If you are looking for a fun, easy, family friendly hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. You should definitely consider the Alberta Falls Hike. Located in the Bear Lake area of the Park, it is a fun trail to a beautiful waterfall. The hike is lovely, wide, well marked, and fun.
You can combine this hike with several others to see even more if you have the time and energy.
About the Hike
Distance: 1.6 – 2 miles | Type: Out & Back | Avg. Time: 45 mins – 1 hr. | Difficulty: Easy | Dog Friendly: No
Alberta Falls is one of the best easy hikes in the Bear Lake Region of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is also very popular for that reason. You’ll see a lot of folks traveling this stretch of the park to the falls and back.
The hike is pretty straightforward, the trail is well marked and fairly wide. It’s easily hiked with family and I saw quite a few families and even very young kids (many carried in backpacks) on the trail. It’s pretty easy to do with families.
The one thing I would note. If you are planning to do a longer hike in this area, such as to Sky Pond or the Four Lake Loop, you’ll visit Alberta Falls anyway. This way you’ll bonus on seeing this and more. We recommend if you have the time and physical ability to do one of the longer hikes as the lakes are really impressive!
The hike has about 230 feet of elevation gain and starts around 9,170 feet. It’s a pretty easy hike but altitude can be tough! Be sure you are aware of the elevation and any sickness if you haven’t acclimated yet.
Alberta Falls Trailhead & Parking
The trailhead is located in the Bear Lake Corridor and there are two possible trailheads for Alberta Falls.
The shortest hike is from the Glacier Gorge Junction parking and trailhead. The only tricky part here is that parking is VERY limited and you likely won’t find a spot unless you are here before 6am. You’ll see the trailhead at the right of the bus station at the parking lot. Look for the Glacier Gorge Trailhead sign.
The other option is the Bear Lake Parking at the end of the Bear Lake Road. There’s a lot more parking here than at Glacier Gorge, however it does fill up incredibly fast as well. I found it pretty full by about 7am or so. However, if you do arrive later there is a good chance of spots opening up.
Finally you can park at the Park & Ride across from the Glacier Basin Campground. This lot does have more spots.
Best Time to Do the Hike
Summer is the best and busiest season for hikes to Alberta Falls. You’ll have the best weather but also the most people and the most difficulty parking.
Weekdays after Labor Day through Mid-October can be the best time to visit. Once schools return you’ll have smaller crowds, and weekdays will be a fraction of weekends now.
Early Spring and Late Fall can be great times to visit depending on the weather in the Rocky’s. If things are very snowy or roads are closed it can be difficult to reach the trail. However, otherwise you’ll find fewer crowds in the shoulder season.
If the roads and conditions are good, you can also visit the falls outside of late spring to early fall. The trickiest part is snow and ice and access to Bear Lake Corridor. The falls while high elevation are less difficult to reach (given the trail) than other hikes.
Winter can be tricky as many of the Rocky Mountain NP roads are closed. Visitors can visit in the winter but require a lot more planning to get to the trail. The road peaks at Logan Pass at 6,646 feet (2,026 m).
The Alberta Falls Hike
You can begin this hike from either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead or the Bear Lake Trailhead. I would recommend the latter. You can see Bear Lake as a quick addition to this hike as well.
Depending on your starting point you’ll either do 1.6 miles (from Glacier Gorge) or 2 mile (from Bear Lake) for the hike. The trail from Glacier Gorge until the intersection is pretty straight forward. You’ll see the trailhead at the end of the parking lot to the right of the bus station.
Starting from Bear Lake, you’ll see all the trails starting in between the ranger station and the bus station. Stay left, and follow the left most trail (Glacier Gorge, Alberta Falls).
After about 0.2 miles you’ll reach the intersection for Glacier Gorge Trailhead, from here the trail is the same.
The the trail is well marked and easy to navigate. For me there was only one area that I had to cross some water. In this instance you can choose to go left over the wooden plank or across the rocks on the right.
Following this you’ll walk on a nicely marked trail. You’ll come close to Glacier Creek on your left side. You’ll get some good views of the creek on the hike.
After about 0.5 miles from the junction between trails, you’ll come to Alberta Falls. My most recent trip the falls were going quite strongly but it was also a very snow winter and a very wet summer.
After this you can turn back and return the same way. If you are feeling up for it you can continue on the hike to Sky Pond or take the way to Lake Haiyaha and the other lakes in the Four Lake Loop.
Tips & FAQs
- If you are planning other hikes in the Bear Lake area. Check to see if you’ll pass Alberta Falls anyway. Several of the hikes go in this direction.
- You can get closer to the falls on the boulders. Just walk carefully!
- It’s probably easier to start from Bear Lake and you can visit the lake too!
- The hike starts around 9,170 ft to about 9400 ft. Be sure you are acclimated to the altitude for the park.