Get Outside! Hiking Herman Gulch

Think Of this Trail As A Good Workout With A Lake At The End

Basics: Distance: 7 Miles RT Elevation Gain: 1,600+ feet Location: I-70 near the Loveland Ski Area (directions below) Trailhead: bathrooms, signs, lots of parking Dogs: Allowed on leash

Tired of the stair master? This hike will get your legs and lungs burning.

Herman Gulch is easy to find. You've probably driven by dozens of times and didn't even know it. You take Interstate 70 to exit 218. There's nothing at exit 218 except the trailhead.

Even on a weekday I found more than a dozen people in the parking lot packing up to hike at 8 a.m.

Now I should admit this was my third time to Herman's Gulch. Years ago I came with a boyfriend and his dog, and we only did part of the trail so his dog could play in the water. The second time I came with a group of friends after work and we ran out of daylight. This time, I was going to make it all the way to the lake!

I found my hiking partners for the day from "The Denver Trailheads" on meetup.com. After they all arrived, minus one, it was time to hike. The trail is pretty moderate during the first quarter mile to the trail split.

The sign here says Watrous Gulch and Bard Creek trails to the right. Herman Lake and Jones Pass to the left. The sign says it's 3.75 miles to the lake from the trail split. I think the sign is old, because the Forest Service Web page said the entire hike to Herman Gulch is 3.5 miles each way. My GPS agreed with the 3.5 mile distance.

After this turn, the trail turns into an old sawmill road and it's steep. Let's just say when the road gets close to a stream with several cascades, I had no problem stopping to take an occasional picture. A stream runs through the meadow near the trail.

After the steady climb on the road, the trail enters a meadow with a beautiful stream on the left and a thick forest on the right. Even in August we found ourselves hiking through several muddy sections. The trail is pretty rocky with lots of tree roots, so wear good boots for this hike.

The meadow is known for its beautiful array of wildflowers in July. In late August, we found the flowers had faded quite a bit, likely because of a high country snowstorm the week before.

As you hike through the meadow and forest area, you'll catch glimpses of a ridge of mountain peaks up ahead. Herman Lake sits just below that ridge.

You'll know you're getting close to the lake when the trail switchbacks above treeline and starts getting steep again. Take a break occasionally and look both up and down the valley. The views here are incredible. You may even spot Gray's and Torrey's peaks behind you. Trail split for Herman Lake & Jones Pass

About a half mile from the lake, there's another trail split. Here the sign directs hikers to either Herman Lake or Jones Pass. While most of our group did the final push to the lake, Frank took the split to Jones Pass and onto Pettingell Peak, a 13er above the lake.

The trail to Herman Lake is very scenic, and it is very steep. It finally evens out as you hike the last distance to the lake. There's a small pond in this area, but it was almost dry by the end of August.

Herman Lake is surprisingly green. It was so crystal clear that I felt like I could walk across the rocks on the lake bed. There are also lots of rocks surrounding the lake for a picnic lunch. One of my hiking partners, Monica, found a rock big enough for our group to sit together. From our peaceful spot you could see a little island of rocks, moss and small alpine flowers in the lake. A light breeze on a hot summer day made our hour long break even better. The final section of trail to the lake.

At Herman Lake, it's easy to see a trail continuing on. We hiked over to the outlet of the lake, which makes for a nice cascade. It appears there's much more to hike in this area, maybe even a trail to the peaks, but we decided to hang out at the lake instead.

On the hike down, we took it a bit easy, especially since it so steep in some areas. Frank managed to catch us again on his way down from the 13er. He said he had come across a group of wild goats on the trail. We saw a few people here and there, but no animals.

I welcome your questions, comments and especially your hiking trail suggestions, email me at: deb_stanley@kmgh.com.

Directions: Take I-70 West from Denver. Take exit 218, turn right and make another quick right into the parking lot. It's hard to get lost, since there's nothing else at this exit.

Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star) Boulder: Caribou Ranch*, Mallory Cave*, Marshall Mesa,Heil Valley Ranch* Forsythe Canyon*, South Boulder Peak*, The Boulder Flatirons*, Walker Ranch*, Bear Peak*, Rabbit Mountain*, Bald Mountain*, Betasso Preserve*, Wonderland Lake* Golden area: Forgotten Valley, Chimney Gulch*, Apex Park* Jefferson County: Mt. Falcon*, Elk Meadow* I-70 area: Chicago Lakes, Chief Mountain Rocky Mountain National Park: 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 Grand County: St Louis Lake, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby Ranch Other: Exploring Fulford Cave, Our Favorite Hikes, Our Favorite Bike Rides

Print this article Back to Top