Hike: 2.2 miles roundtrip Elevation change: 500-foot drop, then climbs slightly to the lake. Trailhead: From Nederland, go south on Colorado 119 to just before Rollinsville, turn right (west) on the dirt Rollins Pass Road. After about 5 miles, at the townsite of Tolland, take a left onto the dirt Mammoth Gulch Road. This is rough road. Follow it to NFSR 353 and keep following the signs for 353 to the trailhead. One book suggests stopping after 5.5 miles and hiking the rest of the way to the James Peak Lake Trailhead, but we drove the entire 6.8 miles to the trailhead. (The last 1.5 miles definitely needs a high clearance four-wheel drive)
Short hike Scenic Can add on a hike to Little Echo Lake Can continue on to Rogers Pass
A 500-foot elevation drop at the beginning! That means a 500-foot climb at the end! The drive. It's scenic but intense.
We've done several of the hikes along South Boulder Creek, each time driving past the turn off to Mammoth Gulch along the way. I figured there had to be some hikes there and it turns out one of my hiking books mentioned a couple lakes in that area. I figured, why not? I found out why not. It turns out, getting to the trailhead would be an adventure.
The question for the this trip: what's the bigger adventure, the drive to the trail head or the hike itself?
The forest service Web site says, "We highly recommend only high-clearance vehicles with four-wheel drive." Let me tell you, I agree. Depending on recent weather conditions and your vehicle, you may able to drive the first couple miles in a regular car, but if you're going to drive the last 1.5 miles or so, you're going to need something that can take the punishment. This is a very rocky, one-lane road.
The views though are impressive. The face of James Peak is colorful and imposing. It was neat to see it in the distance during parts of the drive.
When we finally got the trailhead at 8:15 in the morning, we were surprised to find five other cars already there. I think at least one belonged to the people camping at James Peak Lake. James Peak Lake and another unnamed lake from trailhead, 1 mile away.
The trailhead is at 11,600. That's above treeline. I mention that because I wish I had brought different clothing. Instead of my hiking hat with the floppy brim, I really needed more of a stocking cap that would stay on in the wind. Instead of the light rain jacket I carry all the time in my pack, I really needed a good fleece for the wind. Have I mentioned the wind? It was a-blowing. While everyone in the metro area was going to be sizzling in 98 degree temperatures today, it was just 60 at the trailhead and really windy.
So we headed to the trail. What a view and what a hike we saw ahead of us. The trail immediately drops from the parking lot, 500 feet down. The Forest Service calls this an old wagon road. I want to see the wagon that made this drive, because the road is steep and skinny and I just can't imagine a wagon on this trail. Now, we did consider not hiking to the lakes. Honestly, you can see both James Peak Lake and Little Echo Lake from the trailhead. I took a nice picture. As windy as it was, we thought about calling it a day. Then we got adventurous. We decided to hike down a nearby drainage, down to the river, then up the other side to James Peak pass. Not a bad idea, but since I had to be back at the truck at noon so I could be at channel 7 to work at 2 p.m., it didn't work out. We made it down the drainage, we made it to the river, then we had to start working our way out. One of the rusty items, possibly old mining gear, found along the trail.
We ended up at the trail split between James Peak and Little Echo Lakes. From here it's 0.6 of a mile to James Peak Lake, 0.3 of a mile to Little Echo Lake or half a mile and 500 feet up to the trailhead. We decided instead of just climbing out to the trailhead, we would take a trip over to James Peak Lake. The hike from the split was a breeze: fairy level, pretty rocky, it even had some old mining equipment right on the trail. After a few minutes of walking, I arrived at James Peak Lake. I spotted a tent. I think I spotted the owner fishing at the lake. There was also a cabin there. A cabin that still had its roof, but I think the owner/user must be short because there wasn't much room to stand inside.
The hike back to the trailhead split was a breeze, maybe because we knew what lay beyond-- a 500-foot climb out. That climb was tough but doable. There were sections that were pretty steep, make sure you have good footing because it's a long drop. I was very happy to see the sign at the top of the trailhead and to know I was back at my truck! From James Peak lake, you can see down to another lake. To the right, you can see the trail you have to climb back to the trailhead.
Another option for a longer hike? Head for Roger Pass. It's 5 miles each way from the trailhead. I actually wanted to get to the top of this pass, because I have hiked to Jones Pass Lake and Heart Lake on the other side-- I was hoping I might be able to see those lakes from a different angle. To read about that hike, click here
For more information about hiking in this area, click here
for the Forest Service Web site on the James Peak Lake trail.
If you've done the hike to Jones Pass, I'd love to hear about it. I also enjoying hearing from readers who have questions, hiking suggestions or comments, just e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star)
, Mallory Cave*
, Marshall Mesa
,Heil Valley Ranch*
, South Boulder Peak*
, The Boulder Flatirons*
, Walker Ranch*
, Bear Peak*
, Rabbit Mountain*
, Bald Mountain*
, Betasso Preserve*
, Wonderland Lake*
, Chimney Gulch*
, Apex Park*
, Elk Meadow*
, Chicago Lakes
, Chief Mountain
Rocky Mountain National Park:
, 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
, Heart Lake
, Devil's Backbone*
, Lake Agnes
Summit & Eagle Counties:
, Missouri Lakes
, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls
St Louis Lake
, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch
, Granby Ranch
Exploring Fulford Cave
, Our Favorite Hikes
, Our Favorite Bike Rides
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