Trails I've Hiked: Alberta Falls At Rocky Mountain National Park

The way Glacier Creek crashes out of the high country near Bear Lake makes Alberta Falls one of the most traveled to waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo.

You hear it long before you see it, and once you see it, you understand why Alberta Falls casts such a presence in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Though not particularly tall, as waterfalls go, Alberta Falls is a thing of beauty. From the way Glacier Creek flows, and then plunges, out of the backcountry near Bear Lake, and makes a hard jog to the left and then a bit back to the right before flowing further on downhill, this waterfall is a thing to behold.

Early to mid-summer, when the snowmelt is rushing out of the high country at its highest volume, is a great time to plan a hike to Alberta Falls. It's not a long hike, either, roughly a mile roundtrip from the trailhead at the Bear Lake parking area. Not far from the trailhead the trail forks, with the right fork heading up to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald lakes, and the left fork heading to Alberta Falls.

The trail is wide and well-traveled. The key thing to keep in mind is that it starts with a downhill run...which means on your return you'll be heading uphill. And at almost 9,500 feet above sea level, that short hill will suck the wind from your lungs if you've recently arrived in the Rockies.

But overall, the walk is easy, the payoff wonderful, and if it's a warm or mild sunny day, the landscape worthy of sitting for a while over a picnic.

If You Go

Bear Lake To Alberta Falls

Trailhead: Bear Lake Parking Area

Distance: About 1 mile roundtrip, out and back.

Difficulty: Easy if you're acclimated to the altitude, moderate otherwise.

Maps: The park's Bear Lake Area Hiking brochure, available at the ranger station at the Bear Lake parking area.

Don't forget plenty of water, hiking sticks to make the descent easier on your knees, snacks, and your camera.