Round-Trip Length: 13 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,005′ – 11,684′
Elevation Change: +2,679 net elevation gain
Skill Level: Moderate to Strenuous
Trailhead Location: King Lake is accessed from the Hessie Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, Colorado. From downtown Nederland, go south on Highway 72 for .5 miles to County Road 130 and make a right. You will see a sign for Eldora Ski Resort at this junction. Continue on Highway 130 through the town of Eldora, just past which it becomes a dirt road (4 miles). 2WD drive conditions end 4.8 miles from the Highway 72 turnoff. 4WD vehicles may veer left at this demarcation and continue another .5 miles to the trailhead. Others will have to park at one of the limited roadside spaces and walk the 4WD road to the Hessie Trailhead or take the free shuttle offered on weekends from the Nederland Park n Ride to the trailhead.
I had decided to get a long hike in this weekend to enjoy the Fall weather. My plan was to get up at 5:30am and be on the road by 6:00am to Nederland and the Hessie Trailhead near Eldora. I was checking the weather the night before however and it looked like there might be some rain in the morning and then clearing off around noon and then a beautiful afternoon. I set my alarm for 5:30am anyway and thought I would check the weather in the morning. I always prefer to get an early start.
The alarm went off at 5:30am and I checked the weather and it was, indeed, supposed to rain in the earlier hours of the morning and then clear up. I went back to sleep and got up around 7am. It showed it was raining in Nederland. I got up and had a leisurely breakfast, lounged around and finally hit the road a little before 10am. The downside of leaving late was that there would be no parking at the trailhead. However, a free shuttle is offered from the Park-n-Ride in Nederland to the trailhead so I ended up taking that which actually worked out fairly well. I just had to remember to be back at the trailhead pickup at the end of the day by 6pm (the time of the last shuttle back into town) or otherwise it would be a long walk back to the car!
I started out on the trail at about 11:35am at a pretty good pace. At 1.35 miles I came to the Devils Thumb Bypass split. The Devils Thumb trail heads up towards Lost Lake, Woodland Lake, and King Lake. The Devils Thumb Bypass trail heads up to Jasper Lake, Devils Thumb Lake, and Devils Thumb Pass. I look a left and headed towards King Lake.
At 1.6 miles I came to the Lost Lake split. We had hiked up to this lake only a couple of weeks ago. I continued straight towards King Lake.
At 1.8 miles the trail split again. I headed left on the King Lake trail.
Before making my left, I took a shot looking up the valley.
Although I didn’t seem to take a lot of photos on the way up, I did stop for a couple. This view was taken about 1 hour 20 minutes up the trail from the previous picture. There was a light dusting of fresh snow on the peak.
Another 15 minutes or so up the trail, I took this shot looking in the other direction.
At 5.5 miles, after climbing a steep ridge, I came to the split off for Bob & Betty Lakes. I wish I would have had more time to take the 0.5 mile spur up to these two lakes as well. My thought usually is “I’m already this far, what’s another 0.5 miles”. Although I was pretty beat as it was when I got back to the car without adding another 1 mile round trip to my hike and additional elevation gain. I continued up towards King Lake.
At 5.9 miles I reached King Lake at an elevation of 11,430′. It was a little after 2pm.
I took a short lunch break. I remembered to take my signature hiking boots picture which I always try to do at every hike destination.
As I was sitting eating my lunch, I was looking up in the direction of the Continental Divide and zoomed in and saw a couple of guys standing up there.
I hadn’t initially planned to hike up there. But the “I’m already this far….” kicked in and I always do like to see what’s on the other side. And, I could get some shots of King Lake looking down on it. It was only another 0.35 miles up to the ridge and another 227′ feet of elevation gain so up I went!
I stopped partway up to take some shots of King Lake.
At the top of the ridge was the Continental Divide Trail. I had views to the southwest of the Winter Park Ski Area.
A view to the south.
I took some more shots of King Lake from the top of the Continental Divide before heading down.
I made it back down to King Lake and continued on down. A short distance from King Lake I took a little spur to view a small tarn with a nice backdrop.
Now for the long haul back down the trail. It was about 3pm. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the last shuttle at 6pm. I knew I had plenty of time, but I kept up a good pace on the way down anyway. I did stop to take a few pictures of some of the aspens along the trail. Fall is definitely in the air.
The only reflection photos I was able to take today were in a puddle close to the bottom so I took the opportunity to take a photo.
I made it back to the shuttle pickup spot at about 5:30pm – a half an hour to spare before the last shuttle! It was a great hike but I certainly was pretty tired and glad to take a seat in the shuttle to head back to my car.