The Ten Lake Loop (TTLL) in Rocky Mountain National Park

By on February 19, 2014

After a whirlwind weekend, which I’ll detail in the next post, I’ve renewed my appetite for hiking in Colorado. That, and Jason telling me to look up Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park led me to develop this loop. 

It started on Strava, my newest obsession that has replaced MapMyRun for me. I saw differing information for the trail to Sky Pond. One website, ProTrails, said the route was 4.5 miles one way with about 1,677 feet of elevation gain. Another website, 500px, said the hike was 5 miles one way with 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Since I used to be a scientist, I did what any student of phenomena would, and I decided to figure it out on my own using an independent 3rd party (Strava). 

When I looked up Sky Pond and the corresponding trailhead, I found that it was completely surrounded by lakes! So I made up a little loop (with offshoots) to maximize lake viewing while minimizing backtracking. Here it is:

Name: The 10 Lake Loop
Location: Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: 17.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,788 feet

Note: I have never done this loop (or any part of it) so please do your own research before attempting it. Also, none of the pictures are mine (obviously since I’ve never hiked this loop).

Park at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and continue onto the trail. Stay right at the fork and continue on to Bear Lake (approximately 0.7 miles). Do the full 0.5 mile loop around Bear Lake.

Bear Lake
After looping around Bear Lake, stay to the right to go towards Emerald Lake, stopping by Nymph Lake (1.9 miles in) and Dream Lake (2.3 miles in) on the way. Stop at Emerald Lake (2.9 miles in) for some pictures and maybe a swim depending on the temperature.
Dream Lake

Emerald Lake

After enjoying the scenery, continue back on the trail you came on. When you get to the trailhead split (3.5 miles in), stay to the right to continue on the Glacier Gorge trail. At 4.2 miles, take the Lake Haiyaha trail to the right and continue on to Lake Haiyaha (4.4 miles in).

Lake Haiyaha
Continue back on the Lake Haiyaha trail and stay to the right on the Glacier Gorge trail. At 5.7 miles, stay to the right onto the Loch trail. At the 7.2 mile mark, you will have the option to add one more lake to the loop and follow the Andrews Glacier trail to Andrews Tarn. I didn’t include this on my loop because I couldn’t get Strava to cooperate with me. Instead, stay to the left and continue on (the trail changes names to Sky Pond Lake trail) to Lake of Glass (7.7 miles in) and Sky Pond (7.9 miles in). Take some time at Sky Pond to eat a snack and snap some pictures.
The Loch

Lake of Glass

Sky Pond with The Sharkstooth in the background

After a rest at Sky Pond, continue back the way you came and at 10.1 miles stay to the right back onto Glacier Gorge trail. At 10.6 miles you’ll pass Mills Lake quickly followed by Jewel Lake (11.1 miles in). Continue another 1.6 miles up to Black Lake (12.7 miles in) for another break.

Mills Lake

Jewel Lake

Black Lake

Continue back on the Glacier Gorge trail. At 15.4 miles, stay to the right. At 15.8 miles, stay to the left (don’t go onto North Longs Peak trail unless you’re up for a real challenge!). Follow the trail back to the Glacier Gorge trailhead and your car. Celebrate an amazing day in the mountains. 

Some ideas to make the trip even better (as long as you’re OK with a very long day):

  • Bring a headlamp, you’re going to need it
  • Get to Bear Lake around sunrise (check this link to figure out when sunrise is)
  • Make it to Black Lake and then back to either Jewel or Mills lake for sunset
  • By the way, there are 3 named waterfalls on the route (Timberline Falls, Ribbon Falls, and Alberta Falls)

If you do this loop before me, let me know how it goes. Once I do it, I’ll post updates to make this post even more accurate. See you on the trails!