Hiking to Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park

Sky Pond

Sky Pond. My phone camera does NOT do this hike justice. I am in the works of getting a new phone and/or nice camera.

(Did you know it’s the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks? It is! The National Parks Service is officially celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25th. I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and plan on doing a whole bunch of National Park posts this month, starting with Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park….)

Starting out at 4:30am sounded rough but ended up being well worth the early morning call. I pulled into the parking lot and everyone climbed into my car. We were all sleepy-eyed but ready to make the journey to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Even though the weather was predicted to be overcast and rainy, I still had a feeling there might be a lot of people trying to hike in Rocky Mountain with it being just a couple of weeks before school starts.

We got to the trailhead right around 6am, thankful that there was only a few cars in the parking lot. The five of us ladies set out to the trails.

Four out of the five of us. Photo credit to my friend Denise.

Four out of the five of us. Photo credit to my friend Denise.

Nine miles round trip, this hike is described as being strenuous and predicted to take up to nine hours! We figured, all of us being a part of 3W Races, a running company, that It shouldn’t take us near that amount of time.

Fog hanging around in the valley.

Fog hanging around in the valley.

The hike was well-marked and it’s only the last half mile that is sort of strenuous with natural stairs and a scramble up a waterfall. That’s right, A WATERFALL!

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Timberline fall from a distance. This waterfall is the one you climb, but off to the right of the main water shed.

Starting out on a very gently incline, you catch beautiful glimpses of the valleys of Rocky. Then, under a mile, you reach your first landmark, Alberta Falls.

Alberta Fals

Alberta Falls

As you keep hiking from there, you reach a few junctions in the trail leading to other (assuming) wonderful hikes. If you do want to hike to Sky Pond, I suggest making sure you read the map well or bring one with you, knowing where to turn. There are signs, but sometimes they don’t always say, “THIS WAY TO SKY POND!” For the most part, you stay on the main, prominent trail.

Photo Credit: Katja

Photo Credit: Katja. Check her out on Instagram.

Reaching about 2.8 miles into the hike, you get to The Loch, a fairy tale looking lake surround by enchanted forests. Maybe it was just the overcast morning and all the conversation about books, but we really did feel like we were walking through a story book.

The Loch. Photo credit: Katja

The Loch, Lisa and I. Photo credit: Katja

After completely passing the lake, the trail starts inclining a bit steeper, but still not that hard. When you’re at about 3.25 miles, you start to hike some rock stairs and get to a point that looks like the trail ends. There’s a sign pointing up and you realized you have to get to climb a waterfall. I thought this was the coolest part of the hike!

Climbing up the waterfall!

Lisa climbing up the waterfall! Denise and Susan waiting at the base.

The trail/climb is to the side of Timberline Falls, a speculator waterfall from the water shed of Sky Pond. Not an incredibly difficult climb, but super fun to scramble up the side of a waterfall. Given my rock climbing experience, this was a blast, but I could see this as being a bit scary for some.

Photo Credit: Katja

Going up! Photo Credit: Katja

From the top of the waterfall, you see Glass Lake. It was a little overcast, with clouds just hanging on the top of the surrounding peaks and ridges, but a breath-taking sight nonetheless. (I don’t have a great picture of Glass Lake specifically.)

This is by far one of my my favorite photos ever of myself. Taken by Katja.

This is by far one of my favorite photos ever of myself. Taken by Katja.

We looked around for the next cairn marking the remaining .2 miles of the trail to get to the second lake, Sky Pond. With more fairy tale stone paths through patches of bright green, lush grass, we reached the end, and gazed upon the water. I can imagine seeing the reflections of clouds on a bright, clear day, but after the 4.5 mile hike, it was beautiful.

Lisa looking at Sky Pond

Lisa looking at Sky Pond

On the way down, we stopped to eat lunch on a big rock by the Loch then continued back to our car. Now, we were seeing the masses, super grateful for starting our hike when we did, agreeing none of us like crowds.

Photo credit: Katja

Photo credit: Katja

Getting There:

  • The Sky Pond hike starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in the park.
  • Easiest if you enter Rocky Mountain National Park by the Estes Park entrance (northeast side of the park).
  • It is $20 to enter the park (I have an annual National Parks Pass – saved us SO much money this year!)
  • If you do get there later in the day, there is a second, HUGE, parking lot one mile from the trailhead that has a free shuttle to Glacier Gorge. You pass it as you come to Glacier Gorge.
  • Click here for a map to the trailhead.

Tips:

  • Get there early; like all the other articles say, this hike is well travel and crowded, especially near Alberta falls.
  • Bring “grippy” shoes; the waterfall climb can be a little slick. We all hiked in our trail running shoes and did great.
  • Bring plenty of water and nutrition. It’s not too incredibly strenuous, but depending on your fitness level, make take you a little bit longer than us. (We did the hike in about 5.5 hours versus the predicted 9).
  • We went in August, and happened to be on an overcast day with wind – make sure you bring layers of clothes, sunscreen and/or a hat to prepare for any weather.  As you climb up higher, weather can change drastically and quickly. This hike reach about 10,500 feet in elevation.
  • Hiking guide.

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9 thoughts on “Hiking to Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park

    • Nice! So must have been visiting from out of town! I love Rocky Mtn National Park. Although, it’s only been the last few years I’ve gotten to visit it repeatedly. Usually I’m just all over the other mountainous areas!

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