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Hiking Sky Pond: Rocky Mountain National Park

Sky Pond - Source: Steven Bratman Flickr

Sky Pond is one of Colorado’s most sought after hiking trails located in the pristine Rocky Mountain National Park. This national park is located in northern Colorado and spans the Continental Divide. It's known for its alpine tundra, aspen trees, wildlife (which can be spotted all over the park), and hiking trails. The famous Trail Ridge Road runs through the park and will take you above 12,000 ft (3,658 meters) providing spectacular views, wildlife sightings, and amazing alpine wildflowers. You’ll increase 4,000 ft (1,219 meters) in just a matter of minutes driving up this road.

Hike Overview

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Distance: 9.5 miles (15.3 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: 1,837 ft (560 meters)

Route Type: Out & Back

Highest Elevation: 10,900 ft (3,322 meters)

Difficulty: Hard

View from Trail Ridge Road - Source: DeWayne Hansen - Flickr

The Surrounding Area

Rocky Mountain National Park is known as a hiker’s paradise with 350 miles (563 kilometers) of hiking trails throughout the park. It is an absolute must-visit when coming to Colorado. There are trails that can accommodate all hiking-levels. Each trail offers unique scenery and views of the Rocky Mountains.

Camping inside the park is also an option. The park has three reservable campsites including Aspenglen Campground (52 sites), Glacier Basin Campground (150 sites), and Moraine Park Campground (244 sites). Longs Peak Campground (26 sites) and Timber Creek Campground (98 sites) are first-come, first-serve campgrounds. Backcountry camping is also allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park with a special $30 permit between May thru October. If you opt to backcountry camp, refer to the National Park’s wilderness guide.

Currently, to get into Rocky Mountain National Park you need a reservation if coming in by car between 6 AM - 5 PM. I would recommend getting to the park at 5AM to avoid the reservation, as they fill up quickly and it can be difficult to get one. The trailhead parking lot for Sky Pond is very small and also fills up quickly, so another reason to get there bright and early. Plus, if you can hit it right with the sunrise, you’ll get some spectacular views. If you get there later, there is a shuttle to the Glacial Gorge parking lot, where the trailhead is located.

Alber falls, Colorado, Outdoor Hiking destination
Albert Falls - Source: CorkySandpiper - Flickr

Tips For Hiking To Sky Pond

  • Wear good waterproof hiking shoes - It gets rocky and slippery on sections of the trail

  • Bring hiking poles - These will be helpful in the steep sections

  • Wear sunscreen - You are in high elevations and the sun is bright in Colorado

  • Bring bug spray - It can be very buggy on the trail

  • Never feed the wildlife

  • Leave the trail as you found it - i.e. no trash

What To Expect

The Sky Pond trailhead, Glacier Gorge, and is located about 8 miles off of Hwy 36 on Bear Lake Road.

As you start off on the trail, you’ll hit Alberta Falls (Above) just under a mile in. This is a very popular scenic stop that features a 30-foot waterfall running into the glacier creek.

Continue to mile 1.6 where you will meet the North Longs Peak Trail junction. Keep to the right. As you’re on the trail, be on the lookout for marmots, pika, and chipmunks. They love to scurry by among the rocks.

Heading straight on the trail, you hit a couple of switchbacks through an impressive gorge. After the third switchback, checks out the waterfall flowing down the gorge below.

The Loch - Source: Keith Burton - Flickr

At 2.8 miles, you will have reached “The Loch”. This is a subalpine lake resting at 10,190 ft (3,322 meters). Across the lake, soak in views of Taylor Peak, Thatchtop Mountain, and Powell Peak.