Where to Hike in the Rockies

There are so many beautiful hiking trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s hard to pick just one. So, we took the advice of locals working at an outdoor shop in the nearby town of Estes Park and chose the path to Sky Pond. The hike was just difficult enough that I felt like I got a great workout, but not so hard that I couldn’t do it.

I was with a small group of friends who arrived early enough that we were able to park at the end of Bear Lake Road and start our hike immediately but note that parking lot fills up quickly. If it is peak season or later in the day, you can always use a free shuttle to get around the park.

The roughly nine-mile hike begins with a series of well-marked paths going up and down small hills. The first significantly picture worthy spot is Alberta Falls. Several outdoor websites describe the trail to the 30-foot waterfall as “easy.” If you’re with small children or want a non-strenuous hike, this might be your destination, which you can also get to from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

Once you continue, don’t forget to stop and look through the gaps in the trees at the powerful peaks and valleys that make up the landscape. A few miles up we hit the Loch Vale, which is usually just called the Loch. The stillness of the lake surrounded by vegetation is dwarfed by the giant Rocky Mountains. We paused here to absorb the beauty before walking around the body of water to Timberline Falls.

This is where the hike begins to get harder with steeper paths partly covered in water towards the top. Once you make it to the base of the falls, however, you can enjoy the sound of rushing water while looking at the majestic views of the park, including the Loch you just circled.

We didn’t stop at the base of the falls but climbed up alongside of them. This rock scramble was probably the most difficult part of the day between the vertical challenges and wet path. Part of the path is so narrow that it only allows one-way traffic, so there can be a backup here.  I would recommend wearing hiking boots for extra grip. Plan to climb part of the path on all fours.  I might not recommend it, if you have a fear of heights.

Finally, at the top is Glass Lake, which I think is the most beautiful spot on the trail. The emerald green water effortlessly reflects the rocky formations surrounding it.

We chose to continue to Sky Pond, which is just under one half mile further through rocky terrain and fields but could have happily stopped at the Lake of Glass and spent longer admiring it. Sky Pond has minimal vegetation, but ample rock space to stop and enjoy lunch. I visited on one of the warmer months, but it was still a bit windy and chilly.  Even with the low temps, some hikers stripped down and swam in the lake. Needless to say they didn’t last long!

If you reach the top, the trail is roughly nine miles roundtrip, which is a pretty full day. On the way down, however, we added on another mile or two veering off to visit Mills Lake. This too is an incredibly picturesque location where we sat and rested our feed absorbing all of Mother Nature’s little artistic gifts.

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