RMNP Day 2: The Loch & Sky Pond

Monday, September 21, 2009

The trail to Sky Pond begins from Glacier Gorge Junction, and is another trail with multiple attractions, including, Alberta Falls, The Loch, and the Lake of Glass, before reaching the spectacular alpine lake at the base of Taylor and Powell Peaks.

Although the forecast called for good weather in the morning, the skies were already looking a little threatening. We even had a few sprinkles before pulling into the Glacier Gorge parking area.

On the way to the trailhead we saw our first black bear in Rocky Mountain National Park as it scurried across the road that morning.

Your first major destination on this hike is Alberta Falls. Because it’s only 0.85 miles from the trailhead, this is an extremely popular destination. If you want to avoid crowds it’s best to start this hike as early as possible.

You’ll pass another waterfall a fairly short distance above Alberta Falls.

At 2.9 miles you’ll reach Loch Vale, better known as The Loch. This is a beautiful sub-alpine lake situated at 10,215 feet. A lot hikers make this their final destination, but there’s still much to see on this trail.
Our next destination was the Lake of Glass. Just below a section of trail that makes the final climb to the Lake of Glass we were taking a break when we heard what sounded like a whistle in the distance. Not hearing anything else we proceeded on. As we got to within the half-way point of the climb, we rounded a corner and came face to face with a large male elk. We literally came within 30 feet of each other. I’m not sure who was startled more, but the elk moved off the trail – before I had a chance to snap a picture.

That whistling noise we heard was the elk bugling.

After a fairly steep climb, you’ll reach Timberline Falls, which you can see from The Loch. Your next objective is to get above and beyond the waterfall. This is actually a pretty challenging section for the average day hiker.

The trail ascends along the right side of the main waterfall. This section, roughly 50 feet or so, requires a scramble up a chute, including portions that require hand holds and use of all four limbs. I wouldn’t describe this as being dangerous, but certainly will be a little unnerving for some people. This picture may make the climb look a little worse than it really is:
Once you get to the top, you’re just a short distance from the Lake of Glass, roughly 4.2 miles from the trailhead.

Looking back at the Lake of Glass from Sky Pond:

From Lake of Glass, your just another 0.4 mile from Sky Pond. This section of trail can be a little sketchy. Be sure to look for cairns in some places to keep you on the trail.

Sky Pond, at an elevation 10,905 feet, sits at the bottom of an amphitheatre of sheer cliff walls that box in the lake on three sides. This an incredibly beautiful setting. One person we met said that the Cathedral Spires that ring the western shore of the lake reminded them of Switzerland.
This hike became an instant classic for me, and is definitely one of the best in the park.

Trail: Sky Pond
RT Distance: 9.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1675
Max Elevation: 10,905

Lisa Foster's hiking guide is considered by many to be the bible for the Rocky Mountains:

For more information on this trail and all the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, visit our new sister website at Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.

HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, hiking gear store, and more.


Anonymous said...

I have to second your comment about the scramble to get past Timberline Falls - I needed a hand-up to make it. Coming down was much easier!

Jenna said...

Gorgeous view! And obviously totally worth the effort! Reminds me a lot on hikes I’ve been on here in Newfoundland…