Round-Trip Length: 6.5 miles
Start-End Elevation: 10,332′ – 11,987′ (12,018′ max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,655′ net elevation gain (+1,815′ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Trailhead Location: .1 mile north of exit #218 from I-70. It’s located between Bakerville, CO and the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Herman Lake lies in the open tundra of a capacious valley just below the Continental Divide. The Herman Gulch Trail, which is part of the greater Continental Divide Trail, traces Herman Gulch through luxuriant meadows to treeline, where it branches off on a well-defined path to Herman Lake. Visitors will enjoy good trail conditions, remarkable alpine landscapes, and an excellent chance to see bighorn sheep and mountain goat in their natural habitat.
The Herman Gulch Trail begins on a mild grade through fir and aspen to the Watrous Gulch Trail split and bears north (.17 miles : 10,376′). It steepens considerably on a wide, rocky track to Herman Gulch, where it bends northwest and moderates along the creek and string of slender glades (.5 miles : 10,690′). The trail rises steadily beside the creek and bursts into a long, wide meadow in the lower gulch (1.05 miles : 10,940′).
The grade relaxes up a widening valley with emerging views of the Continental Divide between Pettingell Peak(13,553′) and Hagar Mountain (13,195′). Look for moose along the willow-lined creek below, and deer and elk on the broad slopes of Mount Bethel (12,705′) to the south. The trail moves quickly up-valley with a picturesque backdrop, gaining only 300′ between the first and second mile (2.0 miles : 11,288′).
At 2.45 miles (11,464′) it edges back into a healthy spruce forest and climbs steeply above the gulch, passing through treeline just before reaching the Jones Pass Trail split (2.85 miles : 11,838′). Follow signs west toward Herman Lake. The Herman Lake Trail climbs steadily into a mesmerizing alpine landscape, easing across a flat in the open tundra to the edge of Herman Lake (3.25 miles : 11,987′).
Herman Lake is framed by the steep east wall of Pettingell Peak, but is free of major obstacles and easily circumnavigated. The main trail continues past the lake, eventually fading in the tundra on an informal run up to the Divide. Climb a knoll over the lake’s east shore for sensational panoramas across the basin and expansive upper valley, and scan the valley walls for bighorn sheep and mountain goat that inhabit this area.