approx. 9.4 miles roundtrip 2,150 feet elevation gain! Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier Gorge trailhead From Metro Denver take Highway 36 to Boulder, through town to Lyons, through town to Estes Park. At junction in town, turn left to Beaver Meadows/Park headquarters entrance. After entrance, take first left, Bear Lake Road. Follow this to the sign saying "shuttle" parking lot on the right. Take Bear Lake shuttle to Glacier Gorge trailhead.
Lots to see: waterfalls, lakes, streams, cascades Impressive trail: crews have put in stone steps, log steps, etc... Solitude after Andrew's Glacier turnoff Shuttle system at park
Too much elevation gain for me Crowded from Alberta Falls to trailhead
This is a great hike for people who want to see a lot of things. But this is a hike for people who are truly in shape, and I wasnt. And honestly, if youre in shape enough for this hike, I have a suggestion for a much better hike that includes all the sights from this one.
But lets start at the beginning. The trail to Andrews Tarn is on the Rocky Mountain National Park park map, but I was surprised there wasnt much information on the Internet for Andrews Tarn, but there was much more for Andrews Glacier. Turns out, theyre really the same. The tarn is at the base of the glacier. You dont see one without seeing the other.
The hike starts at the Glacier Gorge on the road to Bear Lake. Take the shuttle across from Sprague Lake, even at 8 a.m. the Glacier Gorge lot was full. We had to park at Bear Lake and shuttle back, that wasted time. We couldnt just started on the shuttle near Sprague Lake. Its easy to catch and they give out maps at the shuttle parking lot.
We counted, and I think my boyfriend and I have started four hikes from this trailhead together: Black Lake, Sky Pond, Shelf and Solitude Lakes and now Andrews Tarn. Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just .8 of a mile from the Glacier Gorge trailhead, many people turn around here, or you can continue on to several lakes.
As I said at the top, theres lots to see on this trail. Less than a mile from the trail head is the spectacular Alberta Falls. Many people make this their destination for their entire hike. Its definitely worth some time to sit and enjoy the Falls. There are a couple places where you may wonder if youre at the falls, but dont worry, youll know youre there because theres a sign. There are several places along the trail though to look into Glacier Gorge and enjoy the cascades. Cascades along the trail to "The Loch".
Then we start climbing. The trail winds around this area on a rocky path, climbing and climbing. At about 1.75 miles, youll turn into another canyon-like area and the view just kind of opens up. Im not sure how to describe it, but you come out of the trees and into a basin. The trail hangs on one side as you start descending a bit. Its just a great view in this area. You make your way down into the basin, to a trail split. Taking the first and hiking 2.1 miles takes you to Lake Haiyaha. Going left and hiking another mile takes you to the very beautiful Mills Lake. Taking the second right, we hiked the last 0.9 of a mile to The Loch. This is a bit of a climb, but its really not bad. I like this part of the trail because you get to hear the sound of the cascades below the trail and at one of the switchbacks you get a really good view of the cascades. "The Loch", a beautiful lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Loch is a beautiful place. While the hike there is only 3.1 miles, this is a great destination in itself for people looking for a moderate hike. Youll see lots of hikers carrying fishing poles to The Loch. I think you should bring lunch and walk around the lake until you find a good spot. Then again, Im not sure theres a bad spot. The view when you first arrive at the lake is beautiful, the view from the opposite side of the lake looking back is great, the view from half way around is good too because in the distance you can spot Timberline Falls, another good destination, another mile or so away. If you hike to Timberline Falls, definitely make the climb up the falls, if youre able. At the top are two more spectacular alpine lakes: Lake of Glass and Sky Pond. If you think Im overusing the word spectacular, then take this hike and let me know if you disagree. We loved the trip, especially the climb up Timberline Falls two years ago. A view of Timberline Falls from about a half mile away at the trail cutoff to Andrew's Glacier.
But this time the destination is a different drainage. After hiking around The Loch, we continued on the main trail to a junction 0.6 of mile away. Here you get a view of Timberline Falls through the trees and a sign saying Andrews Glacier to the right. Look closely and you can see a trail cut in the dirt and rocks next to Andrews Creek. From here, we started climbing, and climbing and did I mention climbing? The trail is very impressive, some crews have done a lot of work to create steps, log crossings, and a trail, even through a large field of rocks and scree. Im not sure the elevation change between the turnoff and Andrews Tarn, but it was a lot. The trail map says its only 1.3 miles from the turnoff to the Glacier, but it took us nearly an hour, even on the way down! I have no idea how long it took to go up. Most of the way it wasnt too bad, but when you hit the field of rocks and scree it got tough! It was harder to find the trail, it was even harder to find your footing at times and there was a lot of elevation gain.
We had a great view of a snowfield directly in front of us and several snow fields in a drainage to the left. Honestly, we werent sure which way to go, but neither way had a tarn or a lake in our sight. We decided to stay on the trail. I kept looking at that snowfield in front of me, way up high and wondering if the tarn was at the bottom. I thought if the tarn is there, it sure would be nice to climb up the side of that snowfield and look over the ridge. Turns out, that snowfield was not our destination, our destination was over that ridge and if we wanted to see it, we were going to have to climb even more. The trail next to the snowfield was one of those places where you take four to six steps, then stop and take four to six breaths and continue the cycle. Holy cow! This is a look up the trail towards Andrew's Glacier. That snowfield at the upper right is not the glacier, you have to hike above that snowfield to get to the glacier & tarn.
We finally reached the ridge and then we spotted it, Andrews Glacier with Andrews Tarn in front. This is what I saw in the pictures on the Internet that were so pretty. As we plopped down on some rocks on the shoreline and looked at the glacier, we saw people, nine people on the glacier. We only saw four people on the hike up after the turnoff for the main trail and now suddenly here was a crowd. It turns out four of them were climbing up! The other five were coming down from hiking an entirely different trail.
This is where my advice comes in. If you can manage the 10-ish miles roundtrip to hike to Andrews Glacier, then you should really consider hiking from Bear Lake to Flattop Mountain, crossing past Hallett Peak, looking in Chaos Canyon, passing Otis Peak and then climbing down Andrews Glacier and taking the trail out that we came in on. I dont know the exact route, I havent done it, its just several people told they were doing that hike told us there was no way they would have come up the way we came. Im not sure the distance on that circle hike, maybe 12 miles, but I think it might be a much better choice. Just one persons opinion, I welcome yours.This is a zoomed in picture of Andrew's Glacier where you can see a group of four people climbing up and over.
The Glacier is amazing to look at. It was hard not to walk around the tarn and try hiking up part of that glacier. Im not going to recommend climbing it or not, thats your choice, but it you choose to climb, consider some safety gear and taking it very carefully. Enough said.
We had a nice lunch at lakeside or tarnside, then headed out pretty quickly since the storm clouds were starting to build.
I really enjoyed Andrews Tarn once I got there, but I just wasnt in shape to handle this hike. I will say this hike did motivate me to start walking on weeknights and working out again.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, hiking suggestions, etc, just e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star)
, Mallory Cave*
, Marshall Mesa
,Heil Valley Ranch*
, South Boulder Peak*
, The Boulder Flatirons*
, Walker Ranch*
, Bear Peak*
, Rabbit Mountain*
, Bald Mountain*
, Betasso Preserve*
, Wonderland Lake*
, Chimney Gulch*
, Apex Park*
, Elk Meadow*
, Chicago Lakes
, Chief Mountain
Rocky Mountain National Park:
, Twin Sisters
, Bierstadt Lake
, Chasm Lake
, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone
, Sandbeach Lake
Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness:
King, Bob & Betty Lakes
, Forest Lakes
, Arapaho Lakes
, Mitchell & Blue Lakes
, James Peak Area
, Heart Lake
, Devil's Backbone*
, Lake Agnes
Summit & Eagle Counties:
, Missouri Lakes
, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls
St Louis Lake
, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch
, Granby Ranch
Exploring Fulford Cave
, Our Favorite Hikes
, Our Favorite Bike Rides
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