Isabelle Glacier Trail is like hiking into a Colorado postcard. Unmatched in its scenic beauty from beginning to end. It’s a hike that screams “this is Colorado”. You can hike to gorgeous Isabelle lake for an easier yet beautiful day or be adventurous and hike onto Isabelle Glacier.


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I love to hike starting really early in the morning, even though colder, it’s a time for incredible views as the sun rises over the high peaks.

The trail starts at Long Lake Trailhead and yup, it’s chilly! It’s late September and the forest is getting ready for winter bringing its early morning brisk chill.



As the sun rises, its rays are tantalizing streaking through the trees as we start to slowly warm up. It’s a peaceful start on level ground as we leave Long Lake behind.



Several switchbacks on a steady incline and we break out of the forest into a Rocky Mountain wonderland. Really, I am spellbound. It’s amazing.

We saw 3 moose today on 3 separate occasions, one right on the trail! I highly recommend carrying Bear Spray on all backcountry trails, even in winter. 

What to do if you encounter wildlife >CLICK HERE



I am trembling with silly excitement. Above treeline is my happy place and this is gorgeous. And we are not even there yet!




Over the ridge and before us lies Isabelle Lake. Taken by surprise, we stand and gap at it for a while before heading down to stand on its shores. The reflections in the water are stunning in the early morning hours, soon to be lost as the sun rises.




HIking past Isabelle Lake the refections are still there as we head for the Glacier. It’s hard to take your eyes off it and watch where you are going. The trail is narrow, rocky, and steep along the ridge passing the lake.


At high altitudes, dehydration plus fickle weather is always something to consider. > CLICK HERE for a look at the practical gear that we love and have in our backpacks on every hike



Rock field? okay, where to go. Took a moment to figure it out but the trail is there and we continue through the rocks only to find we are lost once again.



Trying not to feel foolish we saw others getting off track too which was a relief. Wandering a little we did find the trail. Once we were on trail the hike back from the Glacier was a breeze. No rock cairns line the way so take your time.





Actually being a little lost was a blessing. Beautiful areas we would have missed are laid out before us. Water cascading alongside golden and red tundra is stunning.



Waterfalls and waterfalls, along with the sounds of pikas filling the air. Still lost but not really that lost.




The actual trail to the Glacier is suddenly right before us and it’s short but steep. We found it! When hiking back down we never lost the trail, somewhere below we took a wrong turn on our way up.




Isabelle Glacier sits high above us next to Navajo Peak. We stopped here to take a breath and never went further. Seeing others stopping and turning around not finding the way.

Later finding out that there are rock cairns leading the way and a magnificent green glacier lake sits below the Glacier. So keep going!





I’ve stripped down from my beanie, gloves, and long sleeve shirt as the sun is baking hot now at this attitude. In the photo above there is a person in a blue shirt, and if you can find him it shows the magnitude of where we were sitting just below the glacier.




Hiking back down was endless amazing views, lots of rocks. a few steep descents until reaching Isabelle Lake.

I loved this hike! One of my top hikes in 2021.

NOTE: In Late June to Mid Oct this is a fee area and reservations are required as of late Sept. 2021. Located in the Brainard Recreation Area > CLICK HERE for more information. > CLICK HERE for reservations.


Isabelle Lake

4.2 miles out & back

Rated: moderate

Isabelle Glacier

8.4 miles out & back

Rated: strenuous

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No bikes, no horses

Dogs ok




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Note: Many of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a very small commission (at no added cost to you).