highly recommend for a moderately hard hike with incredible views!

Michael Viereckl
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 5, 2020
Hiking

You will not be disappointed. It’s a hoof to the lake, filled with views of Estes Park, Lumpy Ridge, Longs Peak/Keyboard of the winds and Pagoda. The ascent to Black lake itself brings you to a lake set within a stone cathedral. Absolutely Incredible!

Eva Magana
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 1, 2020
Rocky

Hiked this trail on Sunday June 28th and absolutely loved it! There is plenty of shade, Mills Lake along the way is great and Black Lake is stunning. I recommend going around the lake and taking the trail up toward Blue Lake for a view of Black Lake and the surrounding mountains. There was some snow but we didn't need crampons. There was even a herd of Elk hanging out close to the trail.

Cameron Joanne
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 29, 2020
Hiking

Did this trail today and wow, it was so much fun!! It has everything- waterfalls, river, beautiful aspen groves, saw a heard of elk (mamas and babies) and saw two of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen! It was a somewhat challenging hike for me once I got close to Black Lake. Very snowy. Had spikes and they helped! I had so much fun.. one of my new favorite hikes!

Craig Jones
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 21, 2020
HikingBugsMuddySnow

Hiked up from Glacier Gorge parking via Fire Trail (much less crowded, cuts RT to 8 mi). Trail clear past Jewel Lake to a bit beyond the junction with route towards Shelf Lake. Easily navigated snow patches from there to ~300-400 yards from the lake's outlet, then near total coverage by snow. Two routes: one straight up to near a rock face and then a sharp turn right to contour to outlet, the other wanders near the stream before swinging left a bit below the outlet (neither particularly close to the summer trail). Waterfall on the west side of the lake really gorgeous, as is Ribbon Fall just below the outlet. Bugs are out over most of the trail in still air.

Joey Chapman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 16, 2020
HikingSnow

Great trail to hike! Got a little steep and snowy towards the top but didn’t have spikes or poles so that made it a little more difficult.

View Joey's Recording
Jordan Serati
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 16, 2020
HikingMuddySnow

Beautiful hike today to Black Lake!!! Much more snow than expected, spikes and polls would have been very helpful! The weather was great and the trail was in decent condition considering all of the melting snow. We were approached by a female elk attempting to protect her baby so be aware of the trail ahead of you for wildlife!

View Jordan's Recording
Beata Mckee
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 14, 2020
HikingSnow

This hike has it all! Waterfalls, beautiful lakes (Mills, Jewel, Black), trees, overlooks. It was quite long and a good workout for me. There was more snow than expected and the spikes helped. We did slide down on a steep section and that was scary but fun. We arrived at 6am so we saw few people. The Fire Trail really made it enjoyable because we avoided everyone on the way down.

Showing results 1 - 21 of 217