Pagoda Mountain – 13,488

RT Length:  17.74 miles

Elevation Gain:  4544’

I started from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3:30am.  There were already several parties in the parking lot (probably 10 vehicles), but didn’t see another person on my route all day.   This is also a bus stop for access to Glacier Gulch (and lots of other hikes).  All this means is that it was overly crowded the last 2 miles of the hike on my way down.  Passing people became impossible, and more of a stroll as I hiked out with hundreds of other hikers. 

I followed the class 1 trail, staying on the Mills Lake trail.  There were wonderful signs that made getting lost difficult. 

I passed Alberta Falls at 1.15 miles, and continued following the trail to Mills Lake

After hiking for 3.35 miles I passed Mills Lake, and at 3.85 miles I passed Jewel Lake.  Side note:  there’s great fishing here.  Lots of hungry trout, eager to feast on any worm you drop in.  The larger trout are in the stream above Jewel Lake, and in Mills Lake.

I continued following the class 1 trail all the way to Black Lake (6 miles in).  This part of the trail had a lot of wood foot bridges, and rock slabs to cross.  All class 1, but the rock slabs were tricky to navigate in the dark.

I made it to Black Lake, and continued on the class 1 trail, up a waterfall, and across more rock slabs.

This is where my report may differ from others.  I took a different route in than I did out at this point, and liked my route out better.  It was easier to follow, and there were less willows/shrubs involved.  Here’s the overall picture of what I did.  There is a cairn circled in red, indicating the route to McHenry’s Peak.  Don’t take that route, but leave the trail and head behind the bush.  You will then easily see cairns that will guide you through the upper basin.

Once again, there is no established trail to Green Lake, but there are some tramped game trails (all covered in grass, not much dirt to be seen) and lots of cairns.  This is also choose your own adventure.  You’re aiming south, towards the mountains (circled in red).  There are several small streams to cross in this area, all easily hop-able.


I navigated a bit to the right of the waterfall to get to Green Lake (cairns here too)

Once at Green Lake, I turned left and headed southeast.  Here’s my overall route on scree, navigating around large boulders and rock slabs to keep this all class 2.

Here are some close-up pictures of my route up the gully, to the saddle

Once at the saddle, I turned right and headed up the ridge.  I went directly up the ridge on the way up, which was class 3.  I kept it class 2 on the way down by staying more to the left of the ridge. 

Here are some pictures of the ridge.

I summited Pagoda Mountain at 9am. There was a plastic tube at the summit as a register, lacking a lid, but with a ziplock bag inside.  I didn’t bother opening it.

Pagoda Mountain:

I had a great view of the Longs Peak keyhole route

Now to re-trace my steps back to the saddle, before the storm hit

And back down the scree to Green Lake

Once back at Green Lake, I turned right and followed the cairns north out of the basin

This time I went behind the rocks and picked up the old trail, circled in red

Then followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead.  It started raining just as soon as I made it to treeline, accompanied by a flash of lightning, a loud boom, and a wide rumbling all around me.

I made it back to my truck at 1:30pm, making this a 17.74 mile hike with 4544’ of elevation gain in 10 hours. 

On to the next trailhead!

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

2 thoughts on “Pagoda Mountain – 13,488”

  1. How funny… my husband and I were camped in Glacier Gorge Saturday night. You walked right past our campsite on your way up. Also, we’d hiked to Green Lake the day before. Small world!


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