If you have half a day to spend on the trail, this hike to Timberline Falls is one of the best options in Rocky Mountain National Park. To get to the trailhead from Estes Park, take US 36 west to the Beaver Meadows entrance, go 0.2 mile and turn left onto Bear Lake Road. At 8.1 miles from the turn there’s a small paved lot on the left, and the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. You’ll hike past Alberta Falls at about three-quarters of a mile, and from there follow signs to Loch Vale. At the Loch, the trail curves around the right side of the lake and follows the creek, then climbs stone steps, with the waterfall in view. The out-and-back hike to Timberline Falls is a little over eight miles roundtrip, but the trail continues on, if you have more time to spare.
- If the parking lot is full, turn around and drive 3.3 miles to shuttle parking on Bear Lake Road, then take the free shuttle to the trailhead.
- A hike and a light scramble past Timberline Falls leads to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond, where you’ll have even better views of surrounding peaks like The Sharkstooth and Cathedral Spires, to the west.
- In winter and spring, the trail can be icy and snow packed, so pack some traction such as microspikes for your boots and use a trekking pole for balance.
- In the summertime, call ahead to reserve a camping spot or get a backcountry permit and enjoy an overnight stay in this spectacular park.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Susan Joy Paul