Jasper - Devils Thumb - Storm Lake Loop, Hessie Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado
Jasper - Devils Thumb - Storm Lake Loop - 14.35 miles
|Round-Trip Length:||14.35 miles (distance and elevation gains will vary by route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,009' - 12,480' (12,480' max elevation on route)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,471' net elevation gain (+4,225' total elevation gain on route)|
Jasper - Devils Thumb - Storm Lake Loop - 14.35 Miles Round-Trip
Jasper Lake, Devils Thumb Lake and Storm Lake can be linked to form a challenging but exciting 14.35 mile lollipop loop in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The route follows the Devils Thumb Trail past Jasper Lake and Devils Thumb Lake to the High Lonesome Trail (CDT) on the Continental Divide.
It turns north to Devils Thumb Pass and leaves the CDT on a .8 mile - 700' climb through open tundra to a 12,480' saddle over the Storm Lakes valley.
The route continues down the south valley wall into the center where you'll improvise through varied alpine terrain to (lower) Storm Lake.
It follows a social trail down Storm Lake's outlet (Jasper Creek) to the NW corner of Jasper Lake, where you'll pick up a campsite access spur that returns you to the main trail to complete the loop portion of the hike.
The loop is similar in distance and elevation gain to the King - High Lonesome - Devils Thumb route, but considerably more difficult with over 2.8 miles of off-trail travel between Devils Thumb Pass and the return to Jasper Lake.
- Hessie Trailhead to High Lonesome Trail (6.25 miles : +2,958')
- High Lonesome Trail to Devils Thumb Pass (.55 miles : +113' | -320')
- Pass to Saddle over Storm Lakes Valley (.8 miles : +700')
- Saddle to Storm Lake (1.45 miles : -1065')
- Storm Lake to Hessie Trailhead (5.3 miles : -2406')
Distances will vary by individual route, particularly through the Storm Lakes valley. Travel down the valley can be time consuming no matter your route.
4.3 miles of the loop are partially or fully exposed and your pace will slow on high elevation / off-trail sections. Start early and make good time to the Divide, where you can gauge weather and the climb ahead and decide if there's enough time to continue.
Only experienced hikers should attempt this loop. Carry a detailed map and have a good feel for the route before setting out:
The trail begins on a steep dirt road that meets S. Fork Middle Boulder Creek at the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split (.85 miles : 9,455').
Bear right on the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail and climb into a large meadow across the IPW Boundary (1.35 miles : 9,625'). It moderates through intervals of timber and glades to the Devils Thumb Trail - Woodland Lake Trail split (2.15 miles, 9,780').
Veer right toward Jasper Lake on a steeper, rocky path that can be obscured by runoff and snow through mid-summer. It climbs steadily up the north valley wall to the Diamond Lake Trail split (3.7 miles : 10,675') and moderates to Jasper Lake (4.3 miles).
Follow signs (left) for Devils Thumb Lake and clockwise travel on the loop. The trail rises in variously steep and moderate intervals through patchy forest and meadows to Devils Thumb Lake (5.2 miles : 11,138').
Cross the outlet on a makeshift bridge into expansive meadows between the lake and Divide (5.5 miles).
The trail turns sharply uphill on a demanding .5 mile - 700' climb to the High Lonesome Trail (CDT) in open tundra on the Continental Divide (6.25 miles : 11,967').
This junction is not explicitly marked but the transition is obvious. Turn north and follow cairns and a faint boot track over a steep crest (6.5 miles : 12,100') down to Devils Thumb Pass (6.8 miles : 11,780').
The pass is marked by an anonymous pole, but its location should be known and confirmed by a well-defined trail coming up from the west side (a portion of the CDT / High Lonesome to/from Junco Lake). Take a few steps east to peer down the Devils Thumb Lake valley and appreciate the route you took to this point.
Here you'll leave the CDT and climb 700' in just .8 miles to a saddle over the Storm Lakes valley on the south valley wall (7.6 miles : 12,480').
Terrain is surprisingly gentle on this strenuous push, though you'll have to weave around or cross several short sections of talus.
It's possible to stay high and cut across the south valley wall from this point to Storm Lake, but it's fraught with loose rock on steep slopes and eschews attractive features on the valley floor. Travel down the middle or north side of the valley has it's own challenges, but is subjectively easier with more charisma.
Drop from the saddle on thick tundra grass slopes to a wide, level bench in the middle of the valley between the lower and upper lake (8.2 miles : 11,720'). Note that you won't see the upper lake on this descent - it's tucked behind a ridge.
The valley floor has more texture and terrestrial variation than may first appear: extensive willow patches, krummholz, steep cliffs, marshy ponds, tarns, numerous cascades and countless streams that cut deep, narrow channels concealed by brush.
There's no perfect route, but the path of least resistance crosses the valley to a large tarn on the north side (8.6 miles : 11,620'). Work your way around it and up the north valley wall just a bit to avoid tedious brush; from this higher vantage you'll be able to scout a decent route to the NW corner of Storm Lake (8.9 miles : 11,415').
Skirt the lake edge to the outlet stream (9.05 miles), which you'll cross to the south side and pick up a social trail that drops through treeline to a campsite access trail on the NW side of Jasper Lake (9.55 miles : 10,860').
Perennial snow covers portion of the descent, but the way (and any deviation you choose around the snow) is navigationally intuitive.
Follow the campsite trail back to the Devils Thumb Trail to complete the loop portion of the route (9.95 miles). Retrace your steps back to Hessie Trailhead (14.35 miles).
- N39 57.100 W105 35.696 — 2WD Parking Area for Hessie Trailhead
- N39 57.278 W105 36.192 — 0.0 miles : Hessie Trailhead
- N39 57.330 W105 36.780 — .85 miles : Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split
- N39 57.410 W105 37.301 — 1.35 miles : Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary
- N39 57.848 W105 37.935 — 2.15 miles : Woodland Lake Trail split
- N39 58.133 W105 38.434 — 2.8 miles : Turn left over small creek
- N39 58.475 W105 39.107 — 3.7 miles : Diamond Lake Trail junction
- N39 58.491 W105 39.775 — 4.4 miles : Begin loop portion at campsites #5-6 spur
- N39 58.420 W105 40.544 — 5.2 miles : Devils Thumb Lake
- N39 58.233 W105 40.973 — 5.7 miles : Begin steep climb to Divide
- N39 58.100 W105 41.150 — 6.0 miles : Steep climb over Devils Thumb Lake
- N39 57.989 W105 41.324 — 6.25 miles : High Lonesome Trail on Divide
- N39 58.151 W105 41.414 — 6.5 miles : Climb valley headwall on Divide
- N39 58.484 W105 41.372 — 6.8 miles : Devils Thumb Pass
- N39 58.709 W105 41.360 — 7.2 miles : Steep climb across talus ribbons
- N39 58.839 W105 41.351 — 7.4 miles : Steep climb in open tundra
- N39 59.092 W105 41.221 — 7.7 miles : Reach saddle over Storm Lakes valley
- N39 59.108 W105 40.969 — 8.0 miles : Drop along south valley wall
- N39 59.113 W105 40.802 — 8.2 miles : Level on grassy bench in mid-valley
- N39 59.142 W105 40.657 — 8.45 miles : Cross valley to north side
- N39 59.155 W105 40.560 — 8.6 miles : Edge of large tarn
- N39 59.112 W105 40.303 — 8.85 miles : Cross scree and drop on steep slope
- N39 59.026 W105 40.318 — 9.0 miles : NW corner of Storm Lake
- N39 58.940 W105 40.232 — 9.15 miles : Storm Lake outlet stream
- N39 58.863 W105 40.076 — 9.35 miles : Bottom of steep snowfield
- N39 58.815 W105 39.872 — 9.65 miles : Campsite access trail
- Though dogs are permitted in the Indian Peaks, it's inadvisable to bring them on this loop (sharp rock, falling rock, cliff scrambles, etc):
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Permits are required for backcountry camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, June 1 - Sept. 15. Permits are limited.
- Permits are $5 per party. Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Boulder Ranger District (303.541.2500) in advance to secure a permit.
- Permits must be picked up in person at either Ranger Station, or ordered in advance by mail. There is no online reservation system for permits.
- Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs. Group size is limited to 12 people or people+stock combined.
- Campfires are prohibited east of the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (including Jasper Lake), as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls on the west side of the Divide.
- Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Travel Zones.
- Camping is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Travel Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.
- Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.
- Stock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.
- Fishing is permitted in the Storm Lakes, Jasper Lake, Devils Thumb Lake and Jasper Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Directions to Trailhead
The Hessie Trailhead is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, CO.
From downtown Nederland, head south on Highway 72 for .5 miles to County Road 130 and turn right. You'll see a sign for Eldora Ski Resort at this junction.
Continue on Highway 130 through the town of Eldora, just past which it becomes a dirt road (4 miles). 2WD drive conditions end 4.8 miles from the Highway 72 turnoff.
4WD vehicles may veer left at this demarcation and continue another .5 miles to the trailhead. Others will have to park in one of the roadside spaces and walk the 4WD road to the trailhead.
Boulder Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301
Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, Colorado 80446