With the summer’s snow-melt, we kept hearing Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park was the place to see. And, even though we hadn’t been hiking in a while, I decided we should just go ahead and push ourselves a little further and do the 8 mile round trip hike to Sky Pond. On the way to Sky Pond, we knew we would pass Alberta Falls, The Loch, and Timberline Falls. So, we headed out on our spontaneous adventure…
Note: Rocky Mountain National Park is super packed on beautiful weekend days. I’d suggest getting there as early as possible if you want to find parking near a specific trail. Luckily, they do have a free shuttle bus. This is a great option if parking at the trail isn’t an option. (And since we got there around 9:30, it was not). However, there can also be a wait to get on the bus (as we experienced). Try to go early!
The Hike to Sky Pond
While we weren’t sure if we would make it all the way to Sky Pond, we knew we would see plenty of beauty on the way. We ran into some very unexpected snow-packed and icy trails on our way. The hike to Sky Pond is about 4 miles each way, or 8 miles round trip. However, it does include scrambling up a cliff face, which also happens to be part of Timberline Falls.
After giving up on finding a spot close to the trail, we took the bus to the Glacier Gorge trailhead, which is the best starting point for getting to Alberta Falls, which is just 0.75 miles from the trailhead. After a nice uphill stroll, we started to hear the powerful water of Alberta Falls!
Shortly after, we finally started getting our first glance of Alberta Falls, where there is a beautiful, open area where the waters are a bit calmer. This would be perfect spot to sit and have a picnic or read a book. There was a lot of shade and the sound of the water puts you instantly at ease.
A little further along the trail is the upper part of the falls – a truly breathtaking area. Feeling the mist from Alberta Falls hit your face was a welcome cool-down from the summer heat.
Once we had satisfied all of our picture-taking needs at Alberta Falls, we set on trail toward The Loch – which was about two miles from Alberta Falls. You pass this beautiful mountain lake on the hike to Sky Pond. But, it is a destination in and of itself. We endured another uphill climb through wooded areas and along some switchbacks before seeing another mountain-side waterfall that was definitely worth stopping to admire.
Not much further along the trail to The Loch, we hit some snow. Yes, summer snow. Welcome to Colorado. After climbing up a snowy hill we saw the sign for The Loch in front of a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by trees and rocks. I have never seen a more beautiful site. I wish I could have just lived there for a few days to take it all in.
The water at The Loch was cold, but definitely worth taking off my shoes to put my feet in. It was so clear you could see all of the fish swimming around just under the surface. A lot of people were fishing in the lake – a must do next time!
After a little picnic in the shade of the trees along the lake, we continued the hike to Sky Pond. This would have been a perfect place to hang a hammock and chill for a while. The trails along the way were really fun – rocks and logs and wooden pathways over streams, not to mention more snow!
After hiking about another mile from The Loch, we finally could see Timberline Falls in the distance. All we had to do was traverse the snowy mountainside ahead of us. Dammit. I really love snow when I’m prepared for it. But this was not one of those times.
After 10 minutes of walking my foot sank a couple of feet into a hidden stream that was under the snow and my feet were soaked. Shortly after, I tried to crouch down on the side of the mountain while I waited for others to pass by. Suddenly, I slid a few feet down the mountain and had my life flash before my eyes. We even discussed bringing the snow shoes, but we decided there was no way we would need them.
After about 45 minutes of hiking about 1/4 of a mile in ankle-deep snow, we finally reached Timberline Falls and the amazing views below it.
I would like to preface this next part by saying scrambling can look a lot like climbing if you are a novice. And it is a pretty scary concept for those of us who aren’t lovers of high up, fall-to-your-death kind of places. So, when we finally reached the rocks next to Timberline Falls that we were supposed to “scramble”/climb up, my dear hubby finally made the decision to not continue the hike to Sky Pond and to turn back.
For the record, I would have totally done it. I may have died doing it, but I would have tried. So, thank God for realistic people like my husband in my life. With soaked shoes that had little grip and exhausted, shaking legs it was definitely a recipe for disaster to try to climb up wet and icy rocks on the side of a mountain next to Timberline Falls.
While we decided we could make it up, the way back down on icy rocks didn’t seem as easy. So… we started back down with the promise to come back further into the summer, when there should be less snow.
On the way down from Timberline Falls, some genius person had constructed slides in the snow. And, despite my fear of flying down at the speed of light and soaring off into the nothingness, we took advantage of. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and it was better than tumbling down head first after slipping…
Even though my legs felt like jello, I all but raced down the mountain to get to the hot tub that I knew awaited me at the hotel room I had reserved. We could have driven home, but after 8 hours of hiking, who wants to do that?
All in all, it was a great day. We were a little upset that we didn’t finish the hike to Sky Pond, but were psyched to get to see so much beauty along the way and happy to have made it out of the treacherous snowfield in one piece! We learned long ago that along the trails of life (real and figurative) you have to just go with the flow if you want to keep a smile on your face.
Want more tips for Rocky Mountain National Park? Read more:
- 3 Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Stargazing in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Easy Winter Hike: Bierstadt Lake
- 3 Short Snow Hikes in RMNP
- Weekend Getaway Guide: Grand Lake
For more great Colorado hikes and activities for every season, check out our Colorado travel page.