Mills Lake Trail – Rocky Mountain National Park

One of my favorite times of the year to hike is the fall. The colors that splash across the trails just magnifies the beauty of nature around you. One of the first trails I hiked when I moved to Colorado was the Mills Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trail is not the easiest, it begins at an elevation of 9,420 feet, it is an up and back trail with a total distance of 5.6 miles. Mills lake is situated at approximately 9,990 feet in elevation so a total gain of 750 feet.

I was drawn to this trail because one of the park rangers told me that the scene from Mills lake is the scene on the back of Colorado’s state quarter, and it is just breathtaking.

The trailhead begins at Glacier Gorge and within the first quarter of a mile you are surrounded by Aspen’s in all their beautiful fall colors.

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

The Aspen is the state tree of Colorado and for the most part they are brilliant yellow in the fall. Their small leaves love to shimmer in the wind making them even more beautiful.


After hiking for approximately three quarters of a mile you will come across a very popular waterfall. Alberta falls is a very crowded spot along this trail because it is a reasonable hike to get there so many families hangout there. When you leave Alberta falls you will be much more likely to be on your own to enjoy nature and all she has to offer in this park.

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

The trail winds through a canyon where there is little shade but sometimes around the corner you are lucky enough to view the valley below.

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

The sheer magnitude of the rocky canyon makes you appreciate those that traveled these paths before us.

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

Soon you return to the forest and the path ahead splits to the right you can continue on to The Loch’s to the left you move onward to Mills Lake. Through this portion of the hike you will see many more pine trees and evergreens then you have in the past.

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

Mills lake is not far now but the terrain gets a bit more difficult as you continue upward to the lake.

Your first glimpse of the lake does not come until you are almost on top of it, there is a large boulder that obscures your view, once you are over the boulder the lake is directly in front of you.

Mills Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

Truly one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever come across. Take some time and enjoy the views before you head back down the way you came. The return trip is easier overall because you are walking downhill. Your change in perspective allows you to see some of the sites you missed on the way up.

I hope you will have the chance to discover this amazing place, thanks for your time, until next time.

Written by Bill Bruner

Bill Bruner has loved the outdoors since he was a child in Cub Scouts. He has hiked all over the US & parts of England. He believes that getting as close as you can to nature fills your soul more than anything else you can do. He has lived in 7 states & just recently bought a house in the mountains of Colorado. In his professional life he has been a loan officer, a bartender, a professional actor & for the past 16 years a tax accountant. He hopes to bring you engaging articles about hikes throughout the US. He’s married to Heidi & has three girls Carrie, Samantha & Andrea & has two Australian cattle dogs, Sydney & Ki Ki.

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