south mesa trail hike with ponderosa pines in foreground and flatirons mountains in background near boulder colorado

Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon Creek

The Mesa Trail south of Boulder, Colorado, rambles across wild open country at the base of the iconic Flatirons. Hike a 4.1 mile loop or an 8.4 mile out-and-back option through pine woods, verdant creek draws, and flowering meadows. Explore the full Mesa Trail profile for this southern segment of one of our favorite dog-friendly hikes near Denver.

Trail Snapshot: Mesa Trail South

south mesa trailhead near boulder

Parking & Trailhead Information for the South Mesa Trailhead

Access to South Mesa is from the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go south/west onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Here, take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you’ll find the South Mesa Trailhead on your right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

Alternatively, you can park at NCAR and hike south to the South Mesa Trailhead. If you want to hike this one-way without a return, you can park a car at NCAR or the South Mesa Trailhead. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Trailhead is located about 40 minutes North of Denver. From Denver, follow U.S. Route 36 to Boulder. Take the exit for Table Mesa Drive and follow it west. It will wind through a neighborhood to the end as it winds through the neighborhood and past Bear Creek Elementary School. The road will turn into the Drive for NCAR which winds up and around to a large parking area at the lab.

south boulder creek at south mesa trailhead flowing under bridge and tunnel of willow trees

Waypoints and Hike Options for the South Mesa Hike

  • South Mesa Trailhead to NCAR Trailhead 4.7 Miles - One-Way
  • South Mesa Trailhead to Bear Canyon Creek and Back - 8.4 Miles
  • South Mesa to Bluestem Loop 4.1 Miles - One-Way
  • South Mesa to Chautauqua Park 6.75 Miles - One-Way

The Hike: Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon Creek

From the South Mesa Trailhead just East of Eldorado Springs, this hike begins along the banks of Boulder Creek (pictured above). Cross the bridge and pause to take in the willow trees bending over the creek and creating a tunnel of green above the silver waters. You'll cross another footbridge and emerge onto a broad trail. Soon, you'll come to the first trail junction with the Towhee and Homestead Trails. The Towhee cuts off a bit of distance and will take you back to the Mesa Trail, or just keep following the signs for the Mesa Trail as it wraps around to the west. Either way, the trails will both merge back onto the main Mesa Trail.

The Homestead trail heads west to Shadow Canyon and takes hikers up toward South Boulder and Bear Peaks. Both are more challenging hikes and provide incredible views out to the plains and west to snowcapped peaks.

trail signs for mesa trail

This area of the South Mesa has a lot of side trails and options, so the most important thing to keep in mind is that the Mesa Trail, over its course runs north/south all the way up to Chautauqua Park.

Before you hike, be sure to review the map to get a feel for the area. The trails weave round, so it's easy to just meander around and take in the meadows and surrounding peaks. The trails are all well-marked, so when in doubt, just look for signs indicating the Mesa Trail and continue hiking north (with the foothills on your left). There are a lot of options for shorter hikes, but we will detail the journey up the Bear Creek Canyon and back.

view from mesa trail of sunlit eldorado canyno during morning hike along mesa trail

Early on, you'll gain a great view down into the entrance to Eldorado Canyon. The morning light brings out the pink granite of this range of sharp and angular foothill rock.

The Mesa trail then heads west and up along a gentle slope, then bends north to run parallel with the eastern flanks of the Flatiron range. Along the foothills to the left, you'll see Devils Thumb and the summit of Bear Peak.

As the Mesa Trail continues north, open sky gives way to the shade and scents of ponderosa pine trees then opens back to meadows again. In the Spring, wildflowers push up through the meadow grasses and unique fuana thrives in the unique zone where the foothills of the Front range meet the meadows. It feels humind in verdant creeks draws and dry when you emerge back onto the open Mesa.

Bear Peak in background and meadow in foreground along mesa trail near boulder colorado

If you would like to shorten your hike and make this into a loop hike, at around mile 2, you can take the Bluestem Trail back toward the trailhead. Otherwise, continue north on the Mesa Trail.

This is one of our favorite dog-friendly hikes near Boulder, and it's quite popular with dog owners on the weekends. In fact, just south of the intersection with the Bluestem, just shy of mile 2, there is a spring you'll find a small spring. It's a great place for your pup to get a drink to refuel for the rest of the hike. These trails also allow you to hike with your dog off-leash, if you've taken the Voice and Sight class and have a current Voice and Sight tag issued by Boulder county. You can get more info on this at the Boulder County Open Space site.

south mesa trail winding through meadow and pines at the base of bear peak

The trail will go up and down through several draws, then eventually cross Bear Creek. Here you are about a mile from the NCAR parking lot. If you've parked a car at NCAR, you can then shuttle back for your other vehicle, making this a 4.7 mile hike.

Bear Creek is the turn around point for this trail profile, making it an 8.4 mile out-and-back journey. However, if you want to add a cave to your adventure, continue north, then west for about 1.2 miles following the signs to Mallory Cave. If you have your dog with you, I would not recommend this extra jaunt as the terrain is rocky and steep.

south mesa trail hike with ponderosa pines in foreground and flatirons mountains in background near boulder colorado

Return south on the Mesa Trail and take the Bluestem Trail to cut off a bit of extra hiking.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Mesa Trail

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pikes peak in distance from fox run park with evergreen trees in foreground

Fallen Timbers Loop Hike at Fox Run Park

The Fallen Timbers Loop is an easy, 2-mile hike near Colorado Springs with great views of Pikes Peak. It makes for a great family hike because of the shade of the ponderosa pines and the nearby playground at this hike in Fox Run Regional Park. Explore the full hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and tips.

Trail Snapshot: Fallen Timbers Loop Hike

parking area near lake with aspen tree along trail at fox run park near colorado springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fallen Timbers Loop at Fox Run

From Denver, take interstate 25 South and take exit 158 onto Baptist Road (left). Drive East for 2.3 miles and turn right onto Tari Drive. Proceed for about 300 feet, then take a left onto Becky Drive. Go about 1/2 mile and turn left onto Stella Drive. Drive about another 1/2 mile and the entrance to Fox Run park will be on your left. Drive around the loop to the parking area by the pond. This trailhead parking area has a restroom just to the southwest of the parking lot.

The Hike: Fallen Timbers Loop

The trail for the Fallen Timbers loop hike begins on the northeast end of the parking lot. When facing the pond, this will be the wide trail behind you, across the drive, and to the left. This little connector trail will soon come to a junction with the loop trail. I recommend hiking this counter-clockwise, so take a right onto the Fallen Timbers trail to begin the loop.

green lake with changing aspens at fox run park near colorado springs at beginning of the fallen timbers loop hike

The trail works its way through the dappled shade of ponderosa pines and bends to the right (east). You'll encounter a couple trail junctions. At the junctions, stay on the Fallen Timbers trail (bearing right). Just shy of 1 mile into the trail, you'll arrive at the Roller Coaster Road parking area for Fox Run. The trail will continue north past this trailhead. However, there is a restsroom here at the trailhead that is open April through October.

The trail continues north, crossing a footbridge, then begins to bend West (left). Orange blaze markers should mark out the trail.

swan lake frozen over with pines and aspen trees at fox run park near colorado springs fallen timbers loop hike

Along this entire trail, you'll find interpretive signs explaining the impact of the pine beetle and tree bores on the ecosystems of Colorado, and about the local fauna in this area north of Colorado Springs. This makes for a great discussions with the kids about the environment and the impact that even small creatures and lightning can have on forests.

The trail bends South, opening up to great views of Pikes Peak. You'll pass a small trail junction that leads right (west) out to the road. Continue past this and eventually you'll come to a decision to either go left (east) finish this 2-mile loop or bear right and extend your hike to make it a longer 2.5 to 3 mile hike. Consult the Fox Run Trail Map, and follow the wester and southern trails of your choice. However, this profile will follow the rest of the 2-mile loop.

Going right will lead into a central parking area. The trail goes east, cutting through the middle of this circle road and then splits. At the split, take a right to begin the approx. 1/4 mile segment back to the parking area and trailhead.

tshirt in blue midnight heather color with flatirons and words wear authentic colorado threads shop our store overlay text on image

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Fallen Timbers Loop

  • A Great Wedding Spot: I've attended two weddings at Fox Run. It's a beautiful and inexpensive option to host a wedding at the Wedding Gazebo. The gazebo can be reserved through the El Paso County reservation site.
  • Taking Photos: The best time to get a photo of Pikes Peak will be in the early morning hours as the sun is rising over the plains. Photographers can capture some dramatic shots of the mountain as its skirts will still be in darkness and the peak bathed in soft light.
  • Easy but Elevation: This is an easy hike, but if you are traveling to Colorado Springs from lower elevations, the 7300' starting elevation at Fox Run park may make this trail a challenge. if that's the case, take your time and oxygenate by drinking plenty of water.
  • Trail Map: Trail Map for Fox Run Park
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Dave Jacquin , Mariana Wagner , and Nate Zoch for sharing such an amazing photographs of this hike to at Ute Valley Park.
  • After the Hike: Serranos Coffee in Monument

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view to pikes peak from eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

Eagles View Hike in Reynolds Park

The Eagles View Loop hike in Reynolds Park is a 4-mile, moderate, loop trail to a scenic outlook. The trail ascends through meadows and ponderosa pine forest to views of Pikes Peak and the sawtooth spires and peaks of the Rampart Range. Explore the full Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Conifer, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop

reynolds park trailhead in winter near conifer colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Reynolds Park

I really enjoy the drive into Reynolds Park, particularly for the last stretch descending to the trailhead. The trailhead is about 50 minutes from downtown Denver. From Denver, take 285 South to Conifer, Colorado taking the Kennedy Gulch exit. At the exit, you'll take a left onto Kennedy Gulch Road, which will go under the 285 overpass. At the next stop sign, you'll see a red barn in front of you and an entrance to 285 on your right. Here, you'll take a left onto Foxton Road. This is where that beautiful stretch of road begins. Drive for about 5 miles and the Reynolds Park parking area will be on your right. The parking area can hold about 45 vehicles. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and grills at the trailhead.

The Hike: Eagles View Loop at Reynolds Park

view toward eastern foothills along eagle view loop at eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

This loop hike gives hikers the most extensive exploration of the larger West side of Reynolds park. Begin by taking the main trail found on the south end of the parking lot (near the restrooms). It's wider than the other trails. At the first junction, take a right onto the Elkhorn Trail. This will lead through a mix of wooded areas and meadow.

trail for eagles view loop with signs and snow on ground at reynolds park colorado

Hikers will travel about 0.3 mile on this segment of the Elkhorn Trail until it intersects with the Ravens Roost Trail. Here, take the Ravens Roost trail which is more steep, ascending for 0.6 of a mile up to the next junction with the Eagles View Trail. Both the Ravens Roost and Eagles View trails are Hiker and Equestrian Only (no bikes, but dogs are allowed). You'll travel through stands of ponderosa pine. Look for Clarks Nutcracker and Stellar Jays as you hike. At the junction, the Eagles View Trail will bear to the right (pictured below).

eagles view trail signs at reynolds park near conifer winter hike
The trail will eventually open up to panoramic views, with the Eagles View scenic viewpoint being the best.

At the viewpoint, there are expansive views of the Rampart Range, and pikes Peak to the South. The Rampart Range is a low mountain range that stretches from south of Denver to Colorado Springs. The range is characterized by scraggy granite peaks jutting out of green forested foothills. At sunrise the granite rock formations light up orange and pink, and look like a series of castles or the rampart wall of a giant ancient fortress. My favorite view of the Rampart Range is from the Devils Head trail and from the Fire Lookout Tower up on Devils Head. It's the tallest peak in the range with an elevation of 9632 feet.

view from the eagles view scenic viewpoint along eagles view loop hike at reynolds park hike near Conifer Colorado

eagle view outlook in reynolds park near conifer colorado with views toward cathedral spires and pikes peak in the south with pine trees in the foreground

From the scenic point at Eagles View, the trail begins to descend and wind its way north. Pause on this segment to take in the views into the valley below and out to the distant plains in the East.

dirt trail on east side of Eagles view trail in Reynolds Park near Conifer Colorado

Eventually, the trail will come to another juncture with the Ravens Roost (south segment) and the Oxen Draw Trail. Both are options back to the Trailhead. Taking the Ravens Roost trail makes for a longer 4.4 miles total. Taking the Oxen Draw trail will make your total trip around 4 miles.

snowy trail junction of oxen draw and ravens roost trail with signage alongside trail at reynolds park near conifer colorado

When I hikes this in the Winter, the Oxen Draw Trail got quite icy from a recent thaw and freeze. I'm assuming this is pretty normal for this shaded area of the park during the cold months. I wish I had brought my traction devices because the trail had some steep and sketchy, ice-coated segments. I had my trekking poles, and they helped, but it was difficult to navigate.

icy trail along oxen draw trail at reynolds park near conifer colorado

You may notice that I've marked this as a dog-friendly hike. Most of the year that's true, but these icy segments of the Oxen Draw Trail in the Winter may not be the best for your best friend. Overall, though this hike has proven to be one of the lesser traveled trails near Denver--especially on a weekday. Be sure to watch the video below to get a feel for the hike.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking at Reynolds Park in Jefferson County

  • Trekking Poles and Traction: If you are hiking in the Winter or Spring, the this trail (as you can see from the photos above) can get icy and muddy. Trekking Poles and Traction Devices are recommended for these seasons. I'm a huge fan of trekking poles because they take so much impact off the knees when hiking and backpacking, and they allow us to navigate more demanding terrain. Check out Trekking Pole options at REI.
  • Camping: There are 5 tent camping areas on the East end of Reynolds Park that require only a short hike in and make for a good way to introduce your kids or family to a weekend camping trip without having to travel far from Denver. You can reserve a campsite at the Idylease Campground at the Jefferson County Parks Reservations Page. The campground is just a 1/2 mile hike in and has restrooms--but no drinking water--available at the site.
  • Trail Map: Reynolds Park in Jefferson County Park Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Scooters Smokehouse BBQ

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jasper lake in colorado clouds against blue sky at a lake at the foot of the mount framed by evergreens

Jasper Lake Hike in Indian Peaks

Jasper Lake requires a 5.5-mile (one-way) hike into the mountainous, wildflower-laden Indian Peaks Wilderness. Just 40 minutes outside of Boulder Colorado and about 1hr 15 minutes from Denver, the trail to Jasper Lake gets its start at the Hessie Trailhead. Travel an additional mile beyond Jasper to see Devils Thumb, a striking rock formation that looms above Devil's Thumb Lake. Explore the full Jasper Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

JASPER LAKE TRAIL SNAPSHOT

Parking & Trailhead for Jasper Lake Hike

The parking at Hessie Trailhead is limited, so be sure to take some time to review these details before departing for your hike to Jasper Lake. There is a free shuttle that runs from Nederland every 15-20 minutes on weekends during the Summer months and on some holidays. For full details on the Hessie Trailhead Shuttle, please visit the Boulder County page for the Hessie Trailhead shuttle service. This shuttle departs from the RTD Park-n-Ride in Nederland, CO.

Directions to Hessie Trailhead

At the roundabout in Nederland, Colorado, drive south onto CO-119/South Bridge St. Take a right onto Eldora Road which will take you to Elodora Colorado. The road continues through Eldora, and changes to Eldorado Road. It proceeds out of town and changes its name to Hessie Road. About 3/4 of a mile outside of Eldora, the road will split, 4th of July Road goes to the right, and Hessie will turn to the left. The 2WD Hessie Trailhead Parking area is at this split. Do not park alongside the road, as you will likely be fined. If the parking area is full, then go back to Nederland for the shuttle (weekends and holidays). There is parking for 4WD vehicles further up the dirt road and closer to the beginning of the official trail. It's important to know that rains can quickly flood this segment of Hessie Road between the 2WD and 4WD trailheads.

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The Hike: Jasper Lake Trail

Most hikers will begin the hike up to Jasper lake at the Hessie 2WD parking area. This adds about 1 mile to the total hike distance, making this an 11-mile hike (round-trip). It's also where the shuttle drops off hikers. At the 2WD parking area, pick up the trail that runs along the north side of the 4WD dirt road. The trail will take you within view of a small pond. Moose frequent the wetlands on this segment of the trail, so be alert--you may get a chance to snap some photos of them.

old four wheel drive road and trail with sign marking former town site of Hessie Colorado

At approximately 1/2 mile from the shuttle drop, a sign marks the site of the old mining town of Hessie, Colorado. The trail then crosses a footbridge over Middle Boulder Creek. Soon after the bridge, you'll find the official trailhead signage. Because this is a longer hike into demanding terrain, we recommend Trails Illustrated: Indian Peaks Wilderness map for this hike.

After crossing the bridge near the trailhead, the trail climbs the mountainside via an old mining road. After 1/4 mile, the forest gives way to a meadow and opens up to panoramic views of the peaks of Indian Peaks. At the first trail intersection, both trail options will take hikers to Jasper Lake, and both options are approximately the same length. The right-hand trail is called the "Devils Thumb Bypass trail" and was created for Spring and Early Summer hikers to help avoid the mud and pools of water created by early season snowmelt. However, the trail leading to the left, the Devils Thumb Trail, will be a more scenic choice.

Small waterfalls and cascades are spotted along the trail as it follows the course of Middle Boulder creek. Indian Peaks Wilderness is known for its brilliant wildflowers that bloom from early to mid-summer. If traveling on the the Devils Thumb (main trail) then you'll encounter a second intersection marked by signage pointing left to Lost Lake and King Lake, and right for Devils Thumb Lake, Jasper Lake, and Woodland Lake. Taking the right-hand trail continues alongside Middle Boulder Creek and leads up to Jasper Lake.

The next intersection will have a left-hand trail that leads to Woodland Lake and a right-bearing trail that leads to Devils Thumb and Jasper Lakes. This is where the bypass trail joins up to the main trail from the southeast. Now, the terrain becomes more demanding.

mountain peaks with late summer snow and cascading creek through high mountain meadow in indian peaks wilderness near jasper lake and devils thumb lake

About 1/2 mile before arriving at Jasper Lake, a trail sign will point the way northeast to Diamond Lake. However, Diamond Lake is best accessed via the 4th of July Trailhead. Be mindful of the sky when emerging from the forest into the open sections of high-country meadows and tundra. Thunderstorms, during in the Summer months, can come up quickly due to orographic lift, a phenomenon caused by the heated rock faces of our mountains thrusting moisture into the skies along the Front Range.

If the weather is looking good and you're up to adding two more miles and approximately 1hr to your hike, then continue up the trail to Devils Thumb Lake to gain views and get photos another alpine lake and the rock formation of Devils Thumb that protrudes from the ridgeline.

jasper lake in colorado clouds against blue sky at a lake at the foot of the mount framed by evergreens

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Jasper Lake

  • Camping: Camping is allowed by permit only and in designated spots. See the Indian Peaks Alliance page for details.
  • USFS Indian Peaks: Camping is allowed by permit only and in designated spots. See the Indian Peaks USFS Page page for details.
  • Trekking Poles: Because it's an 11-mile trek over rocky terrain, we recommend Trekking Poles.
  • Parking: Parking is very limited at the Hessie trailhead, so try to arrive before 7am to find a space. Review trailhead information above for seasonal weekend and holiday shuttle service from Nederland.
  • Trail Map: Jasper Lake near Nederland
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to The John and Belinda Bosleyfor sharing photographs of this hike to Jasper Lake
  • After the Hike: Train Cars Coffee

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above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge hike finder


snow and evergreen trees on mountainside against blue clouded sky with Devils Thumb rock formation and lake

Devils Thumb Lake

Devils Thumb Lake is located in Indian Peaks Wilderness north of Boulder Colorado and can be accessed via a 6.5-mile (one-way) steep and challenging hike. Wildflowers, alpine meadows, small waterfalls, and cascades all beckon those who have the stamina to explore these heights in the Front Range near Denver. Explore the full Devils Thumb Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Devils Thumb Lake Trail

Parking & Trailhead Information for Devil's Thumb Lake Hike

The parking at Hessie Trailhead is limited, so be sure to take some time to review these details before departing for your hike. Boulder County offers a shuttle that runs from Nederland every 15-20 minutes on weekends during the Summer months and on some holidays. For full details on the Hessie Trailhead Shuttle, please see the Boulder County page for the shuttle service. This shuttle departs from the RTD Park-n-Ride in Nederland.

Directions to Hessie Trailhead

At the roundabout in Nederland, Colorado, drive south onto CO-119/South Bridge St. Take a right onto Eldora Road which will take you to Elodora Colorado. The road continues through Eldora, and changes to Eldorado Road. It proceeds out of town and changes its name to Hessie Road. About 3/4 of a mile outside of Eldora, the road will split, 4th of July Road goes to the right, and Hessie will turn to the left. The 2WD Hessie Trailhead Parking area is at this split. Do not park alongside the road, as you will likely be fined. If the parking area is full, then go back to Nederland for the shuttle (weekends and holidays). There is parking for 4WD vehicles further up the dirt road and closer to the beginning of the official trail. It's important to know that rains can quickly flood this segment of Hessie Road.

The Hike: Devils Thumb Lake Trail

Most hikers will begin the hike up to Devils Thumb lake at the Hessie 2WD parking area. From here, pick up the trail that runs along the north side of the 4WD dirt road. The trail will run alongside a small pond, keeping to the right-side of the 4WD segment of Hessie Trailhead road until it arrives at the official trailhead. Moose frequent the wetlands on this segment of the trail, so be alert--you may get a chance to snap some photos of them. At approximately 1/2 mile from the shuttle drop, a sign marks the site of the old mining town of Hessie, Colorado. A bit further up, the trail will cross a footbridge over Middle Boulder Creek. Soon after the bridge, you'll find the official trailhead signage that provides a quick-reference map. Because this is a longer hike into demanding terrain, we recommend Trails Illustrated: Indian Peaks Wilderness map for this hike.

The Hike: Devil’s Thumb Lake Lake Trail

After crossing the bridge near the trailhead, the trail climbs the mountainside via an old mining road. After 1/4 mile, the forest gives way to a meadow and opens up to views breathtaking views of Rocky Mountain scenery. At the first intersection, both trails will lead to Devil's Thumb, and both options are approximately the same length. So, which one is best? The right-hand Devils Thumb Bypass trail was created for Spring and Early Summer hikers because the main Devil's Thumb segment can get thick with mud and drenched with water during the early snowmelt. Otherwise, the left-hand Devils Thumb Trail will be the most scenic.

waterfall cascade along trail up to Devils Thumb Lake

Small waterfalls and cascades are spotted along the trail as it makes its way along Middle Boulder creek. Indian Peaks is also famous for its wildflowers in the early and mid-summer. If you've taken the Devils Thumb (main trail) then you'll encounter a second intersection with signage that points left to Lost Lake and King Lake, and right for Devils Thumb Lake, Jasper Lake, and Woodland Lake. Taking the right-hand trail will lead up to Devils with more small waterfalls, cascades, and wildflowers. The next intersection will have a left-hand trail that leads to Woodland Lake and a right-bearing trail that leads to Devils Thumb and Jasper Lakes. This is where the bypass trail joins up to the main trail from the southeast. And here is where the terrain becomes much more steep and challenging.

wooden trail sign with evergreen trees and rock in background pointing direction to Devil's Thumb lake

About 1/2 mile before the side-trail for Jasper Lake, a trail sign will point the way northeast to Diamond Lake. However, Diamond Lake is best accessed via the 4th of July Trailhead. Jasper Lake is every bit as beautiful as Devils Thumb Lake and is worth stopping to take in the views. However, be mindful of the weather, especially during the Summer months when afternoon thunderstorms can explode onto the scene without much warning.

snow and evergreen trees on mountainside against blue clouded sky with Devils Thumb rock formation and lake

It's just 1 mile from Jasper Lake up to Devils Thumb Lake. The lake is named after the tower of rock prominent upon the ridge above its waters. The Thumb can be seen from many miles away when driving Hwy 40 near Winter Park, Colorado.

Devils Thumb Rock formation from ridgeline looking down on devils thumb lake colorado

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Devils Thumb Lake Trail

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lost lake near nederland colorado with indian peaks mountains in background

Lost Lake Hike Near Nederland

Lost Lake is an accessible 4-mile (approximate) hike to a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by the mountains of Indian Peaks. Just over one hour northwest of Denver, the trail up to lost lake takes you along the course of Middle Boulder creek, a slide waterfall, a set of tumbling cascades, and a variety of wildflowers that decorate the borders of the trail, the creeksides, and the small meadows that open up along the trail. In the winter months, the trail up to Lost Lake makes for a good snowshoeing route and cross-country trail. trail (though it's a bit steep on the way up

While we categorize Lost Lake as a family-friendly hike and a great trail to take in the changing colors of Fall, it's important to know that the hike is uphill and demanding up to its destination. Explore the full Lost Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Lost Lake Trail near Nederland, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lost Lake Hike

Parking is very limited at the Hessie Trailhead, so be sure to take some time to review these details before departing for your hike. Because the Hessie trailhead is one of the most popular in the state, Boulder County offers a shuttle that runs from Nederland every 15-20 minutes on weekends during the Summer months and on some holidays. For full details on the Hessie Trailhead Shuttle, please see the Boulder County page for the shuttle service. This shuttle departs from the RTD Park-n-Ride in Nederland.

Directions to Hessie Trailhead

At the roundabout in Nederland, Colorado, drive south onto CO-119/South Bridge St. Take a right onto Eldora Road which will take you to Elodora Colorado. The road continues through Eldora, and changes to Eldorado Road. It proceeds out of town and changes its name to Hessie Road. About 3/4 of a mile outside of Eldora, the road will split, 4th of July Road goes to the right, and Hessie will turn to the left. The 2WD Hessie Trailhead Parking area is at this split. Do not park alongside the road, as you will likely be fined. If the parking area is full, then go back to Nederland for the shuttle (weekends and holidays). There is parking for 4WD vehicles further up the dirt road and closer to the beginning of the official trail. It's important to know that rains can quickly flood this segment of Hessie Road.

The Hike: Lost Lake Trail

If taking the shuttle, it will drop you off at the 2WD parking area. From here, hikers will follow a trail for that runs along the north side of the 4WD dirt road. The trail runs past a small pond and will keep to the right-side of the 4WD Hessie Trailhead road until it arrives at the official trailhead. Keep your eyes peeled for Moose who frequent these waterlogged meadows along this lowland segment of the trail. At approximately 1/2 mile from the shuttle drop, a sign marks the site of the old mining town of Hessie, Colorado.

old four wheel drive road and trail with sign marking former town site of Hessie Colorado

Soon, the trail will cross the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek via a footbridge and a large sign will map and describe the several trails and destinations that can be accessed from this point. Hikers will continue on this old mining road as it leads uphill towards both Lost Lake and the intersection for the trails that lead to Devil's Thumb Lake, Jasper Lake, Woodland Lake, King Lake, and Bob and Betty Lakes. This trail profile will describe the route to Lost Lake only.

The next 1.2 miles climbs by way of switchbacks over rocky and steep terrain. Wildflowers pepper the trailsides and the riparian zone along Middle Boulder Creek. At the first trail intersection (Devils Thumb and Devils Thumb Bypass Trails), a sign will mark the way to Lost Lake and give distances and point the direction to the other destinations. Here the trail to Lost Lake will go left and cross another footbridge. Soon, a waterfall and set of cascades will come into view. The trail will make its way to a second intersection and sign. Here, the trail for Lost Lake departs, once again, to the left.

waterfall through rocks of middle boulder creek near lost lake in indian peaks wilderness

From this point, Lost Lake is just 1/2 mile away. It's a steep segment but worth the views when you arrive. At Lost Lake, hikers can explore the outside circuit of its shores (this will add both time and distance to the hike). Return via the same trails.

blue rippled lake with evergreens and mountains with blue and clouded sky at lost lake indian peaks wilderness colorado

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Lost Lake Trail

  • TIP: Parking is very limited at the trailhead, so try to arrive before 7am. Review trailhead information above for seasonal weekend and holiday shuttle from Nederland.
  • CAMPING: Camping is allowed by permit only and in designated spots. See the Indian Peaks Alliance page for details.
  • USFS Indian Peaks: Camping is allowed by permit only and in designated spots. See the Indian Peaks USFS Page page for details.
  • TIP: The trail is rocky so it would be a good idea to bring trekking poles.
  • Trail Map for Lost Lake Trail: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Tim and Brad Fagan and Eric Frazier for sharing photographs of this hike on Lost Lake.
  • After the Hike: Sundance Cafe, Nederland

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soldier canyon falls lory state park header

Soldier Canyon Falls Hike in Lory State Park

Soldier Canyon Falls in Lory State Park is a seasonal waterfall located just a few minutes from the trailhead. Just 25 minutes from Fort Collins, this makes for a pleasant afternoon hike and because Lory State Park has over 20 miles of hiking trails, hikers can easily add additional hikes to their day trip. Explore the full Soldier Canyon Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Lory State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Soldier Canyon Falls Trail in Lory State Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Soldier Canyon Falls Hike

Lory State Park is located about 10 miles West of Downtown Fort Collins, Colorado. To get to the Lory State Park follow the US 287 (from either I-25 or from Northern Ft. Collins to Laporte. Continue west and then turn left onto Rist Canyon Road, and another left onto County Road 23. Drive a little further to take a right onto County Road 25G. County Road 25G leads to the entrance of Lory State Park. The trailhead for the waterfall trail is found at the Timber Group Picnic area where there are both restrooms and parking. This is just past the entrance off of Lodgepole road (follow park signage). As always, be sure to check current road conditions and alerts before traveling.

The Hike: Soldier Canyon Falls Hike

Soldier Canyon occupies most of the northern part of Lory State Park and is just a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. Hikers can pick up the Waterfall Trail behind the picnic shelter. The trail to Soldier Canyon Falls enters a riparian zone covered by massive cottonwood trees. It then crosses a total of three bridges that criss-cross over a Soldier Canyon Creek, then climbs a few steps to arrive at the waterfall's pool. There is also a quaint cascade viewable from the second bridge. Because this is a seasonal drainage, the best time to view the waterfall is in the Spring and early Summer when the meltwater is flowing.

waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

Tips & Resources for Hiking Soldier Canyon Falls Hike

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Ypsilon Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park Ypsilon Hike

Ypsilon Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Ypsilon Falls is a tiered waterfall hidden along the northern shore of Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The 4.5 mile hike to this secluded waterfall follows the Ypsilon Lake trail, a demanding trek through the thick woods of the Mummy Range. Explore the full Ypsilon Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Ypsilon Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Falls

The hike to Ypsilon Lake begins at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Several other destinations in this lesser visited section of RMNP known as the Mummy Range, can be accessed from the Lawn Lake Trailhead, including Ypsilon Falls, Lawn Lake, Chipmunk Lake, and the Spectacle Lakes. The parking area is located on Old Fall River Road, just north of the intersection of Old Fall River Road and Highway 34.

The Hike: Ypsilon Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike begins on a 1.4 mile stretch of the Lawn Lake trail before the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. This initial segment climbs a series of switchbacks. While it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks, they are there for a couple important purposes: to control erosion, and to preserve your energy. Because this area of RMNP has been severely damaged by floods, it's all the more important to stay the trail. Because of the floods, there are also areas of unstable terrain.

At 1.4 mile, the Ypsilon Lake trail junction will emerge on the left-hand side of the Lawn Lake trail. Here, the trail crosses the Roaring River--but the bridge has been washed out by a flood in the Spring of 2013. At the time of writing this trail profile (June 2016) the bridge has not been replace. However, the river can be crossed at low water. It's easy to underestimate the hydraulic force of a river, so exercise care in crossing. If you're planning to hike to Ypsilon Lake, it's important to have a back plan, just in case you run into high water levels at the ford. Typically, the water levels are low, but both snowmelt and heavy rains can change levels quickly.

Approximately 0.5 mile after crossing the Roaring River (@ 2 miles), the trail begins a sustained climb along the ridge of a moraine. This longest segment of the hike leads through thick timber, then crests at 3.8 miles before descending to Chipmunk Lake @ 4.0 miles. The mountain peak reflections in Chipmunk Lake make this worth stopping for a photo.

There is a backcountry camping area with two individual sites just past Chimpmunk Lake at 10,640'. Camping permits can be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices. The trail from Chipmunk Lake to Ypsilon lake is just 0.5 mile, arriving at Ypsilon's western shore. Hikers who pause to listen may hear the sounds of Ypsilon Falls. This segmented and tiered cascade can be accessed by crossing a small footbridge, then hiking toward the sounds of the falls along Ypsilon's northwestern shore.

The return hike follows the same route back to the Lawn Lake trailhead, making this a 9-mile, round-trip journey.

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ypsilon Falls in RMNP

  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Bridge Out: Due to the damage caused by a flood in September 2013, the bridge over Roaring River is missing. Cross only during low water, and see the RMNP flood closures page for updates.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Camping Site, and provides topo information.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Aaron Cooper for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ypsilon Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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snow capped front range mountains of colorado from panorama at golden gate canyon state park along raccoon trail hike

Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Our kids loved this 2.5 mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The trail sports lots of shade, panoramic views of snowcapped peaks, wildflowers, and trickling brooks. Be sure to see the details below regarding an annual raptor closure that detours one segment of this hike. Explore the full Raccoon Loop Hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Raccoon Trail Loop at Golden Gate Canyon

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Raccoon Loop Hike

You can begin your hike at either the Panorama Point Trailhead or at the Reverend Ridge Campground Trailhead. Our family hiked this from the Panorama Point Trailhead. Though parking is limited, there is additional parking located directly across the street in a dirt lot. Reverend Ridge Trailhead, while a larger parking area, can fill up fast because it is located at the campground. Either one, however, is a good option. Driving directions for both trailheads are located in the trail snapshot above.

raccoon-loop-golden-gate-canyon-kids-hiking

The Hike: The Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

We hiked the Raccoon Loop counter-clockwise from the Panorama Point Trailhead and found it to be easy to moderate in difficulty. Our kids (at the time of this post) are 5 and 8. Both were wearing tennis shoes and did well on the trail. There was a steep segment with loose rock, where our youngest needed me to hold her hand as she navigated here way down the trail.

The trail begins with incredible views of the snowcapped Indian Peaks stretched out against the western sky. Soon, views of Thorodin Mountain and Starr peak dominate the landscape as the trail winds to the east and crosses a seasonal brook. Raccoon Trail then gently drops into aspen groves and green meadows full of wildflowers.

raccoon-loop-golden-gate-canyon-state-park-trail-and-snowcapps

Entering a more mature stand of aspens, the trail begins a more steep descent. This is where hikers will want to watch their footing on the loose rock and gravel surface of the trail. After this short descent, the trail crosses another brook over a small footbridge, then begins to climb a bit further west before turning sharply to the south.

raccoon-loop-brook-golden-gate-canyon-state-park

Shortly after the brook is where we encountered the closure of approximately 0.5 mile of the Raccoon trail. These closures are announced on the front page of the Golden Gate Canyon State Park website, and we knew about it before making our trip.

raccoon-loop-closure-sign-golden-gate-canyon-state-park

One of the Nesting Raptor Closure Signs

This rerouted us up to the Reverend Ridge Campground, then required that we hike down State Park Road for about 0.5 mile until we were able to pick up the Raccoon Trail again. Because the detour wasn't clearly marked, we've provided an image of the normal route vs. the detour route we took below.

raccoon-loop-closure-route-map-golden-gate-canyon-state-park

It probably goes without saying, but do exercise caution when walking the road, and assume that cars will not see you. There are several sharp turns/switchbacks. We were able to pick up the trail down where the road comes to a stop sign, then hike back to Panorama Point. The detour adds approximately 1 mile to the original hike, making this into a 3.5 mile loop hike.

raccoon-loop-golden-gate-canyon-state-park-detour-trail

Where we picked up the Raccoon/Mule Deer Trail after Walking the Road Detour

This last section had some elevation gain, but still was moderate in difficulty. This is a great hike for visiting friends and family, but those who have not acclimatized to the altitude, or who are not in the best shape, may find this last part challenging. There is a bench strategically placed on the ascent, and rocks where you can rest your legs.

At Panorama Point, hikers will find a large deck and viewing area. It's one of the best accessible views you'll get of the Front Range near Denver.

panorama-point-golden-gate-canyon-state-park

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Raccoon Loop Hike

  • Be Aware of Closures: The Raccoon Loop has seasonal closures when raptors are nesting. However, it's just one segment of the trail that is closed, and a (not-so-well-marked) detour is available.
  • Look out for Mtn Bikers: We always find mountain bikers to be considerate on the trails near Denver. There is an established etiquette and they will call their pass. Still, it's good to know that this trail is popular with both mountain bikers and hikers, so keep your eyes and ears peeled and give them plenty of room to pass.
  • Trail Map for Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Windy Saddle Cafe in Golden, Colorado

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calypso cascades rocky mountain national park header

Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Calypso Cascades is an easy 3.6 mile hike to one of several waterfall destinations along this section of trail. This waterfall in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park is gets its name from the purple Calypso Orchids that bloom along the banks of Cony Creek. Explore the full Calypso Cascades hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Calypso Cascades

The southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the loveliest portions in the park known as the Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located just 15 minutes outside of Allenspark, Colorado along Highway 115. There is a ranger station at at the Wild Basin Trailhead with toilets and drinking water available.

In the winter (October-May), Hwy 115 may not be plowed to the trailhead, and hikers will need to park their vehicles at a winter parking lot for Wild Basin hikes. Be aware that hikes from the winter parking lot add on another 3 miles of hiking (one-way). There are other small parking areas, like the Finch Lake Trailhead, that may be accessible and allow hikers to park closer to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It's important to know that Hwy 115, though titled a "highway", is a maintained dirt road, which means that it can be used by 2WD vehicles. However, after heavy rains and other severe weather, its quality may degrade until it is repaired. 4WD may be needed when snow is on the ground.

calypso cascades rocky mountain national park from below
Calypso Cascades From Below

The Hike: Calypso Cascades Trail in RMNP

The hike to Calypso Cascades begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and at just .3 mile into the trail, passes by both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls. Read our full trail profile on Copeland Falls for details on how to access both sets of cascades.

After taking in the views at Copeland Falls, the trail follows the course of North St. Vrain Creek as it flows out of the rugged high country and snowfields in this wild corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon the trail will split. The right-hand trail leads through a segment of trail with 5 different backcountry camping sites and on towards Thunder and Lion lakes. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. The left-hand trail leads south towards Calypso Cascades and Finch Lake Trail system.

Taking the Finch Lake Trail, hikers will cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Near the bridge, you'll discover an unnamed set of cascades. After crossing the bridge, the trail follows Cony Creek for about 0.4 mile to the site of Calypso Cascades. Calypso Cascades are reminiscent of Fern Falls: the waters of Cony Creek tumble over boulders and fallen trees in a moss-covered landscape. What makes Calypso Cascades unique are the Calypso Orchids (also known as Pink Lady Slippers) that bloom in the late-spring and early-summer along the creek.

Hikers can return to the trailhead to make this a 3.6 mile hike, or can continue on the Finch Lake trail for approximately 1 mile to the site of Ouzel Falls.

calypso orchid pink lady slipper
Pink Fairy Slipper Flower

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Calypso Cascades in RMNP

  • TIP: The area near the bridge over North St. Vrain Creek can be a great spot for a picnic.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • TIP: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight.
  • Get there early: Parking lot might get full even early in the morning.
  • You're in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, dispose of your food responsibly, and don't food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jeff Kramer for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Calypso Cascades in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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