Though it can get a little crowded on winter weekends, the Hessie Trailhead out of the tiny town of Eldora is worth a visit. Only about an hour from Boulder, this snowshoe-friendly trail features a 1.5 mile route to Lost Lake, a scenic destination that is easier to find than its name suggests. Beyond that, there are miles of forested trails to explore so you can make the day as long as you like.
What Makes It Great
The access road to Hessie Trailhead is not maintained in the winter and will close as soon as snow makes it impassable (usually mid-November). Normal parking is here at the end of the paved road / closure gate and it is 1-mile to the trailhead proper. If the road happens to be open, stay left at the fork about 0.5 miles up (the right road goes to the popular 4th of July Trailhead). Cars often park at this juncture during the shoulder seasons as the road to the actual trailhead is a short but unnecessarily tricky hill that isn’t worth the trouble to drive. Note that a ski / snowshoe up to 4th of July trailhead and trails is also an option, though the split begins just before the Hessie Trailhead. From the Hessie Trailhead, you’re immediately treated to the ghost town of Hessie, which consists of a few maintained buildings and information placards.
Soon there after, the trail twists into the woods and gradually climbs up along a well-trodden path to the modest shores of Lost Lake. Above the lake are several old mining sites that are worth a visit but please be aware that these slopes are prone to the rare — but possible — avalanche. Beyond Lost Lake, there are three distinct drainages that lead to several nice, forested snowshoe options, including King/Betty/Bob Lakes (which sit below Rollins Pass, another fun snowshoe destination), Skyscraper Reservoir and Jasper Lake/ Devil’s Thumb Lake.Whereas the trail to Lost Lake is stomped down with regularity, these lake destinations may not be as well traveled and you could be breaking trail and navigating through the woods from here on out.
Be warned that beyond Lost Lake, this becomes a very long snowshoe day — anywhere between 8 – 15 miles, which can be an all-day affair on snowshoes. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just getting out and turning around after soaking in the views or getting in your workout. The crowds tend to dissipate and there’s always the option to simply turn into the woods and make your own tracks.
Who is Going to Love It
Snowshoers of all levels who want to enjoy the history, scenery and tranquility of the mountain forests. The crowds get much thinner past Lost Lake — and the navigation gets tougher — perfect for those looking for peace away from the higher traffic sections of the trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the town of Nederland, take the roundabout south (which will be the left exit if coming up from Boulder Canyon) onto Highway 72. Be sure you don’t accidentally take the northern turn to highway 72, which will abruptly climb towards Sugarloaf Road. From the roundabout, the right turn towards Eldora ski area is only about a mile up the road. Follow this road to the town of Eldora, staying right when the road splits uphill and left to Eldora ski area. Continue to the very small town of Eldora. Go through town on the main (paved) street and park where the road ends at a closure gate. Follow the trail 1.0 mile (staying left at the fork in the road) to the Hessie Trailhead.