Hiking Sky Pond: Rocky Mountain National Park

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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.

Hiking Sky Pond: Rocky Mountain National Park
Sky Pond – Source: Steven Bratman Flickr

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
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.

Tips For Hiking To Sky Pond

Albert Falls - Source: CorkySandpiper - Flickr
Albert Falls – Source: CorkySandpiper – Flickr
  • 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
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.

After the Loch, the trail will start to climb. When you reach the Andrew Glacier split, stay to the left. Andrew Glacier will take you to the Andrew Glacier Backcountry campsite, one of the only campsites in the area.

Shortly after the split, you will see Timberline Falls, around the 4-mile marker. This is where things get interesting. You will begin to climb the steep rock steps for about 200 feet (61 meters). The trail continues up Timberline Falls, which is a challenging scramble up the chute. There may be sections with water coming down. Be very careful in this portion of the trail and take it slow. You’ll need to use your hand to help guide you up the 100 feet (30 meters).

Timberline Falls Climb- Source: David Wilson Flickr
Timberline Falls Climb- Source: David Wilson Flickr

When you reach the top of the falls, you will see the beautiful alpine Lake of Glass with its chilly water. West of the lake, the trail will continue and become a bit rockier.

At 4.8 miles, you will have reached Sky Pond. This alpine lake is surrounded by three cliff walls. Check out the granite spires of Sharktooth, Taylor Peak straight ahead, and Powell Peak off to the left. Hang out and enjoy the views that you’ve worked for. After, you’ll make your way back to the trailhead the same way you came in.

Sharktooth Spires - Source: Instagram @wildersruth
Sharktooth Spires – Source: Instagram @wildersruth

Photo Credit Links

  • Albert Falls – Source: CorkySandpiper – Flickr
  • The Loch – Source: Keith Burton – Flickr
  • Timberline Falls Climb- Source: David Wilson Flickr
  • Sharktooth Spires – Source: Instagram @wildersruth

About the Author:

Laura is a Colorado adventurer and enjoyed being active outdoors. You can typically find her hiking or cycling up a mountain. She runs the blog All The Colorado Things which focuses on adventure and travel in Colorado. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram.

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Owner of Travels and Wandering | Lecturer by Day, Nomad at Heart Adventure Travel Tester | Outdoor Instructor | Mountaineering and Outdoors Researcher | Strength and Conditioning Coach | Yoga Instructor | Personal Trainer | Fitness Pro | Endo Warrior, Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, Spoonie

11 Responses

  1. Puloma Bhattacharya

    The Sky Pond at the Rocky Mountain National Park is a heavenly beautiful place with the shark tooth spires in the frame. And such an arduous climb is worth it for the amazing views. The Alberta falls and the Timberline falls also add to the stunning scenery. And definitely one has to be well equipped for such a steep climb with proper shoes, hiking poles and fitness.

  2. Subhashish Roy

    The hike to Sky Pond looks so enticing with such wonderful views.I am not sure I would be able to complete the hike not being too much of a hiker.Rocky Mountains I find is almost everyone’s dream destination these days. And why not.With so many options The view of the Sky Pond is itself so amazing.

  3. Clarice

    Wow! The view is amazing. My skills are not that advanced yet but I would love to take this trail in the future. Thank you for sharing this detailed post. You inspire me to work harder.

  4. Linda (LD Holland)

    We really do want to visit Colorado for the outdoor beauty. We would not miss a visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The Sky Pond hike looks like an amazing one for views. Although I would certainly need some training to do this hard hike. I love the different milestone points you have highlighted. Great to see it through your eyes.

  5. Maria Veloso

    Though it appears challenging, the journey to Sky Pond is worthwhile. Due to the trek’s length, arduousness, and numerous difficult routes along the way, you should be in good physical condition to complete it. Make sure you are adequately equipped before beginning the hike. It’s still at the top of my list of the greatest climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park, though! The tall Sharkstooth Peak spires are what I find to be Sky Pond’s most impressive feature.

  6. Natascha

    The Sky Pond Hike looks amazing. An outdoor trip to the Rocky Mountains is one of my dreams. I would love to spend a few days, or better one week, and attempt different hikes. I also love camping, so doing an overnight hike would be also high on my list.

  7. Joanna

    As someone who loves hiking, I would like to attempt this hike if I visit Colorado. I can see it is a hard trail, but the views are too rewarding now to go for it. I would definitely like to hike all the way up to the Sky Pond and the Lake of Glass, even if the terrain is rocky and slippery. I would make sure to bring proper good grip shoes for this hike.

  8. Tami Wilcox

    Wow, the Sharptooth Spires are just stunning! I’ve been wanting to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, but I think the Sky Pond trail would be a little out of my league! So happy to see your gorgeous photos, though. Any more simple hikes there you’d recommend?

  9. Umiko

    I would say this hard trail is beautiful at the same time. Even if I become scared to climb Timberline Falls, I would be happy with the views up to this point. The Albert Falls and The Loch are stunning although the views from Sky Pond is spectacular! It’s a good idea about arriving before 6 a.m.

  10. Brigit Pettit

    What a beautiful area! I wonder if the CDT goes through it. For some reason I think it does, because it sounds familiar. I plan on doing the CDT in 2023, I ‘ll have to check this area out!

  11. Kara

    I love this hike! I was able to do it last October and ever since I’ve been wanting to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park and do it again. This trail has so much to offer! Also, your photos are amazing! Well done.

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