Hell's Hole Trail, Hells Hole Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Hell's Hole Trail - 8.2 miles
Hells Hole Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,703' - 11,564' (11,572' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,861' net elevation gain (+1,987' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Hell's Hole Trail - 8.2 Miles Round-Trip
The Hell’s Hole Trail begins 9.7 miles south of Idaho Springs in the West Chicago Creek Campground. The trail runs 4.1 miles through the Mt Evans Wilderness to a scenic tarn at the head of a wide glacial valley. The seasonal tarn occupies a broad, marshy basin ringed by ancient bristlecone pine trees in a park-like setting.
The trail begins on a steady climb through tall, arching aspen up to the Mt Evans Wilderness Boundary (.95 miles : 10,280’). Don’t forget to fill out the free (but required) registration form shortly past the trailhead.
The trail gains 1200’ in the first two miles before moderating in a healthy spruce-fir forest (2.0 miles : 10,895’). Expect rocky conditions and a few vague areas higher up.
Travel quickens on a level ridge (2 - 2.5 miles) with expanding views across the valley. The forest opens abruptly at treeline with a dramatic look at the full cirque (3.7 miles : 11,410’).
Willow mats choke the damp central valley, while the trail edges west and above through open bristlecone stands up to the Hell’s Hole Tarn (4.0 miles : 11,537’).
The trail simply fades in a clearing just past the tarn and last cluster of trees (4.1 miles : 11,564’). Scan the high slopes for elk, mountain goat and bighorn sheep, all which are common in this area. Challenging but non-technical routes continue up the east wall to Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602’).
About Bristlecone Pine
Bristlecone pine have unique adaptations to survive persistent winds, high elevation, cold temperatures and short growing seasons:
- The bristlecone short, twisted trunk stabilizes the tree, while flexible branches bend in the wind.
- Slow growth rates: Bristlecones may take a century to add just 1" in diameter, and can become nearly dormant during a drought.
- Trees replace needles once every 10-15 years rather than annually, which conserves energy.
- Narrow growth rings create dense wood that's resistant to insects and disease. The tree's resin also combats insects and disease.
- Strip-barking enables a small strip of bark to nourish large branches and needle clusters.
- N39 40.665 W105 39.605 — 0.0 miles : Hells Hole Trailhead
- N39 40.329 W105 39.787 — .45 miles : Cross stream
- N39 40.006 W105 40.010 — .95 miles : Cross Mt Evans Wilderness boundary
- N39 39.582 W105 40.173 — 1.5 miles : Steady, moderately steep climb
- N39 39.173 W105 40.297 — 2.0 miles : Moderate intervals
- N39 38.793 W105 40.476 — 2.5 miles : Partial views in thinning forest
- N39 38.424 W105 40.645 — 3.0 miles : Fast travel on mild grades
- N39 38.040 W105 40.609 — 3.5 miles : Move back into thick spruce-fir forest
- N39 37.880 W105 40.680 — 3.7 miles : Trail spills into open upper basin
- N39 37.748 W105 40.882 — 4.0 miles : Thread bristlecone pine above Hells Hole tarn
- N39 37.693 W105 40.985 — 4.1 miles : Trail fades in meadow above tarn
- Bristlecone pine trees at Hells Hole and in the nearby Mt Goliath Natural Area are some of the oldest in Colorado, ranging from 1500 - 2500 years old.
- Though well-maintained, portions of the last two miles can be vague, particularly on the descent.
- The Hell's Hole Trail is quietly one of the most popular trails in the Mt Evans Wilderness. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted on the Hell's Hole Trail and within the Mt Evans Wilderness Area. There are no maintained sites. Camp in previously used sites whenever possible to minimize impact.
- Camp at least 100' away from any lake, stream, trail or road. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- Campfires are permitted for dispersed backcountry camping, with potential seasonal and elevation restrictions.
- When hiking or camping in the Mt Evans Wilderness, one member of each party is required to register at a Mt Evans Wilderness boundary board and carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no fee.
Rules and Regulations
- A hiker from each party must complete and carry with them a self-registration permit for travel within the Mt Evans Wilderness. There is no fee.
- Dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times in the Mt Evans Wilderness.
Directions to Trailhead
The Hell's Hole Trailhead is located 9.7 miles south of Idaho Springs at the end of West Chicago Creek Road, on the far end of the West Chicago Creek Campground.
From I-70, exit #240 and head south on HWY 103 (toward Mt Evans) for 6.6 miles. Veer right on West Chicago Creek Road. Anticipate this turnoff, as it comes on a sharp turn.
West Chicago Creek Rd is a groomed dirt road suitable for 2WD cars. Winter maintenance is limited.
Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road
P.O. Box 3307
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
South Platte Ranger District
19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
Monday - Friday, 8 am - 4:30 pm (excluding National Holidays)