If you plan to hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park, you are in the right place! This local guide will give you all the information necessary to hike the gorgeous Sky Pond trail in Colorado.
For a good reason, the climb to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best. There are cascades, mountain lakes, high mountain views, and exciting river and stream crossings you can witness on the way up.
You’ll have to rock scramble up a waterfall to reach Sky Pond, so it’s not for novice hikers. It’s a bit on the long side; however, the view of Sky Pond at the conclusion is well worth the effort. When it comes to high-altitude challenges, this one should be on your bucket list!
This guide will answer your questions about the hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ll ensure you have a good time on one of the most fascinating hikes in Colorado!
About Rocky Mountain National Park
In northeastern Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is by Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. It’s also near Lyons, Winter Park, Granby, and Boulder.
There are three entrances on the park’s east side, while the western entrance is on the other.
Rocky Mountain National Park offers various activities and sights to explore. From 7,800 feet to 14,200 feet, it is one of the nation’s tallest national parks. Sixty mountain summits more than 12,000 feet above sea level produce breathtaking views.
The Colorado Continental Divide marks the north-south divide of the park. Ancient glaciers have sculpted the topography into an astounding array of ecological zones.
There are numerous other things to do in the national park. Tour guides, waterfalls, lakes, skiing, and many more options are available. It’s also possible to see a variety of landscapes depending on your location. Plus, there are tons of incredible hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park!
You can view Montane landscapes, where enormous meadow valleys and slopes support the broadest range of life. Evergreen trees and mountain lakes are in the subalpine zone. The alpine tundra’s combination of high winds and subzero temperatures will have you huddling close to the earth.
And on the way to Sky Pond, we’ll be able to see and experience most of these!
About Sky Pond Trail
Rocky Mountain National Park’s Sky Pond trail is in the Bear Lake Road Corridor at an altitude of 10,900 feet, and the rocky cliffs of the Rocky Mountains border it. There are many jagged peaks in this area.
You’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view at the end of the hike when these jagged mountains meet the crystal-clear waters of Sky Pond. The most excellent part of this walk, though, is that Sky Pond isn’t the only thing to see along the way.
Along the trip, you’ll come across two other magnificent lakes and several waterfalls and rivers. What a fantastic hike this is!
You’ll have to travel 9.4 miles out and back with a total elevation gain of 1,758 feet to experience the trail fully. Dogs are not allowed on the moderate to challenging path, which takes anywhere from four to six hours to complete.
Because it’s a well-known hiking destination, other hikers will likely be along for the trek. Be ready for rough, wet, and snowy terrain when hiking, as well as some serious crowds!
Sky Pond Trailhead and Parking
Hikers must first enter Rocky Mountain National Park to get to Sky Pond. You’ll either pay the $25 daily admission cost or show your annual pass.
It costs $70 to get a year-long Rocky Mountain National Park access. All parks and monuments can be accessed using the America the Beautiful Pass, which costs $80 (as of this writing; we’ll update if there are changes).
If you desire to get an early start, you may be able to skip paying the admission fee to Rocky Mountain National Park because the gates are often only staffed beginning at 6 am.
Once you have entered the park, the trek to Sky Pond can begin from either the Bear Lake parking lot or the Glacier Gorge trailhead.
The extra distance from starting at Bear Lake is around a quarter mile. But if the Glacier Gorge parking space is full, you’ll want to head over to Bear Lake, where there are more spaces.
When to Hike Sky Pond Trail
Rocky Mountain National Park in offers ventures for amusement throughout the year, and Colorado’s famous Sky Pond Trail is no exception.
The months of June to September are perfect for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and hiking the Sky Pond since they offer the most incredible variety of treks and scenic drives.
It is the busiest time of year, but if you can wake up early enough to avoid the masses, you will have accessibility to mostly snow-free trails and be able to take the Trail Ridge Road, the most popular route in the park. We also recommend going on a weekday.
You won’t have to deal with abundant snow in late June and early July. You’ll also have plenty of time to see and do everything you desire throughout this period.
To avoid crowds and enjoy the best weather, consider visiting in May and October when the weather is more likely pleasant, but keep in mind that conditions might change at any time.
Snowshoeing to Sky Pond would be a spectacular experience in the winter if you’re up for the challenge. Consider avalanche safety before venturing into the mountains in the winter months; avalanches are dangerous when trekking in snowy conditions.
What To Bring to the Sky Pond Trail
There are several essentials you must bring to have an easier time taking Sky Pond Trail. And these are things we don’t miss whenever we hike.
Hiking footwear: Use hiking shoes or boots for this trek. Although it’s summer, you should expect to hike through the snow at some point. Also, the waterfall ascent can be treacherous; therefore, hiking shoes with extra traction are a need.
Hiking Poles: Using hiking poles isn’t required, but it’s always a good idea. The final part of the hike takes place primarily in rocky terrain. Poles will come in handy when you encounter more strenuous climbs. It will ease the tension on your joints and assist you in maintaining your balance as you travel up or down the mountain.
Layers: If you’re planning a hike in the mountains, especially at higher elevations, be prepared for sudden temperature changes. At Sky Pond, the weather suddenly changed, so having a wide range of clothing is a godsend!
Headlamps: You’ll need headlamps to light your path if you plan to get an early start. These headlamps will serve you admirably during your time with them.
Sunglasses, Hut, Sunscreen: The trail is a shade for most of the path. However, the last mile to Sky Pond is open, so you’ll be in the sunlight for at least an hour of the trek. Be sure to bring sun protection with you.
Camera: Even a mobile phone will suffice. An excursion to Sky Pond offers breathtaking views at every turn. Make sure you bring a high-quality camera with you to capture these instances.
Food and Water: You must not miss these. Since the trip is nearly nine miles long, it only makes sense to pack enough food and drink. Particularly during the warmer months, bring additional water.
Hiking the Sky Pond
Now that we learn about the essentials, it is time for the exciting part. Here are the things you will tackle when you finally take the trail!
To get to Alberta Falls and Sky Pond, follow the path signage.
It isn’t long before you witness the first of many breathtaking views. You can reach this point after a steep incline of about .6 miles from the junction of the Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake trails.
A forest and mountains backdrop enhance the natural splendor of this waterfall. It is still a sight even when the water isn’t rushing at full speed. It is the park’s most famous waterfall and one of its most beautiful.
However, beginning your journey before the sun rises may be too dark for you to see. Fortunately, you’ll still be able to witness it on your return journey, but it’ll be considerably more crowded.
You can look at the waterfall from the vantage point or atop the massive boulders along the riverbank.
Loch Vale is approximately two miles from Alberta Falls. The abundance of breathtaking vistas along the way makes getting here feel like a breeze.
You’ll apply most of your time in the shadows of the woods, but there should be few spots where you’ll be able to see the sky. As a result, you’ll sense the park’s enormity as you look out over the mountains in this section.
The hike takes place nearly two miles along a steep, canyon-fringed cliffside. You’ll eventually emerge into a little meadow where the river flows free. The peaks on the horizon will loom over you as you descend back into the forest on a clear day.
Once you’ve crossed the third-mile mark, you’ll come across Loch Vale, better known as The Loch. Take your time because the vistas from this vantage point are some of the best on the trek. Photographers love the Loch because of the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and snow-capped summits.
While walking down the Loch, you’ll notice an increase in difficulty. The trail gets complicated at this point, so take advantage of the numerous views.
The ascent has been steady to this point, but it now takes a big turn for the worst. It is a relatively modest distance, at least in terms of length.
Nearly half a mile brings you up 400 feet of slope. You’ll need to do some bouldering to go up some steeper sections. It becomes considerably more difficult if it’s already melted and the water is running.
Since there’s only one route up and one way down from here, there’s generally a bit of a jam. But Timberline Falls, a short side trip away, is well worth it. Look back and see how distant you’ve come on the trail before you continue.
Please pay close attention to your footing when it’s your turn to ascend. You’ll be at least 4 miles from the start if you’re seriously injured in an accident here.
The scramble is simple, but the steepness and wetness of the terrain may make you anxious. There is some movement, but it’s not as fast as in the other streams.
Despite this, the hike is all the better for it. If no one else is coming down, you can take your time ascending the waterfalls.
Lake of Glass
You’ll arrive at Lake of Glass after ascending to Timberline Falls.
Some visitors mistakenly believe that it is the Sky Pond and proceed to depart. Keep going to the Sky Pond, which is just as beautiful as the rest.
Gorgeous vistas of The Sharkstooth, Taylor Peak and Powell Peak are all visible from this alpine lake. Glass Lake is another name for this body of water.
There is a lot of rough rocky terrain along the west portion of the lake from here on out. A closer look is required to keep on the right track.
Take it slow, and you shouldn’t have any issues staying on track. The moraine formed Sky Pond is visible straight ahead if you keep your eyes peeled in that direction.
You’ll ultimately reach the penultimate destination after a couple of extra walks!
You won’t find a better vista on a beautiful day in Colorado. Sky Pond’s blue waters are closed by rugged mountains that resemble sharks’ teeth.
Although Sky Pond is a popular destination, the climb’s difficulty generally means there won’t be many visitors. If there are many people, you can still locate a quiet location to eat lunch and take some shots around Sky Pond.
Located at an altitude of roughly 10,900 feet, Sky Pond features a circular basin encircled by cliffs on three sides.
The hike is just very rewarding, thanks to the 360-degree beautiful vistas! Be sure to spend more time there before heading back.
Heading Back From Sky Pond
The Sky Pond trail is an out-and-back, so you must return the way you came. You can add different hikes if you’re feeling adventurous.
Detours like Lake Haiyaha, which gradually links to the Emerald Lake Trail, are an excellent example. Also, a glacier diversion is available.
But if your legs certainly feel fatigued and you desire to chase the thrill of the breathtaking views will likely lead you back to civilization.
Fortunately, the return trip is entirely downhill from here on out. After hiking several hours to get to Sky Pond, your return will last only a few hours. The entire Sky Pond hike time definitely takes a day, though!
Pro Tips in Hiking Sky Pond
Consider following these tips for you to have the best time hiking Sky Pond.
Start Early: As always, start early. It is excellent not just to avoid the crowd, but thunderstorms are frequent in the afternoon during hotter months. You want to be back before these occur for your safety.
Prepare To Turn Around: On your way up the Sky Pond, sudden condition weather changes are typical. If you feel like a downpour will occur, end our hike immediately.
Be Wary of the Altitude: The length and altitude of this hike make it a tough one. Generally, if you’ve never been to Colorado before, you should spend a few days getting used to the higher altitude. You can try some warm-up hikes around, such as Emerald Lake, Deer Mountain, and Gem Lake.
Wildlife Awareness: Bears and mountain lions are among the many species that call Rocky Mountain National Park home. Read up on what to do if you run into one. Optionally, you can bring bear spray for protection.
Where To Stay When You Hike Sky Pond
Unfortunately, there are no lodging options inside the park where the Sky Pond resides. Our best bet is to stay in the nearby accommodations to access the Sky Pond easily and have the best time. Here are the best places to stay when you hike the Sky Pond!
The Estes Park Resort is the solitary hotel on picture-perfect Lake Estes, set on 5 acres of land in Estes Park. You’ll be able to visit all of Estes Park’s restaurants, wineries, and cultural sites within a short distance of this resort.
You can also take a kayak, a paddle, or a floating boat to explore Lake Estes during the summer. A 3.75-mile loop trail is available around the lake, which provides stunning views and the opportunity to see local wildlife, including elk and bighorn sheep.
The indoor pool, arcade, and outdoor fire pits are all available for guests when they’re not exploring Ester Park.
A 49-inch HDTV, pillow-top mattresses, and large workstations are standard in the hotel’s 54 modern guest rooms.
Kitchenettes with sinks, tiny refrigerators, microwave ovens, and coffeemakers are convenient extras. Private balconies or terraces are available in every accommodation, and many offer breathtaking views of Lake Estes.
It is also the site of one of Estes Park’s most renowned restaurants. The Dunraven is known for its excellent Italian cuisine. Take advantage of the lake and stunning views from the deck when the weather permits.
All of this is within a distance of the Sky Pond trailhead. It’s an excellent place to rest before embarking on your trek!
If you’re eyeing one of the most incredible boutique hotels around Rocky Mountain National Park, then The Landing is the place to stay. The primary lodge is an excellent alternative for couples or lone visitors who want to relax, enjoy a spa, and immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.
It’s well worth the extra money if you’re traveling with children or need extra room. On the riverside patio, you can have a cup of coffee in the morning, relax in front of the stone-clad fire, and cook a family dinner in the kitchenette.
Landing’s usage of environmentally and socially responsible goods and products is only one of the many reasons why they stand out.
Furnishings crafted from recycled plastics, milk, and water bottles are visible around the house, as well as braided Capel carpets and American-style woven Capel rugs in the bedrooms.
If you feel like you’re in the middle of nothing, you’re only a mile from Rocky Mountain National Park’s entrance and three miles from Estes Park’s restaurants and shops.
It is a beautiful choice for those looking for the best lodging, activities, and proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Beautifully landscaped grounds with 300-year-old trees surround The Woodlands on Fall River, which sits right on the river’s edge.
The Fall River entry to RMNP is only two miles from this quiet motel, so you can spend your days relaxing. Plus, you’ll see Fall River or Castle Mountain in all their glory every morning!
Luxurious Woodlands on Fall River is a boutique hotel near Rocky Mountain National Park if you consider a home away from home.
One- and two-bedroom condominiums have comfortable sleeping quarters, living spaces with fireplaces, and fully equipped kitchens with stoves, dishwashers, and microwaves.
You can enjoy the water views while lounging on your private deck. Gas grills are available on each deck so that you can cook up a big feast for the whole crew. You can go fishing outside your front door and cook a fresh fish meal with 350 feet of riverfront access!
The property’s amenities include a hot tub overlooking the mountains, access to numerous hiking routes, and riverside picnic places.
The mountains you’ll take later on are visible from this motel!
The Maxwell Inn will treat you like a member of the family the instant you walk through the door. This family-run inn is in a 1930s single-family residence that later became a dental office in the 1960s. Dana and Peter, the kind innkeepers, will go out of their way to make your stay as pleasant as possible.
The guest rooms include a mix of rustic and modern design elements. The Serta mattresses, handcrafted wood trim, and furnishings, as well as the convenient microwaves, mini-fridges, and coffeemakers, will make your stay a pleasant one.
Finished in 2020, the “On the River” rooms feature gas furnaces, kitchenettes, and riverside sitting areas that are all private.
The hotel staff provides a complimentary continental breakfast in the mornings, which is a great way to start the day. The hot tub, fire pit, barbeque, and picnic area are all great places to unwind in the evenings after a long day.
A weekly outdoor night with other visitors and the Maxwell family is available in the warmer months.
The paved riverbank path into town takes less than 15 minutes, and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is just a few notes away by car.
It’s a good starting point for a vacation that’s either just beginning or has just ended.
StoneBrook is one of the top hotels surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park if you want to rest and unwind.
This charming inn is tucked away in the woods on Fall Riverbank. Also, this resort is strictly for adults over 21, so you can relax in peace.
There are stone fireplaces, fully equipped kitchens, and private balconies in every unit.
To enjoy the flowing river, guests can relax in a hot tub on their private patios in the Riverside Cottages and the Riversuites’ living rooms, which also feature gas grills and spa tubs.
Two miles away, a Safeway store has everything you need to make meals at home or pack a lunch for a hike.
Fishing, hiking, or simply relaxing on the river’s side are all feasible activities, thanks to its unique location. You might even see elk and bears in their natural habitat if you’re lucky!
Estes Park and the Fall River entry to Rocky Mountain National Park are just a short drive from StoneBrook.
Camping Options When You Hike Sky Pond
If hotels are not on your mind when you hike the Sky Pond trail, you can go camping. There are several options you can do this activity, and the great thing is that the campsites are nearby your destination. Here are the camping options to consider when you hike Sky Pond!
The Timber Creek Campground, just 10 miles from the Grand Lake entry, contains 98 sites. In operation from late May to early November, it’s the only camping on the park’s west side that is open.
Located at 8,900 feet along the Colorado River, this picturesque campground is dubbed the “Rocky Mountain high” because of its stunning scenery.
It features flush toilets and ranger-led activities and can accommodate RVs over 30 feet in length. Due to the pine beetle infestation in the area, the park service had to remove several trees from this campground.
Secure your reservation early since it is the only campsite on the park’s west side. Summer reservations begin in late March.
This campground is a minute’s walk to the Sky Pond trailhead!
Longs Peak, the park’s highest peak, can be seen from Moraine Park Campground, where you can spend the night.
Reservations are compulsory throughout the warmer months. Up to six months in advance, you can book online or by calling the hotline. There are no reservations allowed in the winter, so walk-ins are welcome.
Located two-and-a-half miles south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, this gorgeous campground has 244 summer and 77 winter sites, but you never feel like a sardine in a can.
Depending on water availability, you’ll see both flush and vault toilets. Generators are allowable from 7:30 am until 10 am and from 4 pm until 8:30 pm, except in Loop D, where they are prohibited.
A free shuttle service connects the park to Bear Lake and Estes Park, which is ideal for RVers who like to leave their cars at home while enjoying the nearby attractions.
The Moraine Park Discovery Center and trail links in the surrounding area are also within easy walking distance. Using the shower bag stall on the campsite or your solar showering bag, you can rinse off after a long day of adventuring.
Are you looking for a basecamp that allows only tents?
The only first-come, first-served campground in the park, Longs Peak Campground has 26 sites hidden in a forested area at 9,500 feet and costs $26 per night. Pack extra garments for the nights and early mornings due to the high altitude of the campground.
You can access the park’s tallest mountain from here and the Sky Pond trailhead.
It is on the park’s eastern perimeter, just south of the main entrance. From Estes Park, travel south on Highway 7 for nine miles.
Aspenglen Campground is open from late May to late September in a pine forest west of Fall River Entrance Station. At the height of 8,200 feet, you’ll see the canopy stars above you more clearly at night.
Aside from the 53 campsites, this campsite allows generators on the C Loop. These are allowable from 7:30 to 10:00 in the morning or 4 pm to 8:30 pm.
Take advantage of the point that cell phones don’t work on the Sky Pond trail to unplug from your surroundings and engage yourself in the natural environment.
During the summer, evening activities led by rangers are frequently accessible at the nearby Fall River Visitor Center.
The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is also nearby, setting it distinct from the other destinations it connects.
Fern Lake offers an excellent opportunity for a short-distance backpacking trip for families with fit kids. From the Fern Lake trailhead, it’s 3.8 miles to this point. You’ll see The Pool, Fern Falls, and Marguerite Falls on your journey.
A pit toilet at each campsite at Fern Lake is a welcome convenience for families traveling with young children. To avoid the dangers of standing dead trees, park officials have requested that you set up camp in the designated area.
Visit neighboring Spruce or Odessa lakes, or go fishing in Fern Lake the following day before resting at your campground and resting for night number two under the stars.
Camping overnight in the wilderness requires a permit. You can’t request a license at Rocky Mountain National Park by phone, fax, or walk-in.
The Fern Lake trailhead is close to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the east side, where the backcountry office is next door. The backcountry station is available seven days per week, but the hours vary based on the season and the type of activity.
You can also drive 4 minutes to the Sky Pond trailhead, which is an excellent choice if you want to go on an extra adventure before or after your trip.
As you can see, hiking Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park is very rewarding. Yet, it takes excellent planning to have an experience that will last for a long time.
With the length, the steep sections, and the altitude, a journey to Sky Pond will take a toll on you. Save this post about the hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park to have a guide when you arrive in the area. Have a fantastic hike!