Alberta Falls via Glacier Gorge Trail, CO
Date Hiked: November 4, 2017
Length: 1.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 219 ft
Starting Elevation: 9180 ft
Distance from Denver: 2 Hours
Sarah’s Ranking: 7/10
Total Hike Time: 1 Hour
Parking: Medium Lot, Entrance Fee
Best Time: Late Spring to Mid Autumn
Features: Waterfall, Views of Valley
Additional Information: All Trails
About the Area:
The Rocky Mountain National Park is completely and utterly GIANT. There is so much to see and do it can be incredibly overwhelming. However, after hiking numerous hikes and checking out countless destinations in the park, I can easily say that Alberta Falls is among my top Rocky Mountain National Park hikes.
To begin with, the hike itself is straightforward and easy. It is quick with a spectacular reward. My only regret was not checking the weather before we hit the trail. The trailhead is just outside Estes Park and is known by many for the numerous other hiking spots from the same trailhead including Sprague Lake, Glacier Gorge, and Bear Lake.
How to Get There:
The trailhead is located here or you can hike in from the Bear Lake Trailhead. Depending on traffic conditions, usually, the quickest way from Denver is to drive north on I-25 until you hit CO-66. Take this west all the way to Estes Park (it will turn into US-36). Once in Estes Park, you will follow US-36 and Moraine Ave to Bear Lake Road. Take a left onto this road and follow it for about 8 miles until you reach the Glacier Gorge Trailhead parking lot.
- Day Backpack
- The Ten Hiking Essentials
- Walking Shoes or Hiking Boots
- Light Jacket
For a last minute hiking decision, we made pretty good time driving up to the trailhead. We didn’t really plan this hike out, just knew it was a quick and easy spot. We also failed to check the weather (big mistake).
We started at the trailhead around noon after eating lunch in our car. At that time, snow was slowly starting to fall. We really didn’t think much of it. Once we left the car, however, we really understood how cold the weather was. So, we bundled up and hit the trail anyway!
The trail itself is gorgeous. A wide gravel trail with steep cliffs, beautiful views, and large alpine conifers bordering each side. We followed the signs to Alberta Falls and passed by numerous other hiking groups.
The hike to the falls was a quick and easy walk and the falls itself was beautiful! Small portions of the falls were already beginning to freeze. It is about 15-20 feet tall with multiple smaller waterfalls below. From the falls is a great view of the valley below as well.
Unfortunately, once we made it to the falls, the snow was really beginning to hit hard. Again, we had no idea of what the weather was supposed to do (breaking rule number one of hiking) so we tried to get out of there as quick as we could.
By the time we finally made it back to our car about an inch or two of snow had covered our car. But did that stop us? Nope. We decided to move on to the next quick hike at Bear Lake.
- Check the weather before you go! I can’t say this enough!
- Don’t just check the weather, but be prepared for it too! If it is going to be cold, bring layers. Ice was not a problem for us at this trail. If it is going to be hot, be prepared for that as well.
- Arrive early. This parking lot only has spots for about 20 cars as opposed to some of the other lots.
- You do have to pay to get in, fees can be seen here. Buy online to avoid the entrance line (which can be quite long).
- If you plan on hiking often in the National Parks, consider an America the Beautiful pass! (not an ad, just a great deal, and tip!)
Check out my hike to Bear Lake!