Rocky Mountain National Park: Sky Pond

This 8.1-mile hike skirts wind-scoured lakes and scrambles up the edge of a waterfall before arriving at Sky Pond, where crumbling spires stretch 2,000 feet into the air.
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This 8.1-mile hike skirts wind-scoured lakes and scrambles up the edge of a waterfall before arriving at Sky Pond, where crumbling spires stretch 2,000 feet into the air.

From Glacier Gorge Trailhead, follow the well-traveled path as it winds through a thick pine and fir forest with shivering aspens. Pass the crowds gathered at Alberta Falls (mile 0.6) and climb around boulders to a rocky point above the canyon formed by Glacier Creek. To the north, craggy peaks guard the mouths of Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale.

Enjoy a downhill stretch to the junction for Mills Lake and Loch Vale. Stay right and switchback up to the Loch, a gorgeous tarn with a backdrop of jagged peaks at mile 2.5. Pass the Loch on the northwest side as you continue the gradual climb south up Loch Vale. A half a mile above the Loch's shores, Cathedral Wall rises to your right; pause and search for climbers high on this popular crag.

Timberline Falls rushes below Lake of Glass, and reaching the lake requires a fun scramble up wet (or icy) rocks on its far west side. Top out the climb on the windy aquamarine shores of Lake of Glass, then look for cairns to the right that reveal an easy scramble to a trail on rock through krummholz—stunted, twisted fir and spruce trees—above the lake's western shore.

The Cathedral Spires dominate the skyline at Sky Pond. Find a comfy rock and kick back, have a snack, and break out the binoculars to spy on climbers on the Sharkstooth, Petit Grepon, and Saber (left to right).

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo

-Mapped by Jenn Fields

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 13.0

Waypoints

SKY001

Location: 40.310556, -105.640197

From Glacier Gorge Trailhead, hike southwest toward Glacier Creek.

SKY002

Location: 40.308323, -105.642139

Cross a bridge over Glacier Creek.

SKY003

Location: 40.307717, -105.643265

Bear right at Y-junction, following signs for Loch Vale.

SKY004

Location: 40.303847, -105.63848

The trail travels past the popular Alberta Falls. Stop to get a look at this photogenic waterfall that pours over massive boulders. The crowds fade ahead.

SKY005

Location: 40.298428, -105.64006

The path rounds a corner and travels above Glacier Creek. From here, you can see the tall knob that divides the entrances to Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale.

SKY006

Location: 40.297473, -105.646108

At the Y-junction veer right and follow signs for Loch Vale.

SKY007

Location: 40.294028, -105.654477

Turn right at Y-junction.

SKY008

Location: 40.293856, -105.655282

The Loch: Many hikers stop at the windswept shores of the Loch. Take in the ragged peaks that form the backdrop, then continue along the trail.

SKY009

Location: 40.288054, -105.66438

Cross Andrews Creek, then continue left at the Y-junction. The trail to Andrews Glacier enters on the right.

SKY010

Location: 40.28307, -105.665216

Climb up talus and rock ledges; water runs down the rocks along this stretch. Note: This can get icy in early fall, so exercise caution.

SKY011

Location: 40.282505, -105.665281

Glass Lake is picturesque, but windy; plan your snack break elsewhere.

SKY012

Location: 40.278658, -105.667813

Sky Pond: Kick back in a wind-protected spot and enjoy the view of the Cathedral Spires to the west. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Sky Pond

Location: 40.278666, -105.667716

Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Location: 40.310556, -105.640175

Trail Sign 1

Location: 40.308323, -105.642042

Trail Sign 2

Location: 40.307717, -105.643158

Aspen Grove

Location: 40.30667, -105.641259

Alberta Falls

Location: 40.303847, -105.638266

Switchbacks above Alberta Falls

Location: 40.300746, -105.641173

Trail Sign 3

Location: 40.299494, -105.639574

Above Glacier Creek

Location: 40.298422, -105.639939

Junction: Loch Vale-Mills Lake

Location: 40.297473, -105.64599

Loch Vale

Location: 40.293872, -105.655153

Steller's Jay

Location: 40.293782, -105.656022

Marsh Bridges

Location: 40.289772, -105.662845

Cathedral Wall

Location: 40.286041, -105.666193

Timberline Falls

Location: 40.284936, -105.666193

Rocky Path

Location: 40.284158, -105.665742

Talus and slick rock through waterfall.

Waterfall Scramble

Location: 40.283062, -105.665098

Glass Lake

Location: 40.282497, -105.665163

Cathedral Spires

Location: 40.278625, -105.667587