- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
The snowshoe up to Sky Pond is a favourite among locals. It is an epic snowshoe to a high alpine lake at the base of The Sharkstooth! The Sky Pond snowshoe in RMNP is often described as challenging but it is definitely worth the trek.
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Route Description for Sky Pond
Anyone on a snowshoe trip should have Avalanche training, we recommend AIARE 2 for all backcountry travellers, and AIARE 1 is the minimum. It is important to note that when travelling through avalanche terrain it is extremely valuable to always have a companion.
The snowshoe up to Sky Pond is popular for a reason. It is stunning. It is also much more dangerous in winter, with avalanche danger, increased slippage potential and the need to be properly trained in winter travel in Alpine terrain. This is one of the trails that particularly requires winter traction and the knowledge on self-arresting with a trekking pole or mountaineering axe as there will undoubtedly be ice and snowfield en route. At certain times of the year you can do the trip to Sky Pond without snowshoes, however microspikes are still recommended as the route is often icy.
This snowshoe goes past the Loch, Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond - on the way passing the beautiful Timberline Falls. Get there early if you do not want to snowshoe with crowds.
From the Glacier Gorge trailhead, head southwest. You will snowshoe for about a 0.4 km before getting to the first intersection. Stay on the main trail to the right and then make a left at the next intersection that shortly follows, following the signs for Alberta Falls. The trail gradually climbs until Alberta falls, which you’ll reach after 1.2 km.
After snowshoeing 2.4 km, you will reach Mills Lake intersection. Stay right, still following signs for the Loch. As you come around the corner, the trail opens up into a clearing where you will see Notch Top straight ahead on the left-hand side of the trail.
After a short descent back into the woods, you will see a three-trail split. Follow the trail that is in the middle, signs will read to the Loch and Sky Pond.
4.5 km into your snowshoe, you will reach the Loch. This large lake offers reflective views of the surrounding peaks as you follow the trail through the surrounding woods while it skirts to the right of the lake.
Once you exit the woods, the trail gets significantly more difficult and steeper. Follow the rock steps as they climb closer to Timberline Falls. After you reach the falls, you can follow the stone steps over the water on your left to get a good view right in front of the falls.
To follow the trail up to Sky Pond, stay to the right. You will see the signs pointing up for Sky Pond. The waterfall climb is relatively easy for experienced scramblers in dry conditions. In winter, this scramble becomes a lot more challenging, and it may be terrifying if this is your first time. Take care and assess if you are comfortable doing this; do not be afraid to turn back depending on conditions and your capabilities. Remember it is always harder descending then going up!
If you continue up, carefully place your feet on the ledges and use the plenty of handholds available. Just three moves will get you to the top. Follow the worn trail for a short climb and you will see Lake of Glass come into view.
After the Lake of Glass, look for the cairns on the rocks to the right of the lake. After the boulders, the trail is easy to find and see following the stream. It is just a little over a 0.4 km and you will reach Sky Pond nestled in the base of the cliffs. There is usually snow in the grooves of the cliffs to create a beautiful view. If you started at dawn, you can enjoy some serenity before the mass of day snowshoers and hikers start to arrive at this wonderful place.
To get back to the trailhead, retrace the path you came on, back to your car.
Insider Hints for Sky Pond
- You will encounter snowfields and ice along this trail. Snowshoes are recommended. If you choose to hike, some sort of winter traction is highly recommended.
- Ideally, before snowshoeing this trail in winter, you should have the training to self-arrest with a trekking pole or mountaineering ice axe.
- If you lack some equipment, it can rented from a shop such as Estes Park Mountain Shop. This shop charges $10 to rent winter boots, $5 to rent snowshoes, $5 to rent adjustable poles, and $10 to rent an ice axe among other things.
- Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park takes you into remote terrain. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and potentially a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones may not work on all trails.
- Always check the avalanche forecast for the Front Ranges before heading out.
Getting to the Sky Pond Trailhead
From Estes Park, take Highway 36 west and enter RMNP at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Just after the pay station, turn left on Bear Lake Road. Follow the road for 13.7 km to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
Sky Pond Elevation Graph
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