Take a walk on the Continental Divide! It's a strenuous hike based on elevation gain and length. It's a long loop and I don't want anyone to be left behind. If you RSVP and I haven't hiked with you before please describe some of your latest hikes or conditioning. 12 person permit. If you don't carpool be at the Hesse trailhead by 6:15
Round-Trip Length: 14.75 Miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,009' - 12,105' (max elevation)
Elevation Change: +3,096' net elevation gain (+3,376' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
The High Lonesome Trail connects the King Lake and Devils Thumb Lake trails to form an exhilarating loop through the Indian Peaks high country.
The route scales a spectacular alpine valley to the Continental Divide, where it levels in open tundra for 2.5 miles before descending another to complete the loop.
The following describes clockwise travel, recommended for its milder up-valley climb and favorable lighting. The trail begins on a steep dirt road that merges with South Fork Middle Boulder Creek at the King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split (.85 miles : 9,455').
It continues by the creek to the Lost Lake Trail split (1.1 miles : 9,582') and levels into a meadow at the King Lake - Woodland Lake Trail split (1.3 miles : 9,600').
The trail enters a mixed pine forest and climbs steadily for the better part of 2.5 miles with little variation up the south flank of Woodland Mountain. South Fork Middle Boulder Creek is audible much of the way, but its location is largely concealed by timber.
Travel eases in a meadow at the base of Guinn Mountain (3.85 miles : 10,437'), past which the creek and trail merge in a thinning forest.
The trail abruptly banks right up switchbacks (4.75 miles : 10,904') that level off near treeline at the King Lake - Bob and Betty Lakes Trail split (5.0 miles : 11,108'). Veer left over the creek, which may obscure the path.
The trail rises through open alpine landscapes highlighted by abundant wildflowers and rangy views back down valley. The trail is well-cut, but may be overgrown or snow-covered in places.
An unmarked spur veers right to a large pond just before reaching King Lake (5.25 miles : 11,339'); a few minutes ahead another spur branches right (5.38 miles) - this is King Lake (5.4 miles : 11,430').
The trail continues up King Lake's south cirque wall to the Continental Divide and High Lonesome Trail (5.75 miles : 11,657') with views of Corona Lake, James Peak, the Gore Range and Winter Park.
The High Lonesome Trail turns north and scales steep, tightly wound switchbacks over King Lake to the west of side of the Divide's apical ridge.
The trail levels (6.5 miles : 11,966') with unabated views down the western slope before pushing uphill once again to its highest point (7.0 miles : 12,105'), located just behind Bob Lake.
Travel moderates for .5 miles, dips to avoid willow thickets and scree (7.5 miles), then rises back to the High Lonesome Trail - Devils Thumb Trail junction (8.05 miles : 11,810').
Bear right on the Devils Thumb Trail, which leads to a thin saddle on the Continental Divide (8.25 miles : 11,967'). The Devils Thumb Trail turns down the east side of the Divide with good views over the Devils Thumb Lake basin.
It negotiates steep, winding switchbacks to the alpine valley floor where it levels by a large pond (8.85 miles : 11,257') near Devils Thumb Lake.
Devils Thumb Lake is long and slender, hemmed in tightly by Mt Neva and its eponymous promontory. Social trails thread dense willow to its open southwest shore, or you may continue on the main trail to easier but limited access on its southeast corner (9.25 miles : 11,138').
The trail drops steeply beside Devils Thumb Lake's outlet to a meadow and re-enters an undulating forest in the upper valley (9.75 miles : 10,908').
Travel moderates by campsites on the south shore of Jasper Lake (10.05 miles : 10,967'), and across the outlet to an access spur on the southeast shore (10.4 miles : 10,814').
The trail continues past Jasper Lake on a damp, intermittently steep and ill-defined path into the lower-valley; connections with the Diamond Lake Trail (11.0 miles : 10,675') and Woodland Lake Trail (12.55 miles : 9,792') are useful progress markers on the descent.
The forest breaks at a large meadow (13.1 miles : 9,670') past the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary sign. It re-enters thick forest (13.5 miles : 9,625') and twists steeply down Jasper Creek to the King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass Trail junction and conclusion of the loop (13.9 miles : 9,455'). Retrace your steps back to the Hessie Trailhead (14.75 miles : 9,009').
3 to 4 liters of water, be self sufficient. I'm told it's a beautiful hike.
Hope to see you there!