Hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park for a challenging bucket list adventure filled with endless views and scenic waterfalls.
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Length: 10 miles
Trailhead(s): Glacier Gorge
Elevation Gain: 1,710
Trail Type: Out & Back
Dogs: Not Allowed
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Permit Required? National Park Entry Fee or America The Beautiful Pass. Additional Fees may be applicable depending on the season. See Reservation.Gov – Timed Entry Permit Reservations Link in “Additional Information” below .
Considerations: Early Season Lingering Snow; Wildlife; Exposure; Elevation
Season: Spring-Fall (best)
Why is the hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park is a bucket list adventure? Because the hike to Sky Pond has stunning views of alpine lakes, scenic waterfalls, and breathtaking mountain scenery. For those wanting to see an abundance of the natural wonders of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, this hike delivers.
HIKE TO SKY POND – TAKE THE SHUTTLE
Bear Lake Road
The hike to Sky Pond begins from either the Bear Lake Trailhead or the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Both are accessed via Bear Lake Road. Depending on the season a permit is required to travel on this road, so be sure to get one if it is required (see link in “Additional Information”). If you have a timed entry permit for the park (pilot program in 2022 and 2023) but do not have a permit for Bear Lake Road? You will be turned around.
There is also a Hiker Shuttle from the Estes Park Visitor Center to the Park & Ride Transit Hub. Link to Hiker Shuttle tickets – click here.
Shuttle to the Trailhead
Even very early in the day the Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge trailheads are extremely popular and busy. As such, snagging a parking space at either is a matter of luck. If, like us, you don’t want to spend precious time searching for a parking spot, then park at the Park & Ride Transit Hub and ride the shuttlebus. Here’s why. When we departed the shuttlebus at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead the parking lot was full. It was 7:30 am.
First Stop: Alberta Falls
Not long after leaving the Glacier Gorge Trailhead we are at Alberta Falls. This gorgeous and incredibly photogenic waterfall is only .8 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Climb the trail beside Alberta Falls to the best and final viewing area which lies at the top of the falls.
Second Stop: The Loch
After hiking another mile on the Glacier Gorge Trail, take the Loch Vale Trail towards Sky Pond. This trail passes by The Loch. Take a short stop here. The long range views from The Loch pretty, and the natural beauty surrounding this lake is worth a short exploration.
Third Stop: Timberline Falls
After it passes The Loch, the Loch Vale Trail ascends to Timberline Falls via steep switchbacks which take hikers through rocky terrain. Timberline Falls is a striking sight of water bursting through rocks and creating a fine mist as it cascades down the rock. We take a short break here to admire the waterfall, ogle the outstanding views, and get ready to continue the hike. The trail now ascends up a wet, rocky chute to the right of the waterfall.
Almost There: Glass Lake
Beyond Timberline Falls the trail becomes more rugged and challenging as it ascends to Glass Lake (also known as Lake of Glass). Glass Lake is a beautiful, clear alpine lake with incredible views of the mountain peaks looming in the distance. Its rocky surroundings reflect dazzlingly in the water. Stop once more to take it all in before continuing the climb up to Sky Pond.
From Glass Lake, continue the hike up the side of the gorge to Sky Pond and enjoy panoramic scenes of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Sitting in a high alpine basin, Sky Pond’s crystal-clear waters are surrounded by the tops of the mountains we have been viewing in the distance on our hike up.
The most impressive view from the shore of Sky Pond is of The Sharkstooth. Its craggy, jagged peaks stand in stark contrast to the gentle, more rounded rock of Taylor Peak, Powell Peak, and Thatchtop Mountain. Looking across the lake at The Sharkstooth, the snow patch nestled up in the rock to its right is Taylor Glacier.
Vegetation around Sky Pond is low and scrubby, and not terribly interesting. As such, the show here really is the clear water and the surrounding peaks. When it is time to go, we head back down the trail the way we came. Our assessment? The hike to Sky Pond is absolutely a gorgeous, adventure filled, bucket list hike.
Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.
Additional Information (Click below to follow links.)
Sky Pond Slideshow
(Click image to expand.)
Gear We Use for Day Hiking
To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.
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