With the sunrise at 5:30am, we left Boulder in a borrowed ca at 4:45am to try and catch part of the morning glow over the mountains. The drive to the park was remarkably beautiful and peaceful. Nobody was manning the park gate at this early hour, and we drove straight through into the park without having to pay entrance fee (saving 20 bucks). Towards the Glaciar Gorge parking lot, we saw three deer just chilling on the side of the road grazing and looking relatively unfazed as we snapped some photos of them. Seeing wildlife in abundance is one of the advantages of going early in the morning, and we were glad to have made it there when we did.
After parking the car, we started the hike towards Sky Pond, located 8km away which offered a stunning view over snow covered mountains. We climbed up the incredibly well maintained trail past Alberta Falls towards the Loch. Along the way, we went upwards which offered a great view over the expansive forests and stopped to take some pictures of the Loch. Later in the day, we saw many people fishing there, but at this early hour, we had this lake for ourselves as we gazed over the mountains. Soon, we reached the snow covering of the mountains, and strapped on our semi-useful USD $5 crampons we bought at McGuckin Hardware the day before. We trekked up the mountain and climbed up the Timberline Falls. Just past it, we saw Lake of Glass and then continued onto Sky Pond.
At Sky Pond, we were offered an incredible view of the snow covered mountains right in front of us, Shark’s Tooth mountains to our right, some greenery to our left, and the valley behind us. It was truly a 360 degree paradise. As we munched on some carrots, Laurent went back to get some of the gluten free cake we got from our Couchsurf host to complement our meal, and noticed a furry marmot drooling all over Emily’s backpack. Remarkably, it did not raid the sandwiches that were inside backpack which had an open zipper, but instead seemed to be far more interested in the strap. In exchange for a carrot, it posed for us as we gave it a mini photoshoot, before scampering away. We decided we were satisfied of our view after about thirty minutes and made our way down the snowy mountain, mostly slipping down the snow. Note to ourselves: invest in crampons.
Instead of coming back the same way we came, we turned off towards Lake Haiyaha. We noticed that the park was getting a lot busier, and passed many school groups and children making their way across the park. At Lake Haiyaha, we were also treated a stunning view over the blue waters and snowy mountains, and then descended downwards away from the snow towards Bear Lake. Around this lake, we experienced first hand that the park is truly one of the most visited in the United States. However, we understood why, because the park offers stunning views and a chance to experience snow late into June, which was excellent. As a last benefit of starting early, we were able to complete our 17km hike just minutes before the clouds that had overtaken the blue morning skies started raining. Win!
We took the scenic route to get back to Boulder, and passed by a town called Nederland, much to Laurent’s delight. We munched on some ribs (after failing to get some in Texas) there before continuing back to the city.