I was invited by Anne on
this hike, and was thrilled with the invite!
I’d initially wanted to hike a 14er today, but the rough weather all
week meant lots of snow everywhere over 14000 feet in Colorado, so this was the
perfect opportunity to get out and hike on a day a 14er wasn’t the best
Once again, I wasn’t
sure if I’d be able to go on this hike until the day before. I felt really bad about my lack of commitment
early on, but I’d hate to RSVP and then later retract it. When I realized I’d actually be able to go I
was stoked! We started out with about 6
or 7 people invited, but there ended up being 3 of us hiking in the end.
I was worried about the
weather. Really worried actually. It had snowed in the region all week. All current weather reports indicated snow
was inevitable, along with cold temperatures and wind. However, the cold weather wasn’t supposed to
set in until the afternoon.
I mentally didn’t want
to hike in the cold, but I also really wanted to make a few hiking friends, and
saw this as the perfect opportunity. I
decided to bundle up and take the plunge.
We met at 3:30am at the
Woodmen Park n Ride. I drove. Actually, I insisted I drive. I really like to drive, and this way if I
ended up bailing due to weather I’d be able to sit in my truck and not feel bad
about using up gas for heat. I was
wearing 4 layers of clothing, but was worried because I didn’t bring a
It only took us about 2
hours to get there. I was surprised the
drive went by so fast, even after stopping half way for coffee. We didn’t see any wildlife on the road, besides
the tail end of a fox.
The hike to Sky Pond
begins from Glacier Gorge Trailhead in RMNP.
The parking lot was almost full when we arrived at 6am. Even though this was a National Park, there
was no way to pay at the entrance gate?
Usually there are self pay envelopes you leave when you arrive
before/after hours, but we weren’t able to find any, despite searching. Oh well, we’d pay on the way out.
We began the trail at
6:15am. It was 45 degrees outside with a strong wind (25mph?). I was glad it was beginning to get light
outside because I didn’t have a map. In
fact, I hadn’t done any research on this trail, which is absolutely nothing
like me. Usually I’m uber prepared. The only research I’d done was on the weather. Luckily Anne knew where we were going and had
a map. Both David and I let her
lead. It was a good thing too: there were several trails that intersected at
various points with our trail. It was
easy to go the wrong way if you didn’t pay attention to the signs.
At this point the sun
was beginning to rise and we started seeing a bit of Alpine Glow.
At just under a mile we
passed Alberta Falls, one of the more popular hiking destinations in Rocky
Mountain National Park. This scenic 30-foot waterfall thunders down a small
gorge on Glacier Creek, and is named after Alberta Sprague, the wife of Abner
Sprague, one of the original settlers in the Estes Park area. It was very difficult to take pictures of the
falls, so we didn’t. The next section of trail, between Alberta Falls and Mills
Junction, was rehabilitated by the National Park Service and the Rocky Mountain
Conservancy. The entire trail to this point was easy to hike,
and very well maintained.
This hike was full of
beautiful, small lakes. The first lake
we encountered was Loch Vale, better known as The Loch. It was very cold and
very windy at this lake. This beautiful
subalpine lake is situated at 10,190 feet.
We reached the base of Timberline
Falls, high above the trail. From this vantage point the trail begins to climb
a series of rock steps. In other words, you climb the waterfall. It was still very cold and there was a lot of
ice on the trail, so this is where we stopped to put on our microspikes.
From here the trail
continues up a chute to the right of the falls. This is a fairly challenging
scramble that climbs roughly 100 feet, and requires hand holds and the use of
all four limbs while ascending. The first 30 feet or so are the most difficult,
but beyond that it’s a relatively easy scramble. Just to complicate things a
little more, portions of the climb has water flowing down the route (the
waterfall). It’s nothing exceedingly dangerous, but we did have to take our
time and be extremely cautious. This is the point where many people turn around
on the hike.
At the top of the climb
we reached the Lake of Glass, an incredibly beautiful alpine lake with
outstanding views of The Sharkstooth, Taylor Peak and Powell Peak. This lake is
also sometimes referred to as Glass Lake. And it was WINDY! I was almost blown over a couple of times,
but once we started walking it wasn’t so bad.
From here the trail
becomes fairly rocky and rugged as it travels along the west side of the lake.
We finally reached Sky
Pond, which sits at an elevation of 10,900 feet. The views here are simply
spectacular. The alpine lake fills a cirque basin, and is surrounded on three
sides by sheer cliff walls.
Off to the right are the
granite spires of The Sharkstooth. Against the backdrop of a cobalt blue sky,
the scene makes for an extremely dramatic view.
The mountain directly
across the lake is 13,153-foot Taylor Peak, and towards the south is
13,208-foot Powell Peak. I’ll come back
for those two someday.
Even though this hike didn’t include a summit, we’d
had a great hike. But when we saw the
large formations staring at us from across the pond we knew we wanted
more. So we made our own path across the
pond and towards the large formations.
We looked up at the gulley, decided it was doable, and started to
It was a bit challenging due to the ice and snow, but
we made it to the top! I loved how
everyone just went for it, knowing we’d all be able to make it (or just willing
to turn back if it seemed too difficult… we had to at least try!).
The views from here were amazing as well!
The best part?
This is when the sun came out! I
was pretty much freezing at this point due to the wind, but the sun was
We met a couple of hikers here who had the same idea
we did, but went a slightly different route.
Our route ended up being easier, so they followed us on the way back
down. They were fun to chat with, and
seemed like a couple of fun guys! They
even took Anne’s camera for a couple of selfies!
As we hiked back we looked back on the trail we’d
hiked to get there.
On the way up we hadn’t seen many people, but on the
way down we encountered a steady stream of hikers. This became a bit dangerous on Timberline
Falls, but we were thrilled most of the ice from the morning had dissipated and
it was now just wet in most areas and icy in just a few.
We gave the other climbers some pointers and headed
on. It was really nice to be with other
competent hikers who were sure of themselves while hiking.
We made it back to the Loch and met a couple that took
a fun picture of David, Anne, and I
The colors on the trees had already started to fade,
but there was a little left to enjoy.
When we made it back to the trailhead we looked at the
map of our hike. We’d visited a bunch of
We all seemed to get along pretty well, talking and
hiking at about the same pace. After the
hike we all decided to head down to Estes Park for a beer. It was about 2pm, and there was quite a bit
of traffic. We learned we were in the
middle of an Elk Festival, and the town was overflowing with tourists. Funny thing, we didn’t see any elk, but many
people had that morning (we did see them lounging in the RMNP Elk Viewing area
We stopped at Rock Cut Brewing Company for some
excellent beer and some fried food out of a food truck that was pretty tasty
(fries, burgers, cauliflower covered in parmesan garlic and tater tots). There were lots of wasps, and some pretty
good conversations with a bunch of people we met who were staying at the
Stanley Hotel. They’d been friends for decades
and were vacationing together for fun.
The drive home took twice as long as the drive there
due to traffic. There were several
accidents and even a death investigation on the I25, so we didn’t get back
until after 6pm. It was totally worth it
though! I’m pretty sure I made some new
hiking friends, and I had a great time!
Roundtrip Length was about 10 miles, with elevation gain
of about 2000 feet.
Side note: "National
Public Lands Day is being celebrated this Saturday, Sept. 30, across the US
which means you can get in free to all national parks across the country for
FREE. And yes, that includes Colorado’s four national parks as well.“
– we were lucky to get a parking space at all!