Skyscraper Reservoir, Hessie Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Skyscraper Reservoir - 9.9 miles

Hessie Trailhead

Skyscraper Reservoir

Skyscraper Reservoir

Round-Trip Length: 9.9 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,009' - 11,220' (11,243' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,211' net elevation gain (+2,327' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Skyscraper Reservoir - 9.9 Miles Round-Trip

Skyscraper Reservoir lies in the upper reaches of a slender valley between Woodland Mountain (11,893' - south) and unofficially named Skyscraper Peak (12,383' - north). The reservoir - no longer maintained but still partially dammed - was built between 1941 and 1947 by private landowners for downstream irrigation and sold to the City of Boulder in 1966.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Visitors will enjoy excellent wildlife viewing, camping, and fishing on this varied trek through riparian woodlands, alpine meadows, and open tundra between Woodland Lake and Skyscraper Reservoir:

The trail begins on a steep dirt road that merges with the South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek at the King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split (.85 miles : 9,455').

It continues beside the creek to the Lost Lake Trail split (1.1 miles : 9,582') and eases into a meadow at the King Lake - Woodland Lake Trail split (1.3 miles : 9,600').

The trail enters a large meadow on level double track across the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary (1.45 : 9,611'). It follows the old wagon road through intervals of forest and meadow, first loosely, then closely beside Jasper Creek to the Devils Thumb Trail - Woodland Lake Trail split (2.35 miles : 9,747'). Note that social trails circumvent washed out areas along Jasper Creek up to this split.

The Woodland Lake Trail bears left and steepens beside Woodland Creek to a footbridge (2.8 miles : 10,022'), past which the climb intensifies on a rugged, shifting path. It moderates briefly in a tranquil forest braided with streams and dotted with glades (3.2 miles : 10,395').

The oft-wet trail inches back toward Woodland Creek, rising fast to another flat (3.5 miles : 10,609'). This attractive section is highlighted by converging streams, cascades, wildflowers and mushrooms. Travel eases on an intermittently faint path, edging away from the creek to a small pond (3.8 miles : 10,737') and up the north edge of a marshy meadow in the upper valley.

The trail enters a small spruce stand on the meadow's west end (4.0 miles) and emerges in open space at the base of Woodland Lake's outlet stream (4.3 miles). It levels beside the outlet to Woodland Lake, partially hidden a few dozen yards off trail by thick willow and krummholz (4.55 miles : 10,972').

The trail rises steadily up the north shore and valley wall with good views of Woodland Lake's attractive west shore. The trail crests at 4.9 miles (11,243') and drops to a clearing on the NE corner of Skyscraper Reservoir (4.95 miles : 11,220').

The lake's north side is limited by steep walls, talus and vegetation, but low water over the dam wall and some creative maneuvering lead to the more open south and west shores.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 57.100 W105 35.696 — 2WD Parking Area for Hessie Trailhead
  • N39 57.278 W105 36.192 — Hessie Trailhead
  • N39 57.330 W105 36.780 — .85 miles : King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass split
  • N39 57.251 W105 37.193 — 1.3 miles : King Lake - Woodland Lake Trail split
  • N39 57.773 W105 37.961 — 2.35 miles : Devils Thumb - Woodland Lake Trail split
  • N39 57.732 W105 38.387 — 2.8 miles : Cross bridge over Woodland Creek
  • N39 57.602 W105 38.644 — 3.2 miles : Trail levels in forest; head toward creek
  • N39 57.441 W105 39.075 — 3.8 miles : Trail levels beside meadow
  • N39 57.372 W105 39.258 — 4.0 miles : Lengthy meadow ends; re-enter forest
  • N39 57.289 W105 39.734 — 4.5 miles : Trail runs adjacent to Woodland Lake
  • N39 57.270 W105 39.768 — NE edge of Woodland Lake
  • N39 57.360 W105 40.083 — 4.75 miles : Travel between Woodland Lake and Skyscraper
  • N39 57.343 W105 40.239 — 4.95 miles : Skyscraper Reservoir

Worth Noting

  • Anticipate heavy runoff and lingering snow through late summer. Use the trail's proximity to Woodland Creek for navigational guidance.

  • Social trails have formed to circumvent washed out areas along Jasper and Woodland creeks; be patient with route finding and help minimize erosion by staying on the main trail.

  • Skyscraper Reservoir's rocky, exposed shoreline is generally unsuitable for camping. Consider the flat, partially treed west shore of Woodland Lake for overnight stays in the Woodland Travel Zone.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15.

  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs.

  • Group size is limited to 12 people or people and packstock combined.

  • Campfires are prohibited east side of the Continental Divide, as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.

  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.

  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Backcountry Zones.

  • Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.

  • Packstock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.

Directions to Trailhead

Skyscraper Reservoir is accessed from the Hessie Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, Colorado.

From downtown Nederland, go south 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 demarcation and continue another .5 miles to the trailhead. Others will have to park at one of the limited roadside spaces and walk the 4WD road to the Hessie Trailhead.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Wife, dog, and I did this one so I could fish at the reservoir. Didn't see a lot of fish and didn't catch any but the hike itself is beautiful. Everything is pretty dried out by now and all the snow is gone other than a few shady parts in the canyon. Very lush and pretty. The end can be a little aggressive so be ready for that. Have fun!"
Shane  -  CO  -  Date Posted: August 16, 2016
"Still patches of snow that need to be navigated, a wet trail and lots of high runoff. There is a small one log foot bridge that has collapsed about 1.5 miles from Woodlawn Lake. Since water was running over it and we could not determine if it was stable we turned around. If a person were to fall off the collapsed foot bridge or it was to completely give way with the high water it could be tragic."
Bodie  -  Woodlawn Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado  -  Date Posted: June 12, 2016


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