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The Loch, Glass Lake, Sky Pond -
Rocky Mountain National Park

Cathedral Spires from Sky Pond

Cathedral Peaks from Sky Pond

The Trail Guide to The Loch, Glass Lake, and Sky Pond includes trail descriptions, photographs of the trails, comments from our hikes, mileage data, custom topo map, and the routes tracklog on a geo-pdf map. The guide will familiarize you with The Loch, Glass Lake, and Sky Pond Trails. We hope the guide helps you on your hikes and adventures.

Route Data

Photos from: July 2010, 2014

Glacier Gorge Trailhead Elevation: 9,240'

Range: Rocky Mountain National Park

Map Coordinate System - Geodetic Base (NAD83)

Trailhead Latitude: 40.310658, Longitude: -105.640174

Route: Glacier Gorge Trail, The Loch Trail, Sky Pond Trail

One Way Distance: 4.90 miles

For Map, Trail Mileage, GPS, and Trail Notes go to Page 2

Route Comments

Sky Pond is a small Alpine Lake about 5 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. The lake has a magical name befitting the scenery.

Many times we have laced our shoes, shouldered our packs and found our way to Sky Pond. We have never grown tired of the route or the destination.

The Hike

Directions: From Estes Park, enter Rocky Mountain National Park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance (Hwy 36 - Moraine Ave). A short distance beyond the entrance turn left (south) on Bear Lake Road. Follow Bear Lake Road for 8.40 miles to Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Buses operate in the summer season to ease parking difficulties.

Glacier Gorge Trailhead from the parking area

The Glacier Gorge Trailhead has privies, a bus stop, a trailhead information kiosk, and limited parking. The parking fills rather quickly hence the need for the bus stop.

Crossing the large bridge over Chaos Creek

The trail descends to cross Chaos Creek on a large bridge.

Signed trail junction with the Glacier Creek Trail

After crossing the creek, the trail climbs to the junction with Glacier Creek Trail. At each trail junction along the route, the National Park Service (NPS) has directional signs. It is wise to talk a second and read the signs, just to make sure you are where you think that you are! Turn right at the junction and continue uphill.

In a short distance the trail reaches another junction. To the right the trail leads to Bear Lake Trailhead and to the left is the Glacier Gorge Trail to Alberta Falls. Follow the Glacier Gorge Trail.

The wide trail narrows to cross a creek on a footbridge and then climbs steadily toward the falls.

Crowded Alberta Falls

At .60 mile the Glacier Gorge Trail (.90 from the trailhead) reaches Alberta Falls. The area is an attraction and sees a lot of traffic. Of course if you walk the path at sunrise (or earlier), there are far less folks crowded around the falls and on the trail.

Leaving the falls, the trail climbs through switchbacks toward the Glacier Knobs. To ease the pain of the climb, there are great views of the valley and the mountains.

Signed junction with the North Longs Peak Trail

At .90 mile from Alberta Falls and 1.80 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, the trail reaches the junction with the North Longs Peak Trail.

from just above the North Longs Peak Junction a view to the gorge ahead

From the junction, the climb eases along a bench above Glacier Creek.

Glacier Gorge trail junction

After about .50 mile from the North Longs Peak Trail, the trail descends to a saddle between the Glacier Knobs and a major junction. Glacier Gorge Trail to Black Lake goes to the left, Sky Pond (& The Loch) trails go straight, and an unmaintained Lake Haiyaha Trail goes to the right.

Follow the trail to Sky Pond.

A switchback on The Loch Trail with Vale Creek next to the trail

From the trail junction the trail follows along Vale Creek, The Loch's outlet stream. After .40 mile the trail climbs through switchbacks.

Just below The Loch, the trail passes between a snow bank and rocks

After four switchbacks the trail curves around obstacles to find the easiest passage and finally reaches The Loch at .80 mile from the Glacier Gorge Trail Junction.

The Loch destination sign on the shore of the lake

The Loch is a worthy destination on it's own. It is 3.10 miles from Glacier Gorge Trailhead. There are great spots close to where the trail reaches the lake to take a break. The Loch is below treeline, but it is still a good idea to keep an eye on the weather.

View of the route. Timberline Falls is just left of center on the photo.

To continue to Sky Pond, look for the trail to the right - going north around The Loch. Timberline Falls is visible in the above photo.

A raised and level path along The Loch

The trail around The Loch is easy to navigate. Trout are often times visible along the shoreline.

Icy Brook feeding The Loch

At the head of the lake, the trail follows near the feeder creek, Icy Brook.

Footbridge crossing Andrews Creek

The trail climbs in spurts as it reaches Andrews Creek in .80 mile from the (Loch) sign when first reaching The Loch. The Andrews Creek Trail leads to Andrews Glacier. The footbridge is 3.90 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

boardwalk crossing the grassy wet lands

The trail gets even more scenic above the Andrews Creek Junction. Lush wetlands are crossed on boardwalks.

Path sneaking between two boulders. Timberline Falls just overhead in the photo

Then, Timberline Falls comes into view above the trees. The trail has seen substantial trail work.

Stone steps climb toward Timberline Falls

As the trail nears the falls, a cliff blocks the path. The trail climbs below the wall and angles toward Timberline Falls.

Please try to travel on the rocks avoiding the fragile alpine terrain.

A small directional sign pointing toward Sky Pond

As the trail climbs, the paths degenerates into jumbled rocks. Though not uncommon in the mountains, many hikers do not like crossing the loose, wet, terrain. A sign gives direction to the jumble.

Timberline Falls cascading over rocks and snow

The trail does not go directly to Timberline Falls. It cuts off into a drainage a few feet before reaching the Falls. The drainage is often times very wet (snowy, or frozen).

Many hikers stop at the Timberline Falls. It is a destination.

short section of cliff in the drainage

To continue, the trail scrambles up a weakness in the cliff. A drainage holds the key to passage. Follow the trail sign into the drainage. Scramble about 10 feet up a rock wall on the right side. It is not overly difficult, but the holds are not really positive.

Use care if you decide to attempt the scramble. Even though it is a scramble, it is the easiest route to Glass Lake. You will also have to down climb the scramble on your return.

Looking down the climb near Timberline Falls. Hiker sitting near the bottom

Continue following the drainage a short distance. Generally hikers climb the right side of the gully. It may be difficult to remain dry.

Glass Lake from the shore

Glass Lake (or Lake of Glass) is very close to Timberline Falls. Glass Lake is .50 mile from the Andrew Creek Bridge and 4.40 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. To continue to Sky Pond there are more obstacles. A wall seems to block easy access to the right.

Ramp leading away from the lake finds passage over a small cliff

The easiest passage is to take a ramp to the right away from the lake and then cut back on top of the cliff that blocked the way.

Trail crossing the north shore of the lake through the krummholz trees.

The trail weaves through rocks and the small stunted krummholz trees. There are many paths through this section, but I have found only one relatively easy one. The route is not clearly marked. Choose wisely. The trick is not to try and stay along the shoreline, instead climb a bit above the lake and gain a ledge that crosses a small cliff (that would have to be climbed if you had not gone right to avoid it) at about half height.

Well trodden path crossing a rocky ledge on the route

On gaining the ledge, follow it around the rock. The traverse is a bit airy, but not as difficult as scrambling up the route near Timberline Falls.

Trail crossing stepping stones through rocky terrain

Keep a sharp eye for the improved path (stone work) as the path leaves Glass Lake and crosses to Sky Pond. It is easy to loose the path, but difficult to get lost. Continue to follow the drainage through the magnificent alpine cirque.

Sky Pond and the rocky towers to the north

At .40 mile from first reaching Glass Lake, the route reaches Sky Pond. The lake is 4.80 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

For Map, Trail Mileage, GPS, and Trail Notes go to Page 2