I went to this trail on the first day of National Park week. Since it was a special day (there were no park fees) and it was a Saturday, I wanted to get there extra early to make sure I got a good parking spot. It was a little over an hour drive for me, so I arrived at the Glacier Gorge parking lot a bit before 9:30. By this time, there were only 3 regular parking spots left, and I managed to grab one of them! Luckily, there is also some parallel parking along the side of the lot, so there would have still be spots available if I had gotten there a little later.
From the parking lot, you follow the Glacier Gorge trail towards Alberta Falls. This trail is the beginning of the Loch Lake trail.
Since I went in the beginning of April, the trail was pretty much all covered in snow. Although I'm not good with guessing numbers, I would say it was between 4 - 7 ft of snow. I'm guessing this because one of the pictures I took showed a measure that was at least above 3 ft (second picture). Since the trail was so covered, snowshoes or shoe spikes would be recommended. I managed with just boots, but the way down became very slushy, and I was often slipping around with little grip.
I started the hike around 9:30 am, reached the Sky Pond by 12, and was done by 2:00 pm. Since the whole hike is around 8.4 miles, I would say it would take anywhere from 4 - 6 hours. Since the trail was covered in snow, I think I often lost the "true trail". I always followed whatever footpath was carved in the snow, but I think the real path could be much different. This is why I think it could take considerably longer when there is no snow. At the same time, the snow at times caused for slower trekking and more caution.
The Loch Lake trail is a very beautiful hike! It is not too difficult, though at times there were steep inclines. On the way, you get to pass Alberta Falls. Although this was mostly covered in snow when I went, you could still see a great flow of water gushing out. It was pretty! This part of the hike was more moderately trafficked. As you continue on towards Loch Lake, the trail diverges several times, and it becomes less active.
The last half mile or so from the lake is the part with the greatest incline. There is a tall rock wall on the right side, so once you reach this part, you're almost there! The lake itself is gorgeous. This is a good place to stop and eat lunch or relax for a bit, especially if you want to continue on to Sky Pond. The wind can make it pretty cold at the lake, but it is much colder at the pond.
The rest of the trial to Sky Pond is pretty challenging. In the snow, it was very steep uphill. The gusts of wind were very strong, which made the mile and a half a very slow climb. This is the part I would most recommend shoe spikes. I didn't have any, and had to pause when the wind picked up for fear of being pushed over. It's a nice challenge though, and the view at the top is worth it!
Although it was very windy and cold, I ate my lunch up there. This trail is even less trafficked than Loch Lake. At least in the snow, no one seemed to want to take on the snowy climb. If you do go to the top (and its still covered in snow) have a plan for getting back down. For me, it was easiest to go backwards and use the big foot holes left in the snow. Although going back down was more difficult, I enjoyed the challenge. But my legs were definitely tired after this hike!
If you're planning to go when there could be snow, I would say you can't go wrong with bringing snowshoes or shoe spikes. If you don't have either of those, it can be done in good boots with grip. Bringing lots of layers is also a good plan. The bottom and tops of the mountain were the coldest, and I wore my hat, gloves, and jackets here. During the climb, it gets hotter from working up a sweat! Also, the tree cover and mountains block some of the wind, so it is not as cold. I had a backpack to store all of my shed layers.
This is definitely a great hike if you're going to RMNP. Although I didn't see as many families on this trail, it would probably be very doable for children in the later spring and in summer. With snow, it is a little more challenging to do the whole climb to the lake. The frozen lakes are beautiful, and so was all the snow, but I'd love to see it in summer when it's covered in green!