With a little bit of effort, you can access one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of Rocky Mountain National Park, an area not accessible by car. The only way to get there is via an 8.4 mile round trip hike to a high alpine lake known as Sky Pond, which has some of the most dramatic and stunning scenery anywhere in Colorado.
The hike starts from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, which is in a very busy part of the park, but don’t let this crowded area discourage you. Trailhead parking is difficult to come by so get there early or take the free park shuttle. As with most trails, a large number of people will be congregated within the first mile or so from the parking lot, with most people only trekking to Alberta Falls, just under a mile into the hike.
The trail winds through coniferous forest and follows streams for a good part of the way leading up to Timberline Falls, Lake of Glass and eventually Sky Pond. Depending on the time of year, you may encounter snow on the trail (like I did, hiking in mid-June). The snow, combined with steep slopes, was difficult to walk up without falling but was significantly more difficult on the way down, as I fell twice. Micro spikes would have helped but I probably wouldn’t have worn them anyway, (some did though) since the sections of snow on the trail were short.
I found that this hike had two primary challenges, the first being the altitude. The pond sits at 10,831 feet so you will definitely notice less oxygen up that high. The other challenging part of this hike was a rock scramble up (and down) Timberline Falls. The added difficulty to this was, being a waterfall, the rocks were wet and therefore quite slick. A healthy fear of heights and the exposure was definitely a challenge but I made it to the top by being careful and methodical. I just told myself “don’t be a” (insert crass word), and I did fine. After successfully negotiating the falls, it was only another 15 minutes from there to the end of the trail.
Now for the payoff, Sky Pond. This hike was one of the best hikes I’ve done in Colorado because it basically had it all. The hike starts in the forest, gets up timberline, follows creeks and lake shores, all while being surrounded by high alpine scenery to rival anywhere. To me, I would rate this as a moderate hike when considering the distance traveled, the elevation gain, and that darn waterfall rock scramble. I’ll definitely do this hike again.