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
Blowing snow and a chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy. Low around 3, with temperatures rising to around 6 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -21. West northwest wind around 30 mph, with gusts as high as 41 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of around one inch possible.
Areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow showers before 2pm, then a chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow between 2pm and 5pm, then a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 17. Wind chill values as low as -17. West northwest wind 22 to 28 mph, with gusts as high as 43 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
A chance of snow and patchy blowing snow before 5am. Mostly cloudy. Low around 10, with temperatures rising to around 12 overnight. Wind chill values as low as -8. West wind 17 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
Patchy blowing snow before 5pm, then a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 22. Wind chill values as low as -7. West wind 16 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
A chance of snow and patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 11. West wind 16 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
A chance of snow and patchy blowing snow before 11am, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 20. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 9.