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Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop

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  • Blue columbine.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Dazzling array of Indian paintbrush, golden banner, sulphurflowers, and many more.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Indian paintbrush.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Golden banner.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Sulphurflower.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Blue columbine.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Skyscraper Peak guarding the valley.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • The reflection in the many lakes along the way.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • A stream leaving Jasper Lake.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Campsite view of Devils Thumb.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Sunset over Devils Thumb Lake.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Sunset on Skyscraper Peak.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Stars just after moonset.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Perfect camping just below treeline.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Sunrise on Skyscraper Peak.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Devils Thumb peak at sunrise.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • The climb to the Continental Divide.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Ptarmigans in the trail.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Marmots enjoying the many boulder fields.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Devils Thumb and the lakes from above.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Snowy cliffs drop off the divide.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • View of the drainage climbed to this point- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Another view of the drainage.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Looking back at the pass along the High Lonesome Trail.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Looking south toward James Peak.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Smaller flowers cover the divide.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • James Peak and a frozen lake just below Rollins Pass- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Kings Lake drainage- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Descending to Kings Lake.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Kings Lake- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Snow can persist in the shade through late July.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Picturesque streams guide you down the valley.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • The abandoned road of Rollins Pass.- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
  • Waterfall near the trailhead- Devils Thumb + Kings Lake Loop
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Less Crowded than RMNP. Amazing Views. Wildflowers.
Cons: 
Limited Parking.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,865.00 ft (873.25 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
17.20 mi (27.68 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
8,955.00 ft (2,729.48 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

With the abundance of amazing backpacking in Colorado, it can sometimes be too easy to forget that there is supreme alpine scenery so close that isn’t part of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Indian Peaks Wilderness just south of Rocky Mountain National Park is a local favorite destination for hiking, camping, and snowshoeing with seven peaks over 13,000 feet and countless places to explore. Originally established in 1978, the area was originally populated by Native American tribes, specifically the Arapaho tribe until the late 1800s when mining activity began.

Thankfully for us now, little viable material was able to be mined, so the development of the high country for mining operations was abandoned.

Several roads were constructed, including Rollins Pass Road that was built as a temporary road until the Mallet Tunnel was built. In 1955 the road was opened to automobiles for public use, but this was closed due to rockfall in the Needle Eye tunnel in 1979. The pass is still accessible from the west side, where many hiking trails along the Continental Divide are available. Backcountry camping permits can be obtained by mail or in person at the Nederland or Boulder Ranger offices, but no phone or online options are available.

In the valleys and the high country a wide variety of wildflowers can be viewed from late spring through late summer. There is a huge variety that includes red Indian paintbrush, yellow sulphurflowers (Eriogonum umbellatum), yellow golden banner (Thermopsis divaricarpa), and the unique Colorado blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea). These are best viewed from the middle of June through early July depending on the elevation.

This is a very popular route that uses the Continental Divide passes by Rollins Pass and originates from the Hessie Trailhead just west of Nederland. The hike begins by climbing toward Devils Thumb Lake, passing several turnoffs toward Woodland Lake and Diamond Lake before passing directly by the shore of Jasper Lake. Forested for much of the climb, the shade can hold snow below treeline well into July. Above the trees, most snow will be gone by late June barring late snowstorms in May. After camping near Devils Thumb Lake around 11,000 feet, a short climb to the High Lonesome Trail along the Continental Divide will close out much of the remaining elevation gain for the loop. The final 10 feet to 20 feet of the climb can require going over a very steep snowfield until mid-July and should be taken with caution.

Turn left once you've reached the ridge and enjoy sweeping panoramas for several miles while heading south toward Rollins Pass. This part of the hike is very wide and straightforward while making your way south. Be sure to turn around occasionally to look at Arapaho Peaks in the distance. Just before getting to Rollins Pass, take a left toward Kings Lake and descend into the valley. A mixture of forest and meadows blooming with wildflowers lead you along the creek back toward the intersection near the start of the trail. Return the way you came back to your vehicle, depending on whether you used the busy paved lot or the less trafficked four-wheel drive parking area. Make sure to arrive either very early or in the afternoon due to the high volume of cars at this parking area; a free shuttle from Nederland helps alleviate this issue.

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(19 within a 30 mile radius)

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