It is so tempting, but the warning is advisable. Newly frozen waterfalls inexplicably beg to be danced under – the glassy, clear ice folds a la melted Ring Pop; a window stage to the water flowing below. But the ice is thin in pockets, so barring a desire to reenact Titanic, dancing sometimes takes place next to said ice sculpture rather than beneath it.
This past weekend I was in need of a little RMNP. While I usually have a dearth of hiking buddies, I surprisingly had two friends join me (stoked because I’m afraid of mountain cats this time of year…). We were graced with 50+ mph wind gusts, several frozen lakes, views that belong to the Cascades or Alps, a magnificent waterfall, and a hobbit dancer in the form of my buddy Chris. I’ve only been in this area of the park one other time, and that was to pop my snowshoeing cherry. This hike is pure stunning glory, especially this time of year. And the elevation gain isn’t significant, so a nice one to do if you’re out of 14er shape (*cough* me *cough*).
Trail Description: The trail is in Rocky Mountain National Park. It begins at the Glacier Gorge TH off Bear Lake Road and ultimately ends at Sky Pond. From the TH, you’ll follow signs to Loch Vail, and after you reach Loch Vail, you’ll follow signs to Sky Pond. Round Trip length is eight miles. Elevation gain is easy to moderate at about 1500 feet total.
Tips: There is water along a lot of the trail, so if you’re a filter or iodine hiker, you don’t have to haul a lot unless the season has low water flow or its totally frozen. Tree cover along the trail is a mix of shade and open space. The trail itself is really wide for the majority of the hike. RMNP has done a good job with maintaining it – even building retention walls, and a lot of stairs. Once you get beyond Timberline Falls, the trail becomes less groomed and is more of a scramble than the previous sections. If you’re hiking during late fall bring micro-spikes (NOT Yak Trax – even Yak Pro’s were sliding on the new ice).
The Glacier Gorge TH also meets up with other trails that will lead you to Andrew’s Glacier, Sharkstooth, Mills Lake, Black lake, and Lake Haiyaha. I guess what I’m saying is this is a fantastic trailhead to get to a wide variety of destinations (NOTE: due to the afore mentioned fantastic-ness and the moderate elevation gain, the parking lot can be packed if you don’t get there super early in the AM).