The Loch, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The Loch - 5.9 miles

Glacier Gorge Trailhead

The Loch, also known as Loch Vale

The Loch, also known as Loch Vale

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)
Round-Trip Length: 5.9 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,240' - 10,192' (10,210' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +952' net elevation gain (+1,062' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

The Loch - 5.9 Miles Round-Trip

The Loch - variously referred to as Loch Vale - is accessed from Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Loch is fed by streams born from Andrews Glacier (Andrews Creek) and Taylor Glacier (Icy Brook). Visitors will enjoy excellent fishing and a dramatic alpine backdrop. The trail main continues on to Glass Lake, Sky Pond, and Andrews Tarn:

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Loch Vale Trail rises steadily along Glacier Creek through young aspen to Alberta Falls (.85 miles : 9,423'). It reaches the North Longs Peak Trail junction (1.6 miles : 9,768'), banks southwest and flattens through a small gorge between Thatchtop Mountain (12,668') and rock formations called the Glacier Knobs.

The trail drops to Glacier Junction (2.1 miles : 9,804'), a point marking the convergence of two immense glacial valleys with access to several of Rocky Mountain's most renowned destinations.

The trail rises over Icy Brook - a lively stream responsible for the deep gorge below - and steepens on the first of several switchbacks (2.5 miles : 9,985') on the final approach to The Loch (winter travelers need be mindful of this important change of direction).

The forest thins and valley opens dramatically upon reaching The Loch (2.95 miles : 10,192'), where a social trail splits left and the main trail veers right up its north shore. You may circle the lake, or continue on the main trail to its tranquil and less crowded inlet area .4 miles from the initial split.

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Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

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  • N40 18.621 W105 38.419 — Glacier Gorge Trailhead
  • N40 18.237 W105 38.289 — .85 miles : Alberta Falls
  • N40 17.982 W105 38.391 — 1.6 miles : North Longs Peak Trail junction
  • N40 17.842 W105 38.757 — 2.1 miles : Glacier Gorge Junction
  • N40 17.664 W105 39.049 — 2.5 miles : Begin final switchbacks to reach The Loch
  • N40 17.639 W105 39.270 — 2.95 miles : The Loch
  • N40 17.278 W105 39.856 — 3.65 miles : Andrews Glacier Trail junction
  • N40 17.393 W105 39.938 — 3.85 miles : Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite spur

Worth Noting

  • The Loch is a popular winter destination. Note that winter routes may vary based on snow depth and trail conditions near the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and on the final .5 mile approach to the Loch.

  • The main trail continues on to Glass Lake (4.15 miles), Sky Pond (4.5 miles), and Andrews Tarn (4.65 miles) - distances measured from Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

  • The Loch sees heavy use year-round. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite is the only official backcountry site between the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and Sky Pond. It's located along Andrews Creek, approximately .9 miles beyond The Loch.

Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite

  • There is only one designated site and one privy at the Andrews Creek Campsite. A maximum of two 4-person tents are allowed.

  • The site is located at 10,560' in a spruce-fir stand beside avalanche debris on the east side of Andrews Creek, about .2 miles from the Andrews Glacier Trail split (3.85 miles from Glacier Gorge Trailhead).

  • Near the site is a large area of trees downed by an avalanche in the winter of 1985-86. A wood sign indicates the path to the site from the Andrews Glacier Trail; the path is faint but aided by red arrowheads on trees. Pitch tent(s) as close to the indicated site as possible, safely away from standing dead trees.

Fishing Information

  • A valid Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years + to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary, however special regulations may exist for each location. It's your responsibility to know and obey them. Regulations may change at anytime. Special restrictions may be put in place above and beyond what's listed here. Contact the Park before your trip for current information.

  • Lake Loch and its inlet are catch and release only areas: No bait or worms are allowed in catch-and-release waters.

  • Certain waters in the park with restored native fish populations are open year round during daylight hours, except as indicated. Use barbless hooks only. Any and all fish species taken must be immediately returned to the water unharmed.

  • Method of Capture: Each person shall use only one hand-held rod or line. A 'second rod stamp' is not honored in park waters. Only artificial lures or flies with one (single, double, or treble) hook with a common shank may be used. "Artificial flies or lures" means devices made entirely of, or a combination of, materials such as wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber, designed to attract fish.

  • This does not include: (a) any hand malleable material designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell; (b) any device to which scents or smell attractants have been externally applied; (c) molded plastic devices less than 1.5 inches long; (d) foods; (e) traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs; and (f) manufactured baits such as imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits. Fly fishers may utilize a two hook system, where one hook is used as an attractant.

  • While in possession of any fishing equipment, bait for fishing (insects, fish eggs, minnows, or other organic matter) or worms is prohibited. Children 12 years of age or under, however, may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing except those designated as catch-and release areas.

  • Use of lead sinkers (or other lead fishing materials) is strongly discouraged.

Rules and Regulations

  • Horses are not permitted beyond Glacier Gorge Junction.

Directions to Trailhead

The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is located 8.4 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Bear Lake Road.

Just past the Beaver Meadows entrance station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is located on the left side of the road and has limited parking. Additional parking and alternative access can be found at the Bear Lake Trailhead. This will add an additional 1 mile roundtrip to the hike.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:
970.586.1206

Backcountry Office:
970.586.1242

Campground Reservations:
800.365.2267

Comments

"I have hiked up to the Loch several times now. Some I have gone beyond up to Sky Pond; others this was a final destination. It is by far one of the preeminent hikes in the park. Alberta Falls is a nice starting visual. The great glacial gorge is awe inspiring, but when you finally get in among the peaks near the Loch it is breath taking. Fishing is typically pretty good in the Loch, but people on the trail do like to yell out at you if your wading. I have had my picture taken several times while fishing there. The hike can seem long and several spots will be steep. Trail is typically in good shape. Unless you get there at dawn on a weekday the parking lot will probably be full. Parking at the shuttle lot or at the Bierstadt Lake lot is a good choice. You can also park at Bear Lake and take the trail down to the junction and up to the Loch too."
Robert White  -  Golden, CO USA  -  Date Posted: April 2, 2013

 

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