One of the best parts of living in Colorado is all of the beautiful hikes that are only a short distance away. Sure I have my favorites that I love to do every summer, but every once in awhile, I am introduced to a new one, which simply takes my breath away and forces it's way into my Top 5. That is is exactly what happened last weekend. One of my best friends since 6th grade asked if I wanted to do Sky Pond with her, and after Googling the hike, I was immediately sold.
Sky Pond Lake is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. The drive from Denver took about an hour and a half and I would recommend leaving early, as parking can be tricky! Entry into the park is $20. We arrived around 10 am (after a much necessary coffee and bagel stop), and there were no spots left! After circling the lot for a bit, we found the tiniest parallel parking spot that I somehow shimmied my way into. We asked a Park Ranger what time you need to arrive to ensure you get a spot and he said 7 am, so hope you're a morning person!
A 5 minute bus from the lot drops you at the Glacier Gorge trail head and then you are on your merry way! There are certain criteria that make any hike a great one in my opinion, and this one checks all of the boxes! Waterfalls, rivers, beautiful views, wildflowers, glaciers, lakes, and wildlife!
As you start the trail, a beautiful stream runs to the side of the trail and right around the one mile mark, you reach Alberta Falls, the first of many waterfalls to come. It seemed like this was a popular destination for families to hikea nd enjoy the 30 foot waterfall for the day, since it is an easy mile up !
After a quick picture, we kept on. For a 9 mile hike, this trail is really not too difficult. There are some uphill parts, but they level out eventually, so it's not like you're climbing the entire time. I would classify this hike as 'moderate'. After about 3 miles, you reach Loch Lake, which is so beautiful and it's not even the final destination! This beautiful subalpine lake, situated at 10,190 feet, provides incredible scenery as you hike along the perimeter towards Sky Pond.
I am not going to lie, after this lake is where things start to get interesting! The hike becomes a bit more challenging as you start to gain more elevation. Around the 4 mile point, you reach an amazing 100 foot waterfall, Timberline Falls, which is a great opportunity for a photo-op (and to secretly catch your breath). Looking out are amazing valley views and you can hop from rock to rock to go under this powerful waterfall.
Now the question hits... where do we go from here? Like I said, this is when it gets interesting! To get to the second lake, you have to climb up a chute on the side of the waterfall. Warning, you literally climb 200 feet, in just 0.15 mile, and yes, the guy in front of me did fall into the waterfall, so focus is required here! You will be using all 4 limbs to manuever your way up, but you can do it! It's honestly not too bad if you strategically climb up and stay focused. This guy was just a show off!
After basically becoming a Mountaineer, you reach Glass Lake, just 0.1 miles from the top of the waterfall. Honestly, I was shocked that this lake wasn't even the final destination, because it was so gorgeous! This is what I picture when I think of a great Colorado hike. Glass Lake is a gorgeous alpine lake full of outstanding views and wild flowers. We explored around the lake and then enjoyed our lunch before continuing onto Sky Pond Lake, which is just .4 miles down the west side of Glass Lake.
Behold Sky Pond Lake! This lake sits at an impressive 10,900 ft elevation and is surrounded by three sides of pure cliff walls, which are unlike anything I have ever seen! Sky Pond is famous for the unique rock formations, which are granite spires called "The Sharktooth". To put it simply, this lake is dramatic and so worth the hike up!
Our time at Sky Pond was cut a bit short as weather moved in, and we did not want to be climbing back down that waterfall in the pouring rain! The descend did not disappoint though! On the path down, we continued to run into packs of elk, with their babies. So cute! They would be 5 feet in front of us and completely unfazed, it was amazing! After finishing up the hike, I knew it was instantly one of my new favorites. But wait... there's more! To top it all off, we saw a grizzly bear right on the side of the road on the drive back. I mean, could it get any better?
If you can, definitely take the time to try Sky Pond Lake trail this summer. You will not be disappointed!