Is it possible to hike a trail too many times?
In some cases, the answer to that question might be ‘yes.’
When the hike in question is Sky Pond, though, and it’s wintertime, I would argue that the answer is very clearly ‘no.’
Back in December 2020, Pat and I hiked to Sky Pond with our friends. It was the second time we’d completed this hike but our first winter attempt, and it far exceeded our expectations. Sky Pond is a pretty destination in the summer but, because it’s so overhyped, I actually ended up being a little disappointed. Winter at Sky Pond, however, was amazing. It was so amazing that Pat and I have decided to make this hike an annual winter tradition.
So, in February 2022, we found ourselves at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, bundled up and trying to convince ourselves to step out of the car into the wind.
Since I’ve written about this hike before – twice – I’m not really going to say much about it now. Details on the trail in summer conditions can be found in this post. Details on the hike in winter can be found here. Everything was pretty much the same this time around, except that there was more snow on the trail (we wore snowshoes almost the entire hike) and it was, if possible, even more beautiful this winter than it was last winter. My main motivation for writing this post is really just to share the photos.
So without further ado: a winter 2022 hike to Sky Pond.
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: the Sky Pond trail leaves from Glacier Gorge trailhead along Bear Lake Road; parking fills before dawn in the summer and by 8:00am in the winter. You can also start from Bear Lake, which has more parking (but also fills by 7:00am in the summer and 9:00am in the winter) – add 0.2 miles (0.3 km) roundtrip to all distances from there
- Fees and passes: there is a $25/car daily or $35/car weekly entrance fee to RMNP; America the Beautiful passes are accepted. From May-October 2022 you will also need to purchase a timed entry permit in advance to access this trailhead
- Hiking: roundtrip distance is 7.8 miles (12.6 km) via the winter route or 9.8 miles (15.8 km) via the summer route with about 1750 feet (535 m) of elevation gain
- Where to stay: there are 5 campgrounds in the park (only 1 is open in winter) and dozens of lodging options just outside in Estes Park; while backpacking (permit required) is also an option for many parts of the park, there is only 1 backcountry site along this trail and the permit is extremely competitive
- Other: I really can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is to properly pack and prepare for this hike in the winter. If anything happens, you’re a long way back in the mountains with no phone service and unpredictable winter weather. At minimum, you’ll need food and water, lots of layers (I was wearing 3 on top and 2 on bottom), hat, gloves, warm socks, neck gaiter, microspikes and snowshoes, waterproof winter boots, gaiters, and the Ten Essentials
- For additional information on winter hiking safety, visit this post