Take one of the most beautiful trails in the Rocky Mountains: Sky Pond, Colorado. Along the way view three different bodies of water, austere mountains, and rushing waterfalls. There is no trail in Rocky Mountain National Park that is as amazing as memorable or rewarding as this one!
I have completed over 70 hikes this year and this was one of my all-time favorites. It has everything you want: stunning landscapes, challenging climbs, and an incredible destination. Although we had to walk over feet of snow to complete this trail, I can confidently say that it was worth every step.
If you want to complete this challenging hike, then you can learn more about it here. Read my complete guide on this trail below including how to get there, what to pack, and trail details!
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Table of Contents
Sky Pond Details
Elevation: 1,758 Feet
Type: Out and Back
Length: 9.4 miles
You can begin the hike to Sky Pond Colorado either at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead or the Bear Lake Trailhead. Alberta Falls is .3 miles from the Glacier Gorge entrance and .5 miles from the Bear Lake one.
This part of the trail is fairly easy and it does not climb too steeply. Alberta Falls is a great spot to stop and take a few photos. In the late Spring, the falls will still be covered in ice, but it’s very cool to seem them slip below the ice cover. In the early summer, the falls gush as the snowmelt feeds the waterfall.
After viewing the beautiful falls, you will continue up the mountain and along Glacier Creek. It’s nice to hear the flowing waters of the creek as you walk up the mountain, but the trail begins to get steep on this climb. At the 1.6 mile mark you will get to the junction for the North Longs Peak Trail. Turn right to continue towards the Loch.
The trail will begin to climb upwards as you make your way through wooded areas of the path. Once you’ve gone .5 miles further, you will reach the Mills Junction, continue straight towards the Loch Vale. Soon, you will walk out of the woods and into a clearing.
When the path is not covered in snow, you will see a few switchbacks that wind their way up the mountain. On this steep portion of the hike, you may want to take a few breaks to catch your breath. Eventually, you will make it to the beautiful Loch Vale at 2.6 miles, which is a stunning body of water in the Rocky Mountains. In the winter and early spring, you can walk over the frozen Loch. In the warmer months, you will continue around the Loch and towards the Lake of Glass.
Lake of Glass
Once you have made it to the Loch, you only have about half of the trail left to go! However, this is some of the hardest and scariest portions of the trail.
You will walk out of the woods and to a rocky clearing. Here, you will have to climb some of the steepest parts of the path and climb over the rocky waterfall. In the early spring, this part of the path was ice covered and everyone helped each other make it up, because it was difficult.
Once you reach the top of the scramble, you will arrive at the stunning Lake of Glass! Take a minute here to take in the 360 degree views of the stunning mountains all around. It’s truly a magnificent sight.
Finally, you have made it to the very end of the trail. Follow the rocky cairns on the boulders to find the path to Sky Pond. It is only .3 miles further through this rocky patch. You will eventually walk over the boulders and you’ll see the magical Sky Pond nestled in the mountainside.
Sky Pond is beautiful all times of year. In the early Spring, the water is frozen and snow covers the mountains behind. During the warmer months, you can see the reflections of the austere mountains in the waters below. It’s truly a magical spot to stop and sit. This is a great area to enjoy lunch or a snack before turning around and going back the same way.
How to Get to Sky Pond
The closest airport to Rocky Mountain National Park is the Denver Airport. Luckily, this airport receives some of the most flights in the country, so you should be able to find a flight for a good price. You can either rent a car and drive the 80 miles into Estes Park or you can opt to take the $55 shuttle that makes frequent trips from Denver Airport to Estes Park. There are additional shuttles that leave from downtown Denver and Denver Union Station to get to the park.
If you’re driving, it’s fairly easy to figure out how to get to Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver. You will take I-25 North 34 miles, then turn left onto CO 66. Continue on that road for 14 miles until you get to US-36 West. You will take that road 22 miles until you arrive in Estes Park. Otherwise, you can take the scenic Peak to Peak Highway that runs from Idaho Springs to Estes Park and provides incredible views the entire time.
Once you get into the park, you will take Bear Lake Road until you get to the parking areas. There are two options for where you can begin the lake: the Glacier Gorge Trailhead or the Bear Lake Trailhead.
Starting at Glacier Gorge is the easier of the two, but this parking lot is much smaller than the Bear Lake parking lot. It tends to fill up by 7 am during the peak season. We did this trail in the end of April and had no problem finding a spot at 7:30 am. You can also take the free shuttles from the Visitor Center during peak season to get to the trailhead.
Best Time to Hike Sky Pond
The best time to go to hike to Sky Pond is the summertime when the trail is free of snow and you can enjoy the clear water. However, this is also the most crowded time of year, so you will have to contend with larger numbers of people and more wildlife. If you want to complete this trail during the winter or Spring, you will want to check trail and road conditions. The Rocky Mountains are beautiful at all times of year and it’s a magical place to visit. Weather can be very fickle in the mountains, so always be aware and look out for incoming clouds.
In summer, snow has melted off of the trails and you will be able to get to even the tallest peaks in the park. Wildflowers are in bloom and sunshine abounds over the mountains. Most of the water on the trail will be free of snow and ice. You can see amazing reflections of the Rockys in Sky Pond and Lake of Glass. You’ll want to get to the trails very early in the day to get a parking spot or take a free shuttle there. Always watch out for wildlife, stay alert, and keep your distance.
Early Fall is one of the most spectacular times to do this hike. At this time of year, the Aspens start to change colors and gorgeous hues fill the mountainside. In the later fall, snow begins to fall at the mountain tops and you may be subject to road closures. Pack layers and be prepared for snow and ice.
In the early spring, you will see a lot of snow and the water will be frozen. You may experience warmer temperatures while hiking, but there are still snowpacks on the ground. So, be prepared to hike through snow and over frozen lakes. In the later spring, snow starts to melt and you may have to hike through slush and mud to get to Sky Pond.
Snow covers most of the park, roads get closed, but you should still be able to hike to Sky Pond with the proper gear. This is a great time to go snowshoeing instead of hiking on the trail. All the lakes will be frozen and you will be able to walk over them. It’s much quieter, but both parking lots will still fill up later in the day. Always look at the weather before you take any excursions into the park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Rocky Mountain National Park has a fee of $30 to get in or you can use an Annual Pass including the America the Beautiful Pass for entry.
- During the summer months from May 27-October 10 you have to get a timed entry reservation to enter the park. You can get your reservation on https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10086910 on the first day of each month for the next month. For example, you would get July entry reservations on June 1.
- The park is open 24/7 year round, so you can go into the park to watch the sunrise, see the sunset, camp in the park, or even observe the dark night sky.
- Parking lots fill up early, so you will want to arrive in the park early in the morning to go on the trails. If you’d prefer, you can take a free shuttle in the summer months that runs along Bear Lake Road. You can find updated shuttle times here.
- Road conditions and openings change frequently during the winter, so you can always stay updated by following @RockyNPS on twitter.
- Pets are allowing in the parking areas and in the campgrounds on a leash. However, dogs are prohibited on all trails to protect the natural areas and the wildlife that is found in the park.
- Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
Sky Pond Packing List
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful places, but weather there can be completely unpredictable. Mountain storms come on fast and can be intensely strong. For most of the year, the mountain temperatures can be extremely cold and heavy winds can blow. When preparing for a trip to Sky Pond, make sure to pack plenty of layers, bring lots of water, and the proper gear so that you can have an amazing time.
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Small Pack
- 2 Liters of Water (or more)
- First Aid Kit
- Layers including rain jacket and winter jacket
- Hat to block sun
- Microspikes (late Spring-early Fall)
- Hiking Poles
- Optional: Snowshoes in winter
If you have time for only one long hike in the park, then you have to try and do Sky Pond. There’s no trail that I’ve done that has been as scenic and epic along the way. You get to see over three different bodies of water and two waterfalls along the way. Once you get to the very end of the trail, you will be amazed at the stunning landscapes and triumphant that you made it to the end. If you go during the winter, you’ll get the opportunity to walk on frozen lakes and be one of the few people who make it to the end. I hope that you are convinced to hike all the way to Sky Pond Colorado!
Let me know in the comments if you found this trail guide helpful!
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