Hiking Sky Pond

Sky Pond Hike with Kids

Embark on a breathtaking adventure where the combination of peaks and alpine lakes create the perfect vista for a memorable Sky Pond hike for your family. Discover the enchanting wonders in this gem in Rocky Mountain National Park as you traverse rugged trails, retreat to nature, and forge powerful bonds. Lace up your hiking boots, gather your fam, and prepare to start a thrilling adventure, leaving you awe-inspired and longing for more.

Sky Pond Hike Stats

LocationRocky Mountain National Park
Trail TypeOut and Back
Trail Distance9 Miles Round Trip
Duration4 to 8 Hours
Total Elevation1,700 Feet
Average Elevation Gain/Mile394 Feet
Trailhead Elevation 9240 Feet
Highest Elevation10,900 Feet
Trail FeaturesAlpine Lake, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Waterfall,
Best Time to HikeJune to September
Fee$15-$35 + Timed Entry Permit

What is Sky Pond?

Sky Pond Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s the big one of the two ponds in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), while the smaller one is called The Lake of Glass. This alpine lake has various peaks surrounding it, and if you come when the snow is just melting, the white draping in contrast to the earth tones of the mountains is a scene you need to see. 

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Where is Sky Pond?

You’ll find Sky Pond in the Rocky Mountain National Park in the city of Estes Park, Colorado. 

Here’s the exact location on GPS: 40.278241459468326, -105.66927376910411

Entry Permit?

You need two things before you venture on your Sky Pond hike: your park pass/entrance fee and the Timed Entry Permit. It helps the park with crowd regulation due to COVID-19. However, you’ll only need to reserve your TEP if you’re visiting between May 26 and October 22. The schedule may change, so double-check their site to stay updated. If you’re staying overnight, you need to get the Wilderness Permit, while fishing requires possession of a license


There are several parking spots you can check out for your Sky Pond Hike. It’s the same stops that the RMNP shuttle stops to pick up and drop off visitors. 

  • Bear Lake Trailhead
  • Glacier Gorge Trailhead
  • Bear Lake Park and Ride

It’s best to jump aboard the complimentary shuttle ride to the trailhead. Finding a parking space is also a pain since most are already full even before the is out. The shuttle is available from 7 AM until 7 PM every 15 minutes. 

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Best time to Hike Sky Pond

The best time for a Sky Pond hike, especially with kids, is between June and September. This way, you don’t have to deal with the extra challenge of winter snow (which takes ages to melt, given the high altitude). 

Hiking Sky Pond in Summer

High-season for RMNP. Hiking Sky Pond during summer is the best. With the warm weather and the sun out, you can tackle the trail with less difficulty. However, expect crowds, so start your journey as early as possible. Bring lots of hydration and sun protection to alleviate the temperatures rocketing up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Hiking Sky Pond in Winter

You can try a Sky Pond hike during winter, although it requires more effort. You’ll probably have to make the entire 9-mile journey on snowshoes or microspikes. Moving is also a bit more restricted with all the layers you must wear to stay warm. The trail becomes a new difficulty level with all the snow and ice on the way. It’s no place for newbies and kids during this time of the year. 

Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trailhead

The Sky Pond can be divided into five segments. You can also take them as bases where you can stop, rest and recharge. These segments include: 

Trailhead to Alberta Falls (0.9 miles)

The trailhead welcomes you with a trademark of Colorado’s aspen forest for 0.3 miles, and as you continue, you’ll cross various streams. Continuing down the trail and as your elevation gains to 232 feet, you’ll start seeing some portion of the valley. And once you reach Alberta Falls, you can scramble through the boulders on the side to get a closer look and snap pictures or simply enjoy its beauty from where you are. 

Since Alberta Falls is accessible, don’t be surprised if crowds are already in the area once you arrive. Some hikers even get annoyed and irritated with how overcrowded Alberta Falls can be. So ensure you hit the trails as early as possible to have it to yourself. 

Alberta Falls to The Loch (2.1 miles)

Carrying on with the journey towards The Loch, the view of the valley opens up with 800 feet elevation after 1.4 miles of hiking. You’ll hit the junction where the Mills Lake trail is on the left. Just follow the right trail heading to Sky Pond. Watch for Glacier Creek on the left side of the trail and wildlife that may cross your path. (No feeding the cute squirrels. Don’t give in to their cuteness! Park policy. Sorry.) Keep traversing until you hit another junction with signs pointing right to The Loch, Sky Pond, and Andrews Glacier. Congrats! You managed to hike for 2.4 miles. Take in the view, rest, and maybe have some snacks. If you plan to fish, this is the spot. But, just like Alberta Falls, crowds sometimes pile heavily here. Go around the lake, where you can find spots away from the noise and other hikers. We recommend that you take some time to recharge while at The Lock. After this stop, your Sky Pond hike will amp up the challenge. 

The Loch to Timberline Falls (1.5 miles)

Start your hike again through a relatively easy trail with wooden bridges until the Andrew Glacier junction, where the actual hike begins. Take the left leading to Lake Glass and prepare the climber in you. You need to conquer quite massive boulders at Timbertime Falls. 

Climbing up Timberline Falls (<0.1 miles)

Yes, the 30-foot Timberline Falls stands majestically, and its beauty will captivate you. But climbing up? You’ll need a good pair of shoes and confidence. The falls’ right side has an accessible path heading to the top. If you’re afraid of heights, you’ll need extra courage to scramble, but we saw some hikers and kids deal with it like a monkey gym, no problem at all. Wet rocks are slippery, so it’s still best to proceed cautiously (especially on your return). 

Lake of Glass to Sky Pond (0.6 miles)

After all the scrambling, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning vista of Lake of Glass, Sky Pond’s smaller sibling. Some hikers often mistake it for its bigger counterpart and end their journey there. 

The trail from Lake of Glass to Sky Pond confuses many. You need to keep right and go around the lake, scramble through some boulders again, and keep an eye for the right turn quarter-way through the lake and hike up a bit. From there, the trail is pretty leveled. There’s also another mini waterfall before you reach Sky Pond. If you’re not sure, use GPS for guidance. 

The picturesque view of Sky Pond is a sight you need to see with your own eyes. Any attempt to describe it would be a mere understatement. The lake itself, with the mountains surrounding it, and if you come while there is still snow, makes up for a postcard and Instagrammable snaps. So remember your camera. Even more so, remember to have lots of memory space! You have the 13,153-foot Taylor Peak on the other side of the waters, The Sharktooth on the right, and the 13,208-foot Powell Peak on the south. 

There are plenty of spots where you can sit down and enjoy food. You can also walk around just to see Sky Pond from various angles. It’s still chilly up here, even during summer, due to the elevation, and strong winds might also be a pain. 

But overall, this Sky Pond hike is an experience of a lifetime! 

Sky Pond via Bear Lake Trailhead

If you decide to start at Bear Lake Trailhead, just follow the 0.5-mile trail towards Alberta Falls and follow the same path as the Glacier Gorge Trailhead did. 

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Can you hike Sky Pond with Kids?

Yes, you can. However we recommend you consider your and your kids experience and endurance as hiking Sky Pond is considered a difficult hike. 

Older kids can enjoy the Sky Pond hike, but it might be too much for little ones under 7 years. It is manageable if you have a toddler and have it in a carrier on your back. It’s best to do stops as needed so you don’t strain the kids and make it as exciting and memorable as possible. 

Sky Pond Hike Reviews by Families

Glacier Gorge: The downside of this waterfall (Alberta Falls)  being so close to the start is that we didn’t want to pull the kids out of their hiking backpacks.”

“Bear Lake to Emerald Lake: The advantage of this hike is that it provides a high level of beauty with a low level of effort. After the big hike of day one, I welcomed this slightly mellower route as it allowed the kids to “lead the way.”

“Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park can feel more strenuous than in other parks due to the elevation. If visiting from a lower elevation, I’d recommend some training prior to your visit for carrying kids on your back”

– Raisinghikers.com

“Absolutely incredible hike. I made the scramble up the waterfall with a 2 year old in my hiking backpack. It wasn’t exactly easy, but absolutely doable. Sky Pond was just like a dream.”

– Review by Parent on Tripadvisor

The hike is long, but very manageable if you take your time. We had our four kids with us (15, 13, 11 and 7) so it took us longer than we thought, but despite it POURING with torrential rain the whole way up, I’d still do it again. […] I’d been slightly concerned about taking the kids up the waterfall (yes, you really do have to hike up an actual waterfall) but, apart from slightly wet feet, we all got safely to the top.”

– Review by Parent on Tripadvisor

“We were really enjoying our moderate hike until we got to the rock scramble next to the waterfall. I knew right away it was dangerous. […] I hate to sound dramatic, but this part of the hike is no joke. If you want to see sky pond, you’ll have to be comfortable with some potentially dangerous scrambling. NO CHILDREN SHOULD ATTEMPT THIS HIKE.”

– Review on Tripadvisor. The person did not hike with kids. 

Sky Pond Hike Packing Checklist

Doing a Sky Pond hike is no joke. Here’s a list of the essentials to help make your journey as comfortable as possible. Alter the list as needed:

Essential Gear

  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • Backpack
  • Map and compass (if needed)
  • First aid kit
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Tent
  • Backpacking stove


  • Moisture-wicking, breathable shirt
  • Quick-drying pants or shorts
  • Lightweight jacket or fleece
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Hat or cap for sun protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra socks

Food and Water

  • Water bottles or hydration bladder (2-3 liters/day)
  • High-energy snacks (granola bars, nuts, trail mix)
  • Lunch or packed meal

Navigation and Safety

  • Topographic map and compass
  • GPS device or app
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Bear spray (if required)
  • Emergency shelter (lightweight tarp or bivy sack)


  • Cash or cards for park fees or amenities
  • Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • Garbage bags for waste disposal
  • Personal medications, if needed

Remember to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before your hike and adjust your packing list accordingly.

A family hike at Sky Pond is a surefire way to create memories of shared triumph. The awe-inspiring landscapes and the laughter echoing through the trails are etched forever in your hearts. 

As you bid farewell to Rocky Mountain National Park, remember to carry the spirit of your Sky Pond hike and the love for nature into your everyday lives. Let this extraordinary experience remind you of the power of family, the beauty of the great outdoors, and the endless possibilities awaiting your next exploration. 

Until then, keep the spirit of adventure alive and continue to embrace the wonders that our world has to offer.

Happy and safe hiking!

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What’s the best time of year to hike Sky Pond?

The best time is during summer, between June and September. Snow has already melted, and the sun makes the experience more enjoyable and manageable. 

Learn more in our guide about Hiking Sky Pond.

Can you hike Sky Pond with kids?

Yes, you can. However we recommend you consider your and your kids experience and endurance as hiking Sky Pond is considered a difficult hike. 

Older kids will love joining in a Sky Pond hike. They’ll find a few challenges, like the climb at Timberline Falls. However, it’s lengthy, so ensure you have all the snacks and patience needed for the journey. 

Learn more in our guide about Hiking Sky Pond.

How long is the hike to Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge?

Completing the Sky Pond hike can range from 4 to 8 hours. It will depend on how many times you stop and your pace. 

Learn more in our guide about Hiking Sky Pond.