Devils Thumb Lake, Hessie Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado
Devils Thumb Lake - 10.9 miles
|Round-Trip Length:||10.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,009' - 11,138' (11,154' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,129' net elevation gain (+2,345' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Devils Thumb Lake - 10.9 Miles Round-Trip
Devils Thumb Lake is located 5.45 miles from the Hessie Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It lies at treeline below the Continental Divide and eponymous Devils Thumb spire.
The lake's east shore is shrouded by krummholz, but open along its south and west shores. Visitors will enjoy serene forests and idyllic alpine landscapes on the hike to Devils Thumb Lake:
The trail begins on a steep dirt road lined with aspen and wildflowers, merging with the South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek at the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split (.85 miles : 9,455'). Bear right on the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail.
Switchbacks twist through dense forest to a broad meadow with braided streams, wildflowers and aspen (1.25 miles : 9,625'). This is a good place to see deer, elk, bear and beaver. The trail levels past the Wilderness Boundary (1.4 miles : 9,650') back into the forest (1.65 miles).
A moderate, rocky path climbs through intervals of timber, meadow, and marsh to the Devils Thumb Trail - Woodland Lake Trail split (2.2 miles, 9,792'). Veer right toward Jasper Lake on a steeper grade that's intermittently obscured by runoff and snow through mid-July.
Be patient with route finding and ignore social trails that ostensibly offer an easier way. Anticipate one sudden, poorly marked left turn over a tributary at 2.85 miles (10,215').
The trail methodically climbs a south-facing valley wall to the Diamond Lake Trail split (3.75 miles : 10,675'), past which it undulates in a thinning forest to the first of two spurs for Jasper Lake (4.35 miles). Note that Jasper Lake is not immediately visible from this point; follow the short spur up the bank to view it.
The Devils Thumb Trail continues below Jasper Lake, crosses its outlet stream on a dilapidated footbridge and rises back toward its southwest shore. A Devils Thumb - High Lonesome Trail sign (4.5 miles) and spur for Backcountry Campsite D (4.7 miles) indicate you're on track.
The trail - now periodically faint and obstructed - passes a large pond and weaves through dark timber to a meadow with useful perspective on the upper valley (5.0 miles : 10,908').
The trail keeps right and winds up a steep ridge to a flat near treeline (5.4 miles : 11,034'). Devils Thumb Lake is just off trail to the right from the ridge-crest (5.45 miles : 11,138').
The lake is gringed by thick krummholz on the east shore, but more accessible further up the trail on its south and west shores.
The trail continues past Devils Thumb Lake through vast alpine meadows, ponds (5.95 miles : 11,230') and wildflowers up to the High Lonesome Trail on the Continental Divide. The High Lonesome runs south along the Divide to King Lake, and north to Devils Thumb Pass (11,775').
- 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 : Devils Thumb Bypass Trail junction
- N39 57.364 W105 37.187 — 1.25 miles : Enter Meadow
- N39 57.410 W105 37.301 — 1.4 miles : Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary
- N39 57.543 W105 37.547 — 1.65 miles : Exit Meadow
- N39 57.848 W105 37.935 — 2.2 miles : Woodland Lake Trail junction
- N39 58.133 W105 38.434 — 2.85 miles : Turn left over small creek
- N39 58.409 W105 38.892 — 3.5 miles : Travel along south-facing valley wall
- N39 58.475 W105 39.107 — 3.75 miles : Diamond Lake Trail junction
- N39 58.461 W105 39.604 — 4.35 miles : Jasper Lake spur
- N39 58.488 W105 39.615 — Jasper Lake
- N39 58.494 W105 39.730 — 4.5 miles : Devils Thumb - High Lonesome Trail marker
- N39 58.543 W105 39.856 — 4.7 miles : Backcountry Campsite 'D' spur
- N39 58.521 W105 40.160 — 5.1 miles : Circle to right of meadow
- N39 58.448 W105 40.359 — Travel to base of steep ridge
- N39 58.410 W105 40.582 — 5.4 miles : Top of steep ridge face
- N39 58.416 W105 40.543 — 5.45 miles : Devils Thumb Lake
- N39 58.298 W105 40.941 — 5.95 miles : Alpine Ponds above Devils Thumb Lake
- Jasper Lake and Devils Thumb Lake are popular destinations accessed by a heavily used trail artery. Get an early start to avoid peak-season congestion. Parking is limited and fills up very quickly on the weekends.
- Jasper Lake is also a reservoir, whose water rights are owned by Caribou Ranch.
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 4 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
Devils Thumb Lake 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 (4.15 miles). 2WD drive conditions end 4.9 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.
Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301