Get Outside! Hiking Jasper, Devil's Thumb Lakes

A Long Hike In The Indian Peaks Wilderness Ends At Two Alpine Lakes

Basics: Distance: 11.5 miles Elevation Gain: 2,180 feet+ Location: Indian Peaks Wilderness Trailhead: Hessie (directions below) Dogs: Allowed on leash Entrance Fee: none

The Indian Peaks Wilderness, west of Boulder and south of Rocky Mountain National Park, is a beautiful place to explore. Each drainage has spectacular lakes. In past years, I have hiked to King, Bob & Betty Lakes, Woodland Lake & Skyscraper Reservoir , Diamond Lake and amazing Lake Dorothy. One of the few places left to explore was the drainage holding Jasper and Devil's Thumb Lakes.

The trail starts at the Hessie Trailhead. If you park on the road, add 0.8 miles to this hike. Or if you have a high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle, take the flooded cobblestone road to the actual Hessie Trailhead. From here, cross a bridge and begin hiking what appears to be an old mining road.

About a 0.5 mile from the trailhead, you may notice an open, rocky area with a cascade to your left. Many people stop on the rocks and enjoy the gushing cascade in the late spring and early summer. If you find this spot, take the time to work your way through the nearby trees to get about 200 yards downstream where adventurous hikers will be rewarded with a spectacular and rare triple waterfall. Waterfall near Hessie

After taking photos, continue up the old mining road to another bridge and a trail split about 1 mile from the trailhead. The trail split just before the bridge is the Devil's Thumb Bypass Trail. Take this trail. While it's the same distance as the regular Devil's Thumb Trail, you can also use the other trail to loop back. The bypass trail climbs through the trees on a rocky path. There's a lot of this ahead.

However, at about 1.5 miles, hikers find themselves walking in a scenic meadow with a beautiful view of the nearby peaks and a sign for the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

The Indian Peaks area became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1978. Many of the peaks within the area were named after American Indian tribes of the west. The 76,586 acres of Indian Peaks Wildnerness is one of the most often-visited wilderness areas in the United States. Meadow in Indian Peaks

Enjoy this relatively flat trail, because there is a lot of elevation gain to come. At about 2.3 miles, hikers come to the split for Woodland Lake. While this is a beautiful hike, continue on the Devil's Thumb Trail as it climbs through the forest. Watch for trail signs. The trail crosses and occasionally follows an old mining road. At times, the trail diverts from the old road and hikers are asked to stay on the trail so nature can reclaim the old road.

From here, there are several unique spots along the trail. At one point we heard a cascade in the distance, then we spotted it through the trees. There's a beautiful tall peak across the valley that grabs your attention. From our guesstimates, it appears to be an unnamed peak, about 11,000 feet high. About 0.6 of a mile from Jasper Lake, hikers get a clue that they are close -- the trail splits to Diamond Lake. During the last 0.6 of a mile, watch for campsites, then at least one old homestead along the trail and finally a pretty waterfall below the lake, before one last hill that takes you lakeside. If you hike this trail before mid-July, expect snow banks that may make it difficult to find the trail. Waterfall at Jasper Lake

Jasper Lake is a place worth spending time, just ignore the strange box on the east side of the lake. It has a solar panel, but no sign explaining just what it is. There are beautiful photos in several directions as you enjoy the water and surrounding peaks. It's easy to see why backpackers would want to spend the evening in this scenic area. The waterfall on the west side of the lake is not from Devil's Thumb Lake, it appears to be from a place called Storm Lake, above Jasper Lake. As you explore, you can see the signs of an earthen dam. ProTrails says Jasper Lake is a reservoir, whose water rights are owned by Caribou Ranch.

After soaking up the scenery, return to the trail and hike the extra mile to Devil's Thumb Lake. While the elevation change between the lakes is just under 400 feet, it feels like more when you're hiking at 11,000 feet.

As you photograph Devil's Thumb Lake, look for the rock outcropping called the Devil's Thumb along the Continental Divide. One Web site says Devil's Thumb Lake is 11.5 acres and 37 feet deep. Devil's Thumb Lake

Adventurous hikers should consider hiking on from here to Devil's Thumb Pass, to the High Lonesome Trail on the Divide, over to the drainage with King, Bob & Betty Lakes and then back to the Hessie Trailhead. The loop is about 15 miles. Or at Devil's Thumb Lake, turn around and return the way you came.

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

Directions to trailhead: From Nederland, go north 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 split and continue another .5 miles to the trailhead. Others will have to park at one of the limited roadside spaces and walk the nearby trail next to the 4WD road to the Hessie Trailhead.

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