If you only have time for one hike within the Rocky Mountain National Park, I HIGHLY suggest hiking to Sky Pond. Why, you may ask?
2 waterfalls and 3 lakes. Dare I say more?!
The hike to Sky Pond will satisfy your wanderlust for the mountains all in one day. It has a little bit of everything- scrambling up the side of a waterfall, epic Colorado glacial lakes, and fresh mountain air.
This hike is also a great choice because you don’t have to do the entire trail to get jaw dropping views. There are several distinct destinations along the way that would be good turn around points if you’re short on time, making it the perfect day hike.
Have I convinced you yet? Good, let’s begin.
Sky Pond Hike Stats
Distance: 9.5 miles
Type: Out and Back
Difficulty: Difficult (Strenuous)
Elevation Gain: 1708 ft.
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge Trailhead
How to Get There
The hike to Sky Pond begins at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead within Rocky Mountain National Park. Like all National Parks, there is an entry fee.
The parking lot for the trailhead is on Bear Lake Road but is small and can fill up fast. If you’re not an early riser or lucky enough to snag a parking space you can park at the shuttle parking lot and the shuttle will drop you off!
Pro Tip: If you plan on visiting a National Park within the U.S. more than 2x a year it would be worth your money to purchase the annual pass.
Pin the photo below for later!
When to Hike Rocky Mountain National Park
I visited Denver in September for a long weekend and this was my hike of choice! September offered cooler temperatures, a slight breeze at the lower elevations, and sunny skies. Fall here is stunning. The water flow at the waterfalls wasn’t as strong, though.
Related: Denver, CO Itinerary
Luckily Sky Pond can be reached during all seasons! It is up to you to decide what you want to put up with. I’d say fall and spring are the best times to visit, however winter would be way less crowded and provide a different experience. Expect it to be packed during the summer months.
No matter the season, Rocky Mountain National Park never fails when it comes to epic vista views. It all comes down to what you prefer!
Hiking to Sky Pond
At the beginning of the hike you’ll be trekking under tall pine, following along and crossing a rushing creek. Be sure to take it all in- it is a peaceful start!
Due to the the hike’s popularity, the trail is well maintained and easy to follow at first.
This is one of the best day hikes in the park, but remember, if you aren’t able to hike the entire trail, there are several destinations along the way that will satisfy you before you turn around. I’ve listed them in order below!
At about .8 miles you’ll hike upon Alberta Falls, a 30 foot waterfall that pours into Glacier Creek below. This is worth stopping for and exploring around!
Most people hike to just see the falls then turn around. The avid hikers will continue on to Sky Pond so you’re likely to lose a lot of the crowd after this point.
Roughly 2 miles later you’ll find yourself hiking around Loch Vale (photo above on the left), the first lake of three on this hike.
“The Loch” is the perfect place to post up for a break and hangout while having some snacks. I highly recommend exploring out onto the little peninsula for a closer, unobstructed view of the lake.
Next you’ll find yourself standing below another waterfall- this one roughly 100 feet high (pictured above on the right). The kicker- you have to climb it!
Well, the side of it any ways. You’ll want to stick to the far right of Timberline Falls and scramble up the rocks. Depending on what time of year it is you will be scrambling in some water.
In September my friends and I didn’t experience as much flowing water as ice- so be careful! If you are afraid of heights this will be where you either turn around or conquer your fears.
Either way, don’t forget to turn around and look behind you. You’ll be able to see Loch Vale far off in the distance and the views here are stunning.
Lake of Glass
If you manage to get above Timberline Falls, you’ll soon hike upon Lake of Glass which as a matter of fact was named accordingly.
Lake of Glass was the most impressive lake in my opinion. The turquoise blue water and close proximity to high mountains made you feel more enclosed.
A lot of hikers stop here because you can’t see beyond, but don’t! Keep going for Sky Pond is not much further and is the final destination.
Sitting at 10,900 feet you’ll find Sky Pond! Once you make it to the lake it is truly an accomplished feeling rewarded with beautiful, glacial blue water.
Remember that you’ve climbed roughly 1,780 feet in elevation so it will be cooler at the top. When we went it was cold and windy! I was glad to have brought layers but do wish I had remembered gloves.
Sit down for a while and enjoy the view. If you’re lucky you’ll have it to yourself for a while like we did.
- Begin Early
- Know the Shuttle times and route beforehand
- Dress in layers
- Pack a lunch
- Bring gloves (during colder months)
Final Thoughts About Hiking to Sky Pond
I dream of going back to Rocky Mountain National Park. Of course to hike other trails, but when I visit again I’ll be sure to hike to Sky Pond a second time.
You know those adventures that go spectacularly, end up being better than you could have ever expected, and leave you on an adventure high afterwards? This hike did that for me.
And I hope it does the same for you!
As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.