Get Outside! Hiking Hells Hole

Hiking A Scenic Cirque In The Mount Evans Wilderness

Basics: Distance: 8 miles Elevation gain: 1,700 feet Location: Mount Evans Wilderness Trailhead: Hells Hole (directions below) has bathrooms, signs and picnic tablesDogs: Allowed on leash Entrance fee: Free

It is incredible that Denver's metro area has a wilderness area so close to town. The Mount Evans Wilderness was created in 1980. It's 74,401 acres that includes two fourteeners and glacier-carved landscapes with steep, rock walled glacial basins (cirques).

The Hells Hole hike may sound unappealing, but the area named Hells Hole is actually a scenic, peaceful cirque at the base of several peaks.

The hike starts with a drive of 9.5 miles from I-70 in Idaho Springs. (Directions below) The trailhead includes pit toilets, signs and picnic tables. It is next to the West Chicago Creek campground.

The Hells Hole trail is easy to follow. It is typically single track wide, sometimes wider, and expect a good workout. The trail climbs about 1,700 feet in 4 miles. Many descriptions say the trail is 3.5 miles, but my GPS said 4 miles and our legs agreed.

The trail starts in the picnic area and then begins climbing through the thick forest. Due to the high number of aspen trees, I would highly recommend this as a fall hike. Another hiker in the group said he often snowshoes here because the area is so quiet in the winter.

About 0.35 miles from the trailhead, there is a registration box. Please stop and fill out the permit. It's free to hike here, as of 2009, but the permit is required. Just past the registration box, look for the tee pee of sorts created on the right side of the trail. As hikers continue on the trail, there are a couple stream crossings using logs.

While this hike is short compared to some, it is far from easy. Hikers will find themselves climbing steep, rocky terrain with only occasional flat spots to catch their breath. Take advantage of those flat spots, because the steep sections appear often.

About 2.6 miles into the hike, hikers reach a valley surrounded by peaks. It's easy to think you've arrived, but keep hiking. From here, the trail mellows out. While we arrived in August, it's easy to see this area is probably quite wet and marshy in the spring and early summer. The pond in the Hells Hole cirque

Continue hiking until the trail ends at several twisted, ancient, 2,000 year old Bristlecone pine trees. Hikers will find themselves in a meadow with views of several peaks in every direction. This is a nice spot for lunch, photos and maybe even a nap. There is a pond of sorts, but in mid-August the pond was quickly drying up and not very scenic.

From here, debate if you want to climb one of the nearby peaks or return to the parking lot.

If you have a trail suggestion, question or comment, e-mail me: deb_stanley@kmgh.com.

Directions: From I-70 in Idaho Springs, exit Highway 103/Mount Evans. Drive 6.5 miles south to West Chicago Creek Road. Turn right. Take West Chicago Creek Road 3 miles to the trailhead, just past the campground. There is a sign warning of "rough road" the last 2 miles. It is rough, but doable in a passenger car. I would suggest a 4-wheel drive depending on the recent weather.

Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star) Boulder: Heil Valley Ranch*, Hall Ranch*, Eldorado Canyon State Park*, Caribou Ranch*, Royal Arch*, South Boulder Peak*, The Boulder Flatirons*, Walker Ranch*, South Boulder Trailhead*, South Mesa Trail*, Mallory Cave*, Forsythe Canyon*, Bear Peak*, Rabbit Mountain*, Bald Mountain*, Betasso Preserve*, Wonderland Lake*, Marshall Mesa* Golden area: Forgotten Valley, Chimney Gulch*, Apex Park* Jefferson County: Mt. Falcon*, Elk Meadow* I-70 area: Herman Gulch, Chicago Lakes, Chief Mountain, Hells Hole Rocky Mountain National Park: Calypso Cascades & Ouzel Falls, Finch & Pear Lakes, Flattop Mountain, Gem Lake, Granite Falls, Twin Sisters, Bierstadt Lake, Chasm Lake, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone, The Loch & Andrew's Glacier, Sandbeach Lake Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness: King, Bob & Betty Lakes, Forest Lakes, Arapaho Lakes, Mitchell & Blue Lakes, James Peak Area, Heart Lake Northern Colorado: Homestead Meadows, Devil's Backbone*, Lake Agnes Summit & Eagle Counties: Booth Falls, Missouri Lakes, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls, South Willow Falls Grand County: St Louis Lake, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby Ranch Other: Harmonica Arch, Exploring Fulford Cave, Our Favorite Hikes, Our Favorite Bike Rides

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