My husband Eric and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to go on a more challenging hike during our last trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. His amazing sister not only offered to watch the girls for the morning, but also sat through hours of us deliberating about which hike we would choose. There are so many hikes that have been on our wish-list, it was difficult to decide. We finally agreed to attempt Sky Pond because we had hiked to Timberline Falls in the past, but for weather-related reasons, had never made it beyond the falls.
We woke up early to get to the park by 6:00am. We found a parking spot at Bear Lake and began our hike towards Alberta Falls which is one of the most popular destinations in RMNP.
We continued on the trail past the falls towards The Loch.
We arrived at The Loch, a peaceful lake surrounded by pine trees and filled with beautiful trout. We followed along the right bank. This is a popular destination, so it was nice to be there early and have it largely to ourselves.
Beyond The Loch you pass over a mountain stream. This is a relatively flat section of the trail.
Soon the hike becomes more challenging as you quickly gain elevation heading towards Timerline Falls. In this section we spotted female elk and a marmot.
We arrived at Timberline Falls, a breathtaking waterfall with sweeping views.
The first time I saw the sign pointing to Sky Pond, I thought it must be a mistake. I didn’t expect to hike up a running waterfall.
We got some good advice from Erik Stensland’s hiking guide to climb ‘up the gash in the rock’ and ‘don’t worry about getting wet; just go slowly.’ This proved to be a helpful tip, and even though our feet got fairly wet, it made for a manageable scramble.
After we made it up the waterfall, the path continued on to the Lake of Glass.
I found it a little difficult to see the trail between this lake and Sky Pond, but the scenery around us was nothing short of spectacular.
When we finally made it to Sky Pond, I was very excited to rest and eat a snack before heading back. However, it was hard to fully soak in the beauty as I was feeling anxious, knowing that the way back down the waterfall would be more challenging than the way up.
It wasn’t graceful – I mostly slid on my backside so that I could see the foot holds ahead of me. Once safely down, the adrenaline (and relief!) left us feeling invigorated, so we decided to extend our adventure.
Instead of heading back the way we came, at the Loch/Mills Lake trail junction, we followed a loop trail to Lake Haiyaha, which is a beautiful green color and is studded with boulders. This section of trail was quiet and peaceful, but it was longer and more challenging than I expected, adding to the total elevation gain of the hike. (We climbed a total of approx. 2,200 ft.)
After enjoying Lake Haiyaha, we continued down the mountain. The route gave us a glimpse of Dream Lake before rejoining the busier trail down to Nymph Lake, which was covered in beautiful pond lilies. From there it was a short walk back to the Bear Lake trailhead.
Eric wore a Garmin watch that tracked our hike from the Bear Lake trailhead to Sky Pond and back down via the alternative route by Lake Haiyaha. The total distance of our hike was just over 10.5 miles long.
This is now one of my all time favorite hikes. Not only did we get to see some of the most beautiful lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, we also got to climb through a waterfall, an experience I’ll never forget!