Plan your visit to this natural rock formation above a pristine mountain lake.
Colorado has many hidden treasures up in the mountains, one of them is the rocky spire known as the Sharkstooth. Located high up in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) the peak is part of a group of pinnacles of the La Plata Mountains known as the Cathedral Spires. The Cathedral Spires are located just to the east of the Continental Divide, in the Glacier Gorge area.
Sharkstooth gets its name from the very close resemblance its shape has to a row of rough shark’s teeth. Its very distinguishable shape makes it unique from the other peaks in RMNP and the rock formation offers incredible views from its summit. Fun fact: the Sharkstooth is considered “low” height peak here in Colorado, while our many 13ers and 14ers but would be considered quite high in most other U.S. states.
This rocky crag is the highest of the free-standing Cathedral spires standing at 12,630 feet and is known well by rock climbers for the unique summit experience in the middle of RMNP. The Sharkstooth is one of just a few peaks in RMNP that are officially named yet have no direct walk-up route.
The Sharkstooth peak rests just above the alpine lake known as Sky Pond. Sky Pond is a place of alpine perfection, crystal clear water at 11,900 feet that makes the hike up to it worth every step. Those lucky enough to catch a sunset or sunrise at Sky Pond are up for quite a treat with the magnificent views and the accomplishment of having made it up there.
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To hike directly to Sky Pond, one must start at the Glacier Gorge trailhead which is off of Bear Lake Road, about eight miles after the turnoff from Highway 36. Bear Lake road is a popular destination, expect some traffic and parking wait during the tourist season. RMNP does offer some shuttle service so you can park farther down in the park and catch a ride up to the different trailheads.
The Sky Pond Trail will take you past Alberta Falls, The Lock, and Timberline Falls, as well as Glass Lake. Once at Sky Pond, the views of Sharkstooth are fantastic; it's a great place to pit stop if you are not looking to ascend the spires. There's said to be great fishing here in the late summer as well as plentiful photographic opportunities of wildlife, waterfalls, and wildflowers on the way up. It is a great destination for a day trip! The trail follows the Glacier Gorge Trail, a very popular route in the summer. Glacier Gorge Trailhead is very well-used and regarded as a difficult hike, so be prepared for a lot of foot traffic and bring plenty of water and supplies for yourself.
This is not a quick hike and not one you want to embark on unprepared. The Sky Pond hike will be about 10 miles round trip, gains over 1,600 feet in elevation, and will take several hours. There's backcountry camping available in RMNP if you want to make it an overnight adventure. Backcountry camping permits will be needed, check with the park website to get all the info you need before you plan your visit.
As always, anytime you head up into RMNP plan ahead for your trip. Be ready for a range of weather conditions, including sudden changes. It is common to experience large changes in temperature, strong winds, heavy rains, sudden storms, as well a lot of people which means heavy foot and car traffic in certain places. Check ahead for weather conditions, road delays, tail closures, know your route before you go, and take a map.
Sunscreen, appropriate clothing, outerwear, and extra layers, along with water and food are essential, again being prepared and hiking responsibly are a must.
RMNP has trails and experiences for all levels, so there is something for everyone there, from rock climbing spires to a moderate day hike, showcasing the natural beauty of Colorado.
Where in RMNP is your favorite hike or rock-climbing spot? Have our readers been up to the Sharkstooth or the other Cathedral Spires? Share your best routes and summer hiking tips with us in the comments below!