Get Outside! Hiking King, Bob & Betty Lakes

A Shorter Trail Takes In All 3 Alpine Lakes

Basics: Distance: 4 miles RT to see all 3 lakes Elevation: Down 500 feet from saddle to creek crossing. Up 450 feet to Bob Lake. Down 450 feet to creek crossing, up 500 feet to saddle above King Lake at 11,650 feet.Location: Top of Rollins Pass, near Winter Park (directions below)Trailhead: Historic sign, parking spaces Dogs: Allowed on leash Hiking partner: Gaylene

For years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to see King, Bob and Betty Lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From the Hessie trailhead, the hike to all three lakes is about 13 miles roundtrip. But I found a book that said you can visit all 3 lakes in 4 miles roundtrip by starting at the top of Rollins Pass.

Now the drive up Rollins Pass is not easy. In August 2008, we found good sized ruts. It’s 14 miles from U.S. 40 at Winter Park to the top of Rollins Pass, plan about an hour or so of drive time.

You’ll know when you’ve reached the trailhead, the road stops. Rollins Pass was a wagon road between Boulder County and what was then called “Middle Park.” Years later, it was the route used by the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad until the Moffat Tunnel opened underground in 1928. The road has several historical markers, pick up a brochure describing the markers at the Winter Park Visitor’s Center. Fee: $1. (Drivers can no longer drive the entire pass since the Needle Eye Tunnel collapsed in the 1980s.)

At the top of the pass is a sign saying “Rollins Pass, elevation 11,660 feet.” It goes on to explain the history of the pass and the restaurant/hotel/railway station that sat here during the railroad days. There are still some foundations left near the parking lot. Fields of flowers along the trail

After finding a parking space, start walking northwest. You’ll see the trail heading up a small rise. After a few yards, you’ll come to a sign for the Indian Peaks wilderness. It’s about a third of a mile from the parking lot to the trail split on a saddle.

The trail split shows King Lake to the right. High Lonesome, Devil’s Thumb and the Continental Divide Trail ahead. We turned to King Lake and an incredible view. The valley where King Lake sits is just amazing. There was also quite a shelf of snow between the saddle and King Lake. In the afternoon, we spotted two skiers on the snow field.

This trail starts with a 200 foot elevation drop over a third of a mile to the shores of King Lake. While it’s a steep downhill, the views are great: peaks, snow fields, lakes, and a wide expanse of beautiful scenery. If you have a camera that takes panoramic pictures, this is the place to try it out. We spotted a fisherman at King Lake, and we had fun speculating where in this cirque we would find Bob and Betty Lakes.

After a picture stop at King Lake, we continued on. We saw a pretty tarn near the trail, then we found ourselves in a beautiful field of wildflowers. While the trail from King Lake drops another 300 feet in the next 0.4 of a mile to a stream crossing, it was just amazing to see the sheer number of colorful flowers along the trail. Columbine, paintbrush, alpine flowers, so many colors and so many varieties, it was just a treat. Marmot on the trail

After we dropped below timberline, the trail crossed a boulder field. My hiking partner Gaylene spotted a marmot sunning himself on the rocks. A few yards farther, we came to the South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek. It may be August, but the stream was gushing. I’m not sure how people cross this stream in June, but we found a spot using several rocks. On the other side of the stream we found a sign for the junction to Bob and Betty, King Lake and the trail back to the Hessie parking area. (on the way back, follow the sign to King Lake for a better spot to cross the creek.)

From the stream crossing, it’s time to climb. After more than a mile of downhill, you’ll find yourself climbing about 400 feet over the next mile to Bob Lake. The trail here starts well, it seemed easy to find. Then suddenly, the trail was gone. We came to a patch of willows and spruce and no way through. That meant turning around and doing some route finding back to the trail. It worked and we were off again. The area is so lush this year, we found spots where even the trees had grown over the top of the trail and we had to duck to continue on. At the top of the rise, we found a very pretty and serene Betty Lake. Betty Lake. (Bob Lake is over the rise in the distance)

From Betty, we followed the shoreline towards Bob Lake. It seemed easy to spot. It had to be sitting in the next valley up, probably where we could see the outflow stream heading in to Betty Lake. While the trail near the shoreline started strong, it didn’t long to lose the trail. Even with a GPS trail map, we couldn’t find the trail again. We ended up creating our own path through the willows, the alpine tundra and around the Bob Lake waterfall. Several trail descriptions told of cairns to help you follow the trail, we only spotted one even possible cairn. It took a little work, but we found Bob Lake in the place we thought.

Bob Lake is a peaceful, beautiful spot. While the lake had melted, we found several chunks of ice and snow still floating in the water. The peaks surrounding Bob Lake still held blankets of snow. It was quiet, it was scenic and it was all ours, there was no one else around. The perfect place for a snack and a break. Snow & ice floating in Bob Lake

It’s hard to believe there are three beautiful alpine lakes so close to each other. While the drive up Rollins Pass is time consuming and a bit difficult, it was easy to forget that while sitting on the shores of these lakes and enjoying the surrounding views as we hiked the trails between the lakes.

From Bob, it’s back down a mile to the stream crossing and back up a mile to King Lake, the saddle and the trailhead. If you want to add some challenge, at the saddle, hike up part of the High Lonesome/Continental Divide Trail for a view down on the lakes in this cirque.

I welcome your questions, comments and hiking trail suggestions, just email me at

If you're looking for a hiking dog, consider the Dumb Friends League Hiking Buddies program. Hikers who complete a training program may borrow an adoptable dog to hike with at the Glendale Open Space Trail or the “Rock” in Castle Rock. The Buddy Center staff will give you with all of the necessary equipment including an “Adopt Me” vest for the dog and a fanny-pack with pet waste pick-up bags, water bowl, water, leash and first-aid kit. You and the dog get a work out and your four-legged friend may get a new home. For more information, contact Matt Levien at 303-751-5772 ext. 202.

Directions: From U.S. 40 in Winter Park look for the brown Forest Service sign for Rollins Pass Road, Forest Service Road 149. (The turnoff is between the Winter Park ski area and the town of Winter Park). It’s a slow 14 mile drive to the top of the pass and the trailhead for King, Betty and Bob Lakes.

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: Herman Gulch, 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: 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

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