Sky Pond is a magical lake in upper Loch Vale, one of Colorado’s most beautiful places. The lake lies at 11,900 feet in a rugged alpine cirque filled with spiked rock pinnacles, including Sharkstooth and Petit Grepon. The 4.5-mile hike to Sky Pond follows the Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale trails from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. The popular hike passes grand scenery-Alberta Falls, The Loch, Timberline Falls, and Glass Lake. The well-marked trail is easy to follow, except for the scrambling section up rock slabs beside Timberline Falls. Sky Pond offers great fishing for brook trout after the ice melts by July. Climbers visit to climb the sharp peaks above, including the classic South Face route. The hike is 10 miles roundtrip and gains 1,650 feet from car to lake. Allow four to seven hours to hike the route and enjoy the views.
- The 4.5-mile hike to Sky Pond starts at Glacier Gorge Trailhead on Bear Lake Road. Hike south on Glacier Gorge Trail for 0.5 miles to Alberta Falls. Most hikers turn around here. From the falls, hike 0.9 miles south to a junction with East Longs Peak Trail. Go right and hike another 0.5 miles up a lovely valley to Glacier Gorge junction. Continue west on Loch Vale Trail for 0.9 miles to The Loch, a gorgeous lake. Pass the lake on its north side and hike west up Loch Vale for 0.6 miles to trail junction. A right turn goes to Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite. Go straight for 0.8 miles to Sky Pond, passing Timberline Falls and Glass Lake. The trail section on the right side of the waterfall is rocky and steep. It may be wet or icy. Return the same way for a nine-mile hike.
- Glacier Gorge Trailhead is busy in summer. Arrive early for a parking spot or catch a free park shuttle to the trailhead. Park at a Park & Ride lot by Glacier Basin Campground and board a shuttle. Buses run often so you won’t wait long. Find shuttle schedules and maps at the park website, visitor centers, shuttle stops, and park newspaper. On the return trip, take a shuttle to Bear Lake Trailhead so you’ll have a seat back down. The shuttles often fill at Bear Lake and there’s no room for Glacier Gorge passengers.
- Andrews Creek Backcountry Campsite is the closest camping area to Sky Pond. The 10,560-foot-high campsite is 0.2 miles beyond the junction of Andrews Creek Trail and Loch Vale Trail. Get a free backcountry permit to camp here.
- Sky Pond is a high-altitude lake and susceptible to weather changes in summer. Watch for heavy afternoon thunderstorms and lightning. High winds, snow, and cold temperatures can occur in summer. Pack a raincoat, extra clothes, snacks, and water. There’s no cell service at the lake. Avoid altitude sickness by descending to a lower elevation to recover. Symptoms include a headache, nausea, and shortness of breath.
Recommended season(s): June to September is best.
–Stewart M. Green