Sky Pond Hike – Rocky Mountain National Park

Sam FarringtonMountains, Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Sky Pond Trail

The Sky Pond hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is my favorite hike to date in this Colorado national park. The total hike is approximately 9 miles for this in and out gem that allows one to experience multiple environments.

My wife and I chose this hike because we were without our two kids (ages 8 and 11) and is right at the distance we enjoy for a day hike. I’m confident my athletic 11 year old daughter could’ve done this hike no problem, but my 8 year old son probably wouldn’t have made it to the end.

We embarked on this hike on August 10th, 2017, which one would think “hot,” but by the time we hit the arctic tundra at Sky Pond, I was thankful I packed my stocking hat.

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The first .85 miles of the trail from Glacier Gorge trailhead to beautiful Alberta Falls is easy. I’m confident nearly any age group can make it to the falls, even if you need a rest break or two. 

After Albert Falls, the trail starts to get rockier and has much less traffic as you head to the North Longs Peak Trail junction, approximately 1.6 miles in.

Following the signs to the Loch, you’ll walk through the peaceful, dense forests. Prior to reaching the Loch, there is a stunning cascade that meanders it’s way down the beautiful valley.

There was a group of four hikers eating a snack in this spot, and could even be a nice turning point for those who would rather not make the trek up to the Loch.

The Loch is about 3 miles in at 10,200′ and has gorgeous views all around. It appeared as if about half of hikers turn around at this point and head back, but keep moving around the lake to your right towards Timberline Falls and Sky Pond for more views that are well worth the extra effort.

The trail is a little less used at this point, but has a fun foot bridge within the woods. As you walk further, you’ll get some glimpses of Timberline Falls in the distance, which is where you’re headed.

As you approach Timberline Falls, a giant staircase greets your tired legs with apprehension, but the views are worth the effort.

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If you look closely at the picture below, you can see a few people moving up the far right side of the water flow, which is the driest chute and best approach up this portion of the falls.

At this point, you have some incredible views (see below) and have a decision to make. If you decide to make your way up Timberline Falls, the best approach is to head for a relatively dry chute of the waterfall. When we were there, the right side of the falls was by far the best option.

The climb up the falls is the most difficult part of this hike, but the gentleman in front of me was probably 65-70 years old and made it. You’ll also notice the hiker jam here because there’s only enough room for one hiker going up or one hiker coming down at a time. Be prepared for your shoes to get a little wet when crossing over this portion of the falls.

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My wife and I have no climbing experience whatsoever, and this scramble wasn’t an issue for either one of us. Just take it slow and make sure your feet are on solid ground.

Once you’re on top of Timberline Falls, you’ll notice the immediate temperature drop. The change to arctic tundra welcomes you with cold and windy conditions. The Lake of Glass, which is at about the 4.15 mile mark, is a great spot to put on an extra layer to stay warm.

The trail from this point was a little difficult for us to find, but if you head westward along the shore towards the right, you’ll find the rough trail. My gut told me to take the high route, but the trail is right along the water’s edge.

The lush greenery caught me somewhat off-guard, because I was surprised it could survive in that sort of climate. Pretty amazing and beautiful!

The next destination is Sky Pond, which is 4.6 miles in. You are now at the base of Taylor Glacier and can enjoy this incredible lake in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Although pictures never tell the entire story of what you see while on trail, my favorite part of the hike was the walk back towards Timberline Falls.

The views are immaculate and really put into perspective how small we are in this unbelievable place.

I wanted to add one last picture that shows the scramble back down Timberline Falls. I honestly thought it was easier going down than it was coming up!

As we made our way back to the trail head, there was a large elk 10 feet off the trail. It’s another reminder that you are in the wilderness, but also a way to encourage all of us to do our part in keeping it that way.

We started this trail at about 9am and finished at about 2:15pm. We sat up Sky Pond for a good 45 minutes before making our way back to the shuttles. Sky Pond is definitely a day hike that should be on your list!

About the Author

Sam Farrington

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Sam is a minimalist and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ passionate about valuing experiences, like hiking in the mountains, over things. He's a financial expert who’s been quoted in such publications as Forbes, USA Today, Money, Yahoo! Finance, Nerdwallet, and Nasdaq.