Sky Pond is a stunning alpine lake located in Rocky Mountain National Park. The views along the way, and at the lake are incredible. This is a frequently trafficked and strenuous hike. Below, you will find all of the information you need to head out on the trails.
Difficulty – Strenuous
Distance – 9.0 miles miles round trip (14.48 km)
Height – 10,900 feet (3,322.3 meters)
Elevation gain – 1,780 feet (542.5 m)
Duration – 6 to 8 hours (book time)
Seasons – Year-round
Trailhead Location – Glacier Gorge Trailhead or Bear Lake Trailhead
Need to know: Dogs are not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park.
There are two common starting locations for this hike, both are below:
Glacier Gorge Trailhead | 9.0 Miles| 1,765 Feet Elevation Gain
This is the most common path to head towards sky pond. If the parking lot is full, just continue on to Bear Lake Trailhead, park there, and continue the journey.
Beginning at Glacier Gorge, hikers will travel .25 miles to the first junction of the Glacier Creek Trail, and the trail leading to Bear Lake. Hikers bear left, following the signs to Alberta Falls and Sky Pond.
.8 miles into the hike, hikers will reach Alberta Falls, a beautiful 30 foot waterfall that is extremely popular in summer months. The trails will have less people (but still quite a few) beyond this point.
1.6 miles into the hike, hikers will reach the North Longs Peak Trail Junction where hikers will need to bear right towards Sky Pond.
2 miles in, hikers will reach Mills Junction. To the left is Mills Lake and Black Lake, to the far right, hikers will head towards the Sky Pond (marked on trail sign) via the Loch Vale Trail.
The trail gets a bit more difficult here, but the views are fantastic. Hikers will ascend through a gorge created by Icy Brook. 2.8 miles in, hikers will reach the absolutely stunning Loch Vale, A.KA. The Loch, (pictures below). The views from the lake feature the surrounding Taylor Peak, Thatchtop Mountain, and The Sharkstooth.
3.4 miles in, hikers reach the junction of Sky Pond and Andrew’s Glacier. Hikers should bear left here.
The trail ascends pretty steeply beyond this point. Right around 4 miles in, hikers will be just below Glass Lake, where there is a steep last push to the lake. This last push is just to the right of Timberline Falls, a 100 foot waterfall that is stunning. Hiking here is more hand over hand climbing than hiking. It requires comfort using all of your limbs for around a 20-50 foot section before it gets easier. During wet or icy times, this part of the trail can be dangerous. Caution is recommended.
4.1 miles in, hikers will reach Glass Lake. Hikers continue along the west side of the lake for .4 miles and ascending slightly to Sky Pond 4.5 miles in.
Bear Lake Trailhead | 9.2 Miles | 1,780 Feet Elevation Gain
This is basically the same exact route as starting at Glacier Gorge. The only difference is the first .4 miles. Here this trail descends to cross paths with where hikers will have started from Glacier Gorge. This portion of the trail is heavily trafficked year round. This route will add just a tiny bit of elevation gain, and .2 miles to your overall round trip.
Hiking Sky Pond in Winter
This is a fantastic winter hiking option. The crowds dwindle quite a bit in winter (though this is still highly trafficked), and the experience is entirely different during winter months. Traction is highly recommended (microspikes or snowshoes). Most of the trail is fully manageable without traction, but the last stretch to Sky Pond can be quite steep and icy, making microspikes very useful. Given the heavy traffic this trail gets, snowshoes aren’t always needed, but almost always recommended to bring along. There are frequently sections where snowshoes will make the hiking much easier and safer. Both trailheads are open and can be driven to in winter months due to Bear Lake Road being nicely maintained. Check park road closures during snowy times to be sure.
Fishing Sky Pond
Sky Pond has some fantastic fishing. This is catch and release barbless hook only waters. You’ll find some beautiful native fish in here.
Directions & Parking
These are two large parking lots (bear lake trailhead the biggest), but these are extremely popular areas. Parking fills up extremely quickly on nice days. In many cases, hikers will need to use the National Park shuttle system to get to these trailheads during the busy months. Information on this can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/shuttle_bus_route.htm
To Glacier Gorge Trailhead
To Bear Lake Trailhead
Continue along bear lake road for .9 additional miles and you will reach the trailhead. This is the end of Bear Lake Road.
Current Weather Conditions
Here is a detailed weather forecast:
Grand Lake, CO
A chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow before 8am, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers. Partly sunny. High near 14, with temperatures falling to around 12 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -11. West southwest wind 18 to 29 mph, with gusts as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
Patchy blowing snow between 8pm and 5am, then areas of blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Partly cloudy. Low around 9, with temperatures rising to around 11 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -15. West southwest wind 30 to 33 mph, with gusts as high as 53 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow before 5pm, then snow and areas of blowing snow. Mostly cloudy. High near 17, with temperatures falling to around 13 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as -12. West southwest wind 25 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
Snow and areas of blowing snow. Cloudy, with a low around -2. Wind chill values as low as -13. West southwest wind 17 to 26 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.
Snow and areas of blowing snow before 5pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Cloudy, with a high near 4. West wind 15 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.
Areas of blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -8. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Areas of blowing snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 12.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about