Last winter we hiked up to Mills Lake, which shares a trailhead and 3/4 of the length of the trail with the hike to The Loch. I don’t want to repeat myself too much, as we didn’t want to repeat too much of a trail we already went on, but the pay off at the end was even better than Mills (see photos below), and I have a good story to tell about saving someone’s limb along the way, so here I go.
STARTING ELEVATION: 9,240′
ENDING ELEVATION: 10,190′
TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: 950′
DISTANCE: 5.7 miles out and back.
DIFFICULTY: Easy in summer / Moderate in winter.
Click here for directions to the trailhead, which starts at the Glacier Gorge Junction trailhead.
You’ll notice the trail to The Loch is slightly longer than the trail to Mills, with just a tad more elevation gain. However, the view once you get to the lake is also a slight bit more wonderful.
The trail itself isn’t difficult, but it is fairly long for folks unaccustomed to lengthy mountain hikes at altitude. I wanted to hike this trail again because the last time we did it snowshoes were required, and I wanted to see how manageable the trail was without snow. Turns out it’s pretty easy. Well, we barely made it in time to walk on bare ground, as there were already some icy patches underfoot and the lake was beginning to ice over. Below are 2 images of the same bridge along the trail to show you the difference in snow levels.
Both times of year are absolutely beautiful times to do this hike, and I honestly prefer going to Rocky Mountain National Park in the late fall and winter because the snow makes everything more epic, while the summer crowds have dispersed. Hit this trail up from the time the aspen leaves are gone in late fall through early spring for what I consider to be the best experience.
And now to tell you about that time we practically saved a life. So I was hiking along the trail with Andre, my uncle Dan, and his absolutely lovely wife Karen, and we’re all minding our own business looking at trees and stuff. Suddenly we we come across a group of youths on a field trip, one of which was bleeding profusely from the knee. No one in their group had a first-aid kit, not even the adults. So being me, a person unable to see someone in need and keep going, I made everyone in our group stop. I grabbed our first-aid kit out of Andre’s backpack and was about to bandage the poor kid up when I realized I was with an actual doctor AND a nurse (Dan and Karen, respectively). After unsuccessfully calling for a “SCALPEL!” (not sure why no one laughed at that), I handed the first-aid kit over to the professionals who cleaned the kid’s leg and bandaged him up with…. ELECTRICAL TAPE! So useful. Seriously.
HIKING SURVIVAL HACK: Bandaids don’t always stick when and where you want them to, so bringing some kind of tape to aid in bandage securement is a great idea. We used to bring duct tape with us, but those giant rolls are heavy and take up a lot of space in your pack. And that white medical tape doesn’t do anything, unless you bring another type of tape to hold on that tape. Electrical tape worked wonders when I got a huge cut on the bottom of my foot up at Lake Constantine, it worked for this kid, and it will work for you. So take a moment right now to go add a roll of electrical tape to your first-aid kit. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
And while we’re waiting for you to do that, here’s some of the abundant avian wildlife we saw along the way…
And here are some shots of the trail:
And finally, here are the people solely responsible for saving that poor kid’s life…
Except Andre. He didn’t really do much to help. Kiiiidding… he’s the one who always remembers to bring the first-aid kit, which is pretty much the most important thing you can pack besides water and marshmallows. The moral of this story is, even if you don’t think you’ll need a first-aid kit, someone else might.
Like I said at the beginning, this trail is almost the exact same as Mills Lake, so if you want more details on this hike, check out that post here.
– C. Egli