The Loch, Timberline Falls, and Sky Pond

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.

The Loch is one of the best hikes in the Park for its distance. The hike passes through lovely and varied terrain and leads to a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by high cliffs. It is a magical place.

The hike begins at Glacier Gorge trailhead, which has a tiny parking lot; it isn't likely that you'll be able to find a space there. Instead, park in the lot halfway up Bear Lake Road (on the right) and catch the bus.

The hike begins with a bridge across a creek and heads gently upward through a lovely forest of mixed aspen and pine with a few small creeks. About .6 mile up the trail, it reaches Glacier Creek and soon comes to Alberta Falls. Be careful at the edge of the drop-off, since many feet have polished the rocks until they are slick.
Above Alberta Falls, the trail rises to a more arid area and passes a trail junction to Longs Peak via Boulder Brook. Then the trail passes along a ridge covered by a barren rock slide, a good place to look and listen for pikas. There is a curve to the right and slightly downhill to another trail junction; turn right on the trail to The Loch, heading up the valley just north of Thatchtop. Half a mile up from the junction are a few switchbacks, and soon after the top of them you are at The Loch.
The Loch sits in a dramatic alpine setting. You can see Powell Peak on the left, Taylor Peak on the right, Taylor Glacier providing a climbing route to the Continental Divide. Timberline Falls can be seen at the center of the picture, and the top of Sharkstooth is visible above the ridge at right. Sometimes fog or low clouds add to the ambience. If you still have energy, the hike to Timberline Falls and Sky Pond is well worth doing. The trail follows Icy Brook, home to the water loving and photogenic Parry Primrose.
Half a mile above The Loch, the trail forks, with the right branch going to the Andrews Glacier (also a worthy hike) and the left branch going to Timberline Falls and Sky Pond. Timberline Falls is visible from the junction and inspires you to hike up to it. Timberline Falls gets my vote as the most beautiful falls in the Park. It is about 50 feet tall, with delicate structure of subsidiary falls cascading onto rocks and Parry Primrose clinging to the cracks.
The route leads to the right of the falls, up rocks that are wet from the spray. Glass Lake is just above the falls, and Sky Pond is only a little higher. Sky Pond is a good-sized alpine lake, well above timberline, and often is surrounded by snow.
To the north of Sky Pond are dramatic views of several pinnacles, including the dramatic Sharkstooth. Few hikes can encompass so much scenery in only a few miles.

Time going up: 1:45 to The Loch. Time to return: 1:00. Water consumed: 1/2 quart per adult. The Loch is often cool, especially in early season; bring a jacket.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks