Throwback: August 2004 Hike To Italy Lake RMNP
If you know me well enough, you know I used to run the very best website there was for Rocky Mountain National Park enthusiasts. Here is a trip report I posted there over 11 years ago. Since so much time has passed I can't say that aren't any mistakes in the details of this trip report. Years later I hiked up in this same area with a friend and we thought we hit Italy lake only to find out it was some unnamed lake up there. Anyway, enjoy this old trip report...
"This was supposed to be the hike that had me going to Solitude and Shelf lakes, then to Thatchtop, and finishing through Sky Pond. As you read this you'll see why my plans changed.
On August 1, 2004, I hiked to Italy Lake. I woke up at 4am in order to get my pack ready and get a quick bite to eat for breakfast before getting to the park and ride at 5am. I get to the park and ride shortly before 5am, and let me tell ya the drivers and rangers are serious about keeping their schedule. Not that I was running late. I showed up in plenty of time. But I heard them telling many people how soon until the bus leaves.
I got off the bus at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. I started the hike at around 5:15am. For about the first hour and a half or so it was just barely dark enough to need my handy dandy petzl tikka head light. I enjoyed this part of the hike and took my time. I soaked in the sounds of the birds, the squirrels barking at me, and sounds of a stream every now and then.
I barely even remember seeing Alberta Falls. It was just to dark out to pay any attention to it. But after about two hours I had made it to Mills Lake. I have been going to The Loch Vale for many years and now I wish I had gone to Mills Lake sooner. What a beautiful place. The lake was very calm and with the backdrop of Longs Peak and the keyboard of the winds reflecting upon the still water it made for a nice picture….wow! Too bad my camera didn’t do a good job on that picture. It washed out the sky.
A very short distance from Mills lake is Jewel Lake. The Dannen’s book says the distance from Mills Lake to Jewel is a half mile. I don’t think it’s that far and the topo shows that they’re right next to each other. It’s a nice place. I think I got my favorite pictures of this hike at Jewel Lake. Not that I think it’s better than Mills Lake. I think it had to do more with my camera’s performance.
From Jewel Lake it’s a relaxing hike alongside the Glacier Creek. I love hikes along streams/creeks, etc. That sound of water flowing is really soothing and relaxing to me. It was along this stretch that I kept looking for where I should turn up the mountain side towards Solitude and Shelf lakes. This was my original plan, to hike to those lakes then to Thatchtop and then down to Sky Pond and finish out the hike that way. Well I kept looking and second guessing as to where the right place was to turn up to Solitude.
Well I ended up hiking the 1.5 miles from Jewel Lake to Ribbon Falls, the next stop, until I came across a couple hikers. I asked them if they knew where you should turn up the mountain to go up to Solitude lake. I figured I had passed it but wondered if it would still be close enough to make it worth backtracking to. They said I’d blew way past it. They also said I was five minutes away from Black Lake. So it was at that moment that my itinerary officially changed. Oh, back to Ribbon Falls. I wish I had taken a picture of it. I only got video of it.
So I went past the falls about .2 miles to Black Lake. Once again as with the previous lakes, the water was calm and still. So I got another favorite picture here with the mountains, Arrowhead and McHenry’s, reflecting into it. I really liked Black Lake.
From Black Lake I took a left turn, going east, and hike up along a stream that was making it’s way down to Black Lake. I enjoyed this part of the hike as well. As I said before the water rushing sounds are very pleasing to me.
From that point you just follow along the stream to Green Lake which is a little more than a mile past Black lake. From this point I couldn’t help but think to myself about how thankful I was for the people who had taken the time to make the path from Green Lake to Italy Lake with the cairns. Thank God for those cairns. Oh, and I also thought about how beautiful it was up there. Once you’re at Italy Lake the only thing that’s left to do is climp up the wall to the ridgeline of the mountains Chiefs Head, Pagoda, and Longs Peak. It was very striking to me to have that perspective of Longs and to be that close it. Kind of like being a few feet away from a celebrity and knowing you could touch them if you wanted to. Wait a minute my lawyer says I shouldn’t talk about that. Elizabeth Hurley seems to think I have some kind of stalking problem…but hey back to the subject. It was at Italy Lake that I decided to have my yummy snack of jalapeño flavored cheez-its. I also decided to lay down for about a half hour using my backpack as a pillow. Does it get any better than this?!?! Oh, this is also where I took my boots off and noticed the half dollar sized blisters on the back of my heels. Apparently my socks had slipped down and bunched up at the back of my heal. I don’t know why. I guess even $17 pairs of socks can find ways to give you blisters too!
Here's some pictures from in, around, or between Green and Italy Lakes...
I got back to the trailhead at 11:15am. When I got back to the campsite I was walking like an old GIMP!!
Here’s some info about the hike:
- Alberta Falls: distance-.6 mi/Elev gain-160ft/alt.-9,400ft
- Mills Lake: distance-2.5 mi/Elev gain-700ft/alt.-9,940ft
- Jewel Lake: distance-3 mi/Elev gain-710ft/alt.-9,950ft
- Ribbon Falls: distance-4.5 mi/Elev gain-1,330ft/alt.-10,570ft
- Black Lake: distance-4.7 mi/Elev gain-1,390ft/alt.-10,620ft
- Green Lake: distance-5.75 mi/Elev gain-2,310ft/alt.-11,550ft
- Italy Lake: distance-6 mi/Elev gain2,380ft/alt.-11,620ft"