Abyss Lake, Guanella Pass - Abyss Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Abyss Lake - 17.1 miles

Guanella Pass - Abyss Trailhead

Round-Trip Length: 17.1 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,654' - 12,650' (12,666' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,996' net elevation gain (+3,283' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Abyss Lake - 17.1 Miles Round-Trip

Abyss Lake is located in a deep glacial cirque between Mt Bierstadt (14,060') and Mt Evans (14,265'). The Abyss Trail begins 20 miles south of Georgetown on Guanella Pass Road, and travels 8.55 miles northeast through the Mt Evans Wilderness to the lake.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

While the lake is exceptional, the hike in is equally compelling. Visitors will enjoy pristine valleys, abundant aspen, open alpine travel and excellent backcountry camping en route to Abyss Lake:

The trail begins on a steady grade through uniform lodgepole and young aspen (1.0 miles : 10,020'). It crosses south over Scott Gomer Creek (2.15 miles : 10,162') and levels beside it through dense aspen.

There are several established campsites on this stretch with great views up-valley. Look for moose in the willow-shrouded creek corridor. The trail crosses back over the creek (3.2 miles : 10,395') and climbs steeply away on a rocky, shifting path to a large, marshy meadow (3.8 miles : 10,682').

The valley opens and forest breaks at the first of two Rosalie Trail splits (4.2 miles : 10,880'). Follow signs to the second Rosalie - Abyss Trail split (4.4 miles : 10,878').

Travel moderates in a thinning forest touched by wildfire (5.0 miles : 11,265'), and levels across expanding meadows with many good places to camp (5.5 miles : 11,430').

It weaves through treeline to Helms Lake (11,750' : 6.15 miles), a worthwhile destination in itself. The lake's south slope provides good terrain and tree-cover for backpackers.

The trail intuitively skirts the lake, but is enveloped by willow and difficult to follow. You'll likely get wet improvising to the far side where it clarifies on drier ground.

The trail continues NE above the lake into open alpine with views of Mt Bierstadt, Mt Evans, and Epaulet Mountain (13,523'). It crosses Lake Fork Creek (7.2 miles : 12,168') and turns sharply NW for the cirque.

Short, steep intervals moderate in rolling alpine tundra to Abyss Lake (8.55 miles : 12,650'). The lake's south shore and outlying tarns are easy to explore. Glass the cirque walls for mountain goat, bighorn sheep, and hikers on Mt Bierstadt and Mt Evans.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 30.686 W105 42.625 — 0.0 miles : Abyss Trailhead on Guanella Pass Road
  • N39 31.046 W105 42.428 — .5 miles : Steady, rocky climb
  • N39 31.376 W105 42.155 — 1.0 miles : Steady climb through lodgepole and aspen
  • N39 31.596 W105 41.705 — 1.5 miles : Grade moderates thru meadow
  • N39 31.908 W105 41.337 — 2.0 miles : Flat stretch to creek crossing
  • N39 32.155 W105 41.046 — 2.5 miles : Level stretch throuh dense aspen
  • N39 32.600 W105 40.677 — 3.2 miles : Cross creek, begin steep climb
  • N39 33.036 W105 40.568 — 3.8 miles : Cross stream on rickety bridge
  • N39 33.308 W105 40.563 — 4.2 miles : Abyss - Rosalie Trail split #1
  • N39 33.253 W105 40.448 — 4.4 miles : Abyss - Rosalie Trail split #2
  • N39 33.343 W105 40.077 — 5.0 miles : Steep, shifting trail around deadfall
  • N39 33.473 W105 39.686 — 5.5 miles : Thinning alpine forest thru 11,400'
  • N39 33.854 W105 39.462 — 6.15 miles : Helms Lake (11,750')
  • N39 33.892 W105 39.390 — 6.25 miles : Clear trail resumes past lake
  • N39 34.187 W105 39.024 — 6.8 miles : Cross creek and rise above last of willow
  • N39 34.583 W105 38.560 — 7.5 miles : Moderate climb in open alpine
  • N39 34.884 W105 38.919 — 8.0 miles : Mild grade on final approach
  • N39 35.066 W105 39.373 — 8.55 miles : Abyss Lake

Worth Noting

  • The final 2.5 miles pass through and above treeline with a high degree of exposure. Be mindful of changing weather and aim for treeline before storms develop.

  • Downed trees, steep grades, and a faint trail make navigation difficult for brief periods between the second Rosalie Trail split and treeline (4.4 - 5.0 miles). It can be difficult to find the trail once off course. Record your progress through these short sections, as your route down may differ from the way up. Basic map and GPS skills will assist, and ensure the correct course.

  • There are many good campsites in the large meadows around the two Rosalie Trail splits. Consider stopping here if time and weather close in, as the next suitable area is more challenging to reach.

  • The Abyss Trail corridor is notably healthy, and largely unaffected by beetle kill. Abundant aspen in the lower valley produce brilliant autumn colors. Elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat are commonly seen on this trail.

  • Helms Lake is depicted but not labeled on many maps.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Pike National Forest and Mt Evans Wilderness Area.

  • Camp only in established campsites, which are unmarked but intuitively located all along the trail (usually by a creek). There are many sites along the Abyss Trail leading up to the unnamed lake at 11,750'.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed backcountry camping, with potential seasonal and elevation restrictions.

  • One member of each party is required to register at the Mt Evans Wilderness boundary board and carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no registration fee.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in Scott Gomer Creek and Abyss Lake with a valid Colorado state fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are permitted on the Abyss Trail. Dogs must be leashed at all times.

  • Bikes and mechanized vehicles are not permitted on the Abyss Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

The Guanella Pass - Abyss Trailhead is located 20.0 miles south of Georgetown, CO on Guanella Pass Road.

From I-70, exit #228 for Georgetown and follow signs through town for Guanella Pass Road. Follow Guanella Pass Road south over Guanella Pass to the parking area on the left (east) side of the road.
The trailhead is located just south of the Burning Bear Campground.

Contact Information

South Platte Ranger District
19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
303.275.5610 (phone)
303.275.5642 (fax)
Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 8 am - 4:30 pm (excluding National Holidays)

Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road
P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Favorite fall hike! Leaves are already turning. We finally made it to Helms lake. I know the trail directions say you lose the trail around mile 5 in some deadfall but they are incorrect. The trail is very apparent the entire hike. The only place i could possibly see losing the trail is around mile 4. The trail veers right but looks like it might continue straight. If by 4.2 to 4.3 miles you dont see very clear maarked signs says Abyss Trail an Rosalie trail then you are not on the right trail and need to turn around and go back to the 4mile mark and find the trail. This was the only spot on the trail where we thought possibly someone could head the wrong way"
Tammy  -  Littleton  -  Date Posted: September 9, 2017
"The construction at the trailhead is finished. You can approach the trailhead from Grant on 285. The rickety bridge at 3.8 miles has been upgraded to a standard log bridge. The signs at the Rosalie trail junctions have been improved to be more understandable. When crossing the marshy area near Helms Lake, don't be tempted to go far from the lake to get through the bushes. There is a passable route near the lake, but you may get wet. There's going to be water no matter which route you take. After crossing the marshy area, keep to the left, paralleling the lake. Though there are many faint trails, you should find a distinct trail not far from the marsh. At 6.8 miles there is another wet area which will require some jumping to get around water flowing down the trail and mud. Don't be discouraged, because after that small wet area the rest of the trail is fairly dry and easy. Today was a beautiful day. This is one of my favorite hikes. I recommend this hike for someone ready to walk 17 miles. "
Bruce  -  Lakewood, CO  -  Date Posted: September 11, 2016
"Awesome hike from Burning Bear Campgrounds up to Abyss Lake. We set up camp at Abyss lake above the trees. Had the whole place to ourselves, definitely would recommend if you want to camp above treeline. "
Nathan Livingston  -  Evergreen Colorado  -  Date Posted: August 15, 2015
"The trailhead is still open even though there is a lot of construction going on around the trailhead! Park outside if the Burning Bear Campground, the hike was magnificent and we didn't see a soul on our trip. The only things to keep in mind is that the water is VERY high and the river crossing was a pretty strenuous one, I thankfully had water shoes and my boyfriend did it barefoot. Also, the trail disappears around Helms lake and you will be bushwacking through willows to get to the other side....the trail turns into a stream with the higher elevation gain but try to follow it as best as you can still fighting with the willows for a bit, once you approach the end of the hike the trail becomes apparent again. Abyss Lake is looking wonderful and still mostly frozen, the serenity and sweeping views of this hike have put this hike at the top of my list!!"
Vanessa  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: June 26, 2015
"The deadfall between the second Rosalie split and treeline is all cleared - the trail was quite easy to follow through this area. The beavers have done some fine construction at Helms Lake and navigating around the east side took a bit of work and definitely involved getting a bit wet/muddy. Absolutely a spectacular hike - long, but well worth it."
Kathy  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: October 8, 2014


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