Arapaho National Forest – Herman Gulch & Herman Lake

Hike to Herman Gulch & Herman Lake

Since we’ve been exploring many trails around Boulder, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to check out a new area for hiking. The Herman Gulch Trail which leads to Herman Lake is located just off of I-70, which makes it easily accessible for hikers coming from around Denver, and even Boulder. It was about a 1 hr 20 minute drive from Boulder.

The Continental Divide Trail

Most of the Herman Gulch Trail follows along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), or more formally known as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). The CDT was established by Congress in 1978 and is 3,100 miles long, tracing a path from Mexico to Canada. It passes through various types of ecosystems and is considered one of the greatest long-distance trails in the world.

The Hike

The hike is relatively straightforward. Soon after starting to hike from the parking lot, you turn onto Herman Gulch Trail and continue all the way up to Herman Lake.

Parking Lot

The parking lot is large, probably with enough room for 100 cars. There are porta-potties at the entrance.

Starting Out

We started our hike just as the sun was rising, hitting the peaks with a warm glow.

Herman Gulch Trail

The first half mile or so climbs up with views of the mountains across the highway, but lacks solitude because you can hear cars passing by.

Meadow Views

As you get further along the trail, about a mile in, you hike through patches of meadow with lovely views of the mountains.

Herman Gulch Trail

And a rocky mountain on your right –

Herman Gulch Trail

View of the mountains between the trees from the edge of a large meadow –

Herman Gulch Trail

Walking through the large meadow, you start to see the Continental Divide mountains –

Herman Gulch Trail

Closeup of Pettingell Peak (13,553′) –

Pettingell Peak Colorado

Hiking in the Forest

After the meadow, you high through a Douglas fir forest for a while.

As the morning continued on, from about 8 am, the trail became highly trafficked.

Herman Gulch Trail

The Approach to Herman Lake

The views of the Continental Divide mountains as you approach Herman Lake surround you. It is quite something to behold.

Herman Gulch Trail

As you climb higher, you see great views of the valley below –

Herman Gulch Trail

On the way up, you pass by the turnoff to continue on the Continental Divide Trail to the right, but continue along Herman Gulch Trail –

Herman Gulch Trail Continental Divide Trail

And closer to the lake, it looks like you are hiking directly to the Citadel (13,294′) –

Herman Gulch Trail The Citadel

Herman Lake

You can stop at Herman Lake, or go a bit further for even better views of Herman Gulch. Herman Lake is located at practically 12,000′ elevation (11,987′ to be exact).

Herman Lake, with Pettingell Peak behind it –

Herman Lake

Of the alpine lakes we’ve been to, Herman Lake is one of the less photogenic spots. It’s more a place to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Herman Lake

When we got to the lake around 10 am it was already busy, and there were no spots by the lake where we could get good solitude, so we perched on a rock in the meadow nearby to eat our sandwiches and make some instant coffee. It was cold and windy up by the lake, so the hot beverages were satisfying to drink.

Herman Gulch

If you follow the trail beyond the lake a bit, you can take in some wonderful views of Herman Gulch –

Herman Gulch

And get a closer view of the Citadel –

Continental Divide The Citadel

Telephoto lens closeup –

Continental Divide The Citadel

Recommended as a Hike

A relatively easy, and even family-friendly hike, Herman Gulch Trail provides a range of jaw-dropping views of the Continental Divide mountains. The beauty of the area is well known, leading to high traffic on the trail, but it is definitely a place that is worth going to see.

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