One of the best parts about having a Monday through Friday, 9-5 job is the spontaneity that hits on a Friday night at 9pm when I realize I have two whole days to explore without obligation. The open road calls my name and I am drawn to the first destination that drops into my mind, within reason. Having recently relocated to Wyoming from Michigan, my list of “within reason” destinations has shifted. Most recently: Colorado.
With a love for music and a reliable car that turns any place into my backyard, I have been on a hunt this past month for festivals and hiking trails, trying to embrace the summer as much as I can. A few weeks ago, my music radar pulled up Josh Ritter and Brandi Carlile playing the Rocky Mountain Music Festival that was set to take place that following weekend in Lyons, Colorado. Two people who I would love to see live, playing at the foothills of the Rockies. I was geeked, to say the least.
Tickets for that night were sold out when I had checked on Wednesday, of course. Initially, I shook it off, another time, maybe. Then, on Friday night, at 9pm, my itchy feet took hold and I decided to give it the ol’ college try. I made my way toward Lyons to see if they secretly sold tickets at the door, figuring that in the worst case scenario, I would camp in Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoy a great weekend of camping and hiking.
By the time I arrived at RMNP on Saturday, I gave up on the concert idea completely. The seven hour drive was already worth it. I had been to the Rockies in the past, through nearly the same route, even, but after coming upon those majestic mountains once again, the rest of my day became irrelevant. I pitched my tent at site 88 in Moraine Park Campground, a site that, as the ranger put it, and I agree, “is pleasantly tucked away with the best view.” I made camp, made a bonfire, made dinner, and made it to my bed, eager for Sunday.
I awoke with the sun, enjoyed a spot of coffee and the view, gathered my belongings and made my way toward Glacier Gorge to find the trailhead to Sky Pond.
The trek to Sky Pond is 4.9 miles and is an elevation rise of 1,650′. This particular trail was recommended to me by the ranger as I only had a half a day to hike and wanted to make the most of it. The start gives a feel of any luscious trail in mid-August, a vibrantly green, leafy setting.
Following the trail from Glacier Gorge, the first stop is Alberta Falls. Pouring over a rock wall, the river moves briskly through a canyon far below. Many visitors to the area stop to peer over the rocky cliffs above the gorge and admire the rush of the rapids. This is a tourist hot spot as it is just a short jaunt from the start of the trail: perfect for elderly nature lovers and families with small children.
After Alberta Falls, I noticed that things quieted down a bit. Though there were several others continuing the jaunt, we were spread out enough that I didn’t see many people until we came to points of astonishing beauty. About a mile after the falls, the trail begins to split, heading off to Longs Peak, Boulder Field, Black Lake, Andrews Glacier, and Sky Pond, allowing hikers to choose their own adventure.
I directed my travels to Sky Pond, passing near the Loch, also known as Loch Vale.
As to be expected, the higher the elevation, the rockier the terrain.
About a mile and a half past the Loch, I found Timberline Falls.
At which point, there was a small sign…
I am not a rock climber by any means, and I’m sure this is a piece of cake to those who are, but this is the closest I’ve ever been to rock climbing and it made me feel pretty accomplished. Hand holds and foot holds are required for this: I had to pull myself up a few times. In addition, for anyone wanting to follow this trail, be sure to wear shoes with great traction. Tricky maneuvers are necessary and at times, climbing up the small waterfall is the only way to do it.
Trust me, the view makes it worth it.
In retrospect, here is where I get a bit embarrassed. I reached this point by following the trail, not necessarily following a map. I knew the general direction toward where I was headed, and, well, I followed the signs. Because the trail becomes a bit of a boulder climb at Lake of Glass, the path itself disappears for the most part, and because I didn’t see any more signs, I assumed that this was Sky Pond. I climbed around it a bit, then made my way back down the rocky-crags near Timberline Falls. I didn’t realize until I started writing this article and browsing over my map that I never actually made it to Sky Pond, which actually sits about a third of a mile farther. I guess this means I have to head back for another weekend and in truth, I am a-okay with that.
Moral of the story: If you find yourself drooling over the peaks at Rocky Mountain National Park but only have a short time to visit, follow the trails out of Glacier Gorge and head to Sky Pond… just go a bit farther than I did.