The Loch Trail is an out-and-back, 5.6-mile roundtrip hike to a pristine lake named The Loch that’s surrounded by towering mountains. Icy Brook and Andrews Creek, both originating from glaciers on the Continental Divide to the west, feed the 10,190-foot-high lake. The popular hike, reached by Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale Trails, follows a wide trail that’s well marked and easy to follow. The Loch is a perfect destination to relax on boulders along its edge or cast a fishing line for brook, cutthroat, and rainbow trout. Expect great views west up Loch Vale to 13,153-foot Taylor Peak. The lake is heavily visited so stay on the trail and don’t trample grass and fragile plants off the trail. After enjoying The Loch’s scenic views, continue west on the trail to Glass Lake and Sky Pond. The trail gains 1,062 feet of elevation round-trip. Allow three to five hours for the hike.
- The 2.8-mile hike (5.7 miles roundtrip) begins at Glacier Gorge Trailhead on Bear Lake Road. Hike south on Glacier Gorge Trail for 0.5 miles to Alberta Falls. Most hikers turn around here. Hike 0.9 miles south to the junction with East Longs Peak Trail. Go right and hike another 0.5 miles up a lovely valley to Glacier Gorge junction. Continue west on Loch Vale Trail for 0.9 miles to The Loch, a pristine lake. To continue to Sky Pond, pass the lake on its north side and hike 0.8 miles past Timberline Falls and Glass Lake to Sky Pond.
- Summer is peak season at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Arrive early for a parking spot or catch a free shuttle to the trailhead. Park at a Park & Ride lot by Glacier Basin Campground and board a shuttle. Find a shuttle schedule and map at the park website, visitor centers, shuttle stops, and in the park newspaper. Shuttles run frequently so you likely won’t wait long. On the return trip, hop on a shuttle to Bear Lake Trailhead so you’ll have a seat back to your car. The shuttles often fill at Bear Lake and there’s no room for out-going Glacier Gorge passengers.
- The Loch is a high-elevation lake so expect severe weather changes. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms and lightning. High winds, snow, and cold temperatures occur in summer. Pack a raincoat, extra clothes, snacks, and water. There’s no cell service at the lake. Avoid altitude sickness by descending to a lower elevation to recover. Symptoms include a headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. It’s often windy at The Loch.
- Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite is the closest camping spot to The Loch. The 10,560-foot campsite is 0.2 miles above the junction of Andrews Creek Trail and Loch Vale Trail. Acquire a free backcountry permit from the Ranger station to camp here.
Recommended season(s): June to September is best.
–Stewart M. Green