Why Sky Pond Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is One of the Best Hikes In Colorado

Why Sky Pond Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is One of the Best Hikes In Colorado

Sky pond sign on sky pond trail

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Sometimes Coloradans can be a little nervous about sharing their favorite hikes. And that that reticence can sometimes feel a little like gatekeeping, aren’t the outdoors for everyone? So the fact that I’m going to share one of my favorite hikes in Colorado may feel like blasphemy to some, but for me it’s a wonderful way to share a magical space and moment that I had outdoors with the hope that you may get the opportunity to enjoy it as well.

There are a number of incredible hikes throughout the state with varying degrees of difficulty. But, one of the most notable hikes is the one I’m about to share with you (and it’s under 2 hours away from Denver!)

Sky Pond Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park 

This hike is not for folks new to hiking. It is a solidly intermediate level trek at high altitude of almost 10 miles of hiking and an altitude gain of 1,758 feet according to All-Trails. I went on this hike with a POC hiking group, Outdoor Afro, and being in a larger group definitely made completing the hike take a little longer. That day ended up being one of the most magical, impactful and exciting hiking experiences that I’ve had in years. 

What made this experience even more unique was that it rained early in the morning and fog was still lingering in the valley. That fog made it feel like we were in a movie. Oftentimes, when you’re hiking in Colorado depending on the time of year, everything is dry, wild and desolate. 

We began our trek at 6:00 am and one thing that I would have done differently was to stay in Estes Park the night before the hike. I ended up driving to the trailhead at 4:00 am in the morning and it was a little scary driving through the park in the pitch dark. I was worried about going to the wrong trailhead or hitting a deer because wildlife roamed the park and crossed the road when traffic was light and dawn was coming. 

Fortunately, the group I was meeting was super lively (read a little loud) and I was able to easily find them once I arrived. We began our hike and were slow and steady in our pace. Once the sun came up the trail took on a different energy even though it still wasn’t sunny but foggy and misty. What I liked about this hike was that it was a steady elevation gain the entire trail. One thing to be aware of is that towards the end of the hike there are a few points where you do have to scramble. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado has 4 national parks with the most well known is Rocky Mountain National Park. There are a few reasons why this is the case. Rocky Mountain National Park is the most accessible of the four parks and is about an hour and half drive from Denver depending on the traffic. One thing to know is that the summer season is the high season and to plan accordingly. It does cost to visit the park and depends on the number of passengers and size of your vehicle. 

The Park has stunning views, numerous other hikes that you can enjoy and wildlife such as elk, deer, bears, moose and more. Don’t try to get close to any of the wildlife (your hiking safety is important). One of my favorite activities during a day trip to the park is to visit the Alpine Visitor Center and walk up Huffers Hill, one of the most beautiful points in the park. I love how quiet it is at the top of the hill as you enjoy what feels like endless views of the entire park. There are several park and hike points that you can enjoy before arriving at the Alpine Center. One thing to be aware of is that Trail Ridge Road closes typically in early October due to snow accumulation and won’t reopen until late spring.

Visitors can also camp in the park and should reserve their camping spots early due to the popularity of the park.

Are You Staying in Estes Park?

One of the mistakes that I made when planning this trip was driving so early in the morning to get to the trailhead. While many people are ok with that, I’m not a morning person and would have preferred to spend the night at Estes Park and then meet my friends on the trail after a 15 or 20 minute drive into the park versus an hour and half from Denver. 

There are a number of nice places that you can stay in Estes Park, a small mountain town at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Stanley Hotel being the most notable place because of the movie The Shining-it’s also haunted so I prefer to stay somewhere else. The YMCA of the Rockies has affordable accommodation on a beautiful facility but it’s not luxury accommodation. 

I love that Estes Park has a river walk, cute little stores and even an Aerial Tramway that I still haven’t checked out even though I’ve visited more times than I can count. There are stables with horseback riding, activities that you can enjoy on Lake Estes if you’re up for activities on the lake. 

Sky Pond Trail

Is a magical experience. It shouldn’t just be a day trip but a whole experience of enjoying Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park. Each time I go on a hike I’m not sure what to expect. Sky Pond Trail exceeded my expectations and I’m so excited to explore it again sometime soon.

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Pinnable image with a sunset photo of sky pond trail and title text overlay