- 20 miles west of Boulder
- 11.4 mile roundtrip
- 6 to 7 hours
- Trailhead Elevation:
- 9000 feet
- Elevation Change:
- -2500 feet
- June - October
The trail from Hessie to King Lake traces the source of the South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek through forest, brushy riparian woodland, and wet meadows. King Lake lies in a cirque basin above the treeline, just below the Continental Divide. If you choose to skip driving through the water and park on the Fourth of July Road, take the quarter mile long Columbine Trail which starts at the bottom of the first hill, just before the water. It is a recently constructed trail that bypasses the flooded part of the road and comes in at the Hessie Townsite. From the Townsite, the road continues rough and with large mudpuddles another quarter mile to the Hessie Trailhead. There is very little parking at the trailhead itself.
From the Trailhead, cross the footbridge and take the Devil's Thumb Trail #902, which climbs steeply for about a half-mile on an old road. The Devil's Thumb Bypass turns right (north) in 0.8 miles, just before the bridge. Do not take the Devil's Thumb Bypass, as it does not pass the King Lake Trail junction.
It is 1.1 miles from the trailhead to the Lost Lake Trail junction, which is right at the top of a hill. From there it is a flat 0.2 miles to the right to the King Lake Trail junction.
The King Lake Trail soon enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness. After the first steep section of trail, the route to King Lake levels out some, steadily gaining about 1200 feet in elevation over the next 4 miles. Towards the upper end, the trestles of the Moffat Road are visible on the side of the ridge to the left. About a mile before reaching King Lake, the trail makes several switchbacks up a steep ridge, coming out of the trees and into the alpine tundra. Trail #810 to Bob and Betty Lakes forks north from the main trail about a quarter-mile east of King Lake. The trail to Bob and Betty is a small path and the junction is not always signed.
The King Lake Trail passes King Lake, then climbs a little ridge half a mile to the Continental Divide. There it meets the High Lonesome Trail #7 (part of the Continental Divide Trail) a half mile north of Rollins Pass. A loop, from Hessie to King Lake to High Lonesome Trail to Devil's Thumb Lake and back to Hessie, makes a great 15-mile weekend backpacking trip.
Length: From Hessie Trailhead to King Lake - 5.2 miles; to Betty Lake - 5 and one-half miles; to Bob Lake - 6 miles; to High Lonesome Trail - 5.7 miles. DISTANCES ARE ONE WAY.
Map + Directions
From Nederland, west of Boulder, turn west on paved County Road 130, following signs for Eldora Ski Resort and the town of Eldora.
Go through the town of Eldora.
At the end of town, continue westward as the pavement ends, following to the left at the next road fork for Hessie Trailhead.
A right at this fork and another 4 miles would bring you to the Fourth of July Trailhead.
Both of these Trailheads see extremely high use, especially on weekends, and parking is limited. Plan to arrive early and watch for signs along the road indicating legal parking spots.
Please note that a stretch of the road from County Road 130 to the Hessie Trailhead is a cobblestone creek bed. It carries water year round, and runs heavily in the early summer. It is passable by 2WD vehicles, however, high clearance is recommended. There is a parallel trail so hikers can bypass the water.