A stunning hike / scramble with a predawn start to Rocky Mountain National Park’s Sky Pond
The trek from Glacier Gorge trailhead to Sky Pond is one of the best hikes on the planet. It is up there with greats like Angel’s Landing in Zion or Half Dome in Yosemite. It is that good.
Unfortunately that isn’t a secret, so the secret to a good experience on this hike is the predawn alpine start. Usually an alpine start is reserved for long approaches to climbs or to avoid afternoon thunderstorms but in this case it is to secure a parking spot and avoid the crushing crowds on this very popular trail. For example, I showed up at 5:00 am at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead to eat breakfast and make coffee before setting out. The parking lot was full by 5:20!
So get up before dawn and and plan on hitting the trail about an hour before the sun comes up. Have everything ready, get the “best” possible breakfast you can eat on the trail (cinnamon rolls, egg and bacon sandwiches, donuts, whatever).
There is a scrambling crux section (rated third class) of this hike on the final pull up to Sky Pond. Tips? It is easier to hang on when facing towards the rock, just take your time in finding hand and foot holds. If you can’t see foot holds when climbing down ask someone below to spot your feet.
It is best to have two adults to spot a youngster on something like this. One from above to point out holds and one below. Most kids shouldn’t have problem scrambling up this.
One nice thing about Sky Pond is a waterfall and other lakes on the way. Families with young kids can stop and turn around at any of these intermediate stops. Or feel free to hike to other lakes from these trailheads for an easier hike.