Wildflowers, Lakes, and Peaks, Oh My!

Herman Gulch, Dillon, Colorado, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Running, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers

The hike is just under 3.5 miles to the lake, for a little less than 7 round trip. Elevation gain: Starts at 10,280 feet, maxes out at 12,045 feet for a total gain of over 1700 feet. Use snowshoes October-April (depending on snowfall), and use crampons May-June. Looking for a longer hike or run? Herman Gulch Trail connects with Jones Pass Trail about ½ mile before the lake, which continues northward to the Continental Divide and a network of trails.).

Herman Gulch is one of those special places that makes you fall in love with Colorado all over again. This spectacular wildflower hike that ends at an alpine lake will have your head swiveling from start to finish. Wildflower season is July and August, with peak season being mid-to-late July. Pleasant temperatures continue through September. In spring, the trail will be covered in snow, or ice, or mud, or all three.

The hike starts off in a forested area where you will immediately find wildflowers hidden among the trees, including Colorado’s state flower, the beautiful Rocky Mountain Columbine. The first mile is a steep climb, but soon you will hear rushing water from the creek as it descends the mountainside.

Soon after this you will break into a meadow, where the trail levels out some and you are greeted with a sea of wildflowers. If that’s not enough, throughout the hike you will enjoy impressive views of Mount Sniktau to the south and Pettingell Peak to the northwest.

The trail weaves in and out of the forest, which has a floor covered in green foliage and flowers. The trail can be muddy and wet in places thanks to the snowmelt seeping down the mountains. The final 1/3 of the hike is again out in the open, and becomes quite steep as you gain altitude. The wildflowers are less plentiful up here, but the views of the surrounding peaks are incredible. At the end of the trail lies Herman Lake. Pick a nice big rock to have a rest on, break out your lunch, and enjoy the pure mountain air. If you are still feeling fresh (or, at least, determined), you can go on to summit the 13,553-foot Pettingell Peak which shelters the lake.

Tips:This is a popular summer hike close to Denver, so begin early to avoid a crowded trail and parking.Afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer, so an early start is recommended to avoid being caught in a dangerous weather situation.Park service always asks hikers to walk through the mud, not around it, to reduce erosion of the earth. Keep an extra pair of shoes and socks in your car, and plastic bags for muddy articles.Temperatures July-September are generally pleasant at this altitude but can be cool, especially at the top.Dogs are required to be leashed.If hiking on the weekend, plan for delays on westbound I-70 due to construction at Idaho Springs and heavy traffic. Again—an early start will help you avoid this hassle!

Directions:From I-70, take Exit 218 and turn north. Immediately take a sharp right into the parking area. (Exit 218 is unnamed, but is located between the Loveland Pass and Bakerville exits, about 3.5 miles east of the Eisenhower Tunnel.)

Pack List

  • Typical hiking gear
  • Food and water
  • Light jacket
  • Light gloves on cooler days
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra shoes and socks
  • Camera
  • Hat with visor or brim to shade your face—the Colorado sun is intense!
  • Book on Colorado flora if you are interested in the wildflower species
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One of my all time favorite Colorado quick day hikes. We hiked this in early June and there was still a lot of snow to navigate but it was a gorgeous day and totally worth it. Definitely get there early as the parking lot and trail becomes PACKED.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Loved this-- pretty quick jaunt from Denver, with an amazing mix of wild flowers, elevation gain and moderate distance to make you feel you got a workout, and a gorgeous alpine lake at the finish!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Amy Kesic Storyteller

A mom who decided to get fit a few years ago, I took up running and hiking to keep myself moving. Since moving to the Front Range foothills a year ago, I've spent my free time discovering all the trails I possibly can. I'm in love with Colorado and the Rocky Mountains; I also like to take pictures, and I share my adventures here on The Outbound and on Instagram at @run2themountains.

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