Route: out-and-back to Herman Lake on the Herman’s Gulch trail
Start/End: Herman’s Gulch trailhead, Exit 218, just off I-70
Season: Summer and Fall
I’m becoming a fan of fall. Not that I haven’t always enjoyed it; but lately I’ve been more hooked than ever on those cool mornings that become warm bluebird days with no clouds in sight.
Here in Colorado, fall means changing aspens. For the most part, we don’t have the red, orange and yellow trees the east coast sees … just the bright yellows of the aspens and shortly thereafter, the rich golds of the cottonwoods.
On the Herman’s Gulch trail, just off I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel, fall means more than changing aspen. Grassy shrubs on the hillsides of the surrounding peaks turn shades of orange and red.
Known mostly as an outstanding wildflower hike in late spring to mid-summer, Herman’s Gulch is also stunning in fall. About seven miles round-trip, the Herman’s Gulch trail gains starts high and ascends above treeline; the trailhead sits close to the Continental Divide, so it’s not a great choice for newly-arrived visitors or anyone who has trouble with altitude. Thanks to frequent stream access, it is however, a great trail for our dog. (Don’t forget to pick up the poop!)
It’s essentially a hike up a watershed, which pours down from the Continental Divide. Because it’s so high, snow can sit on sections of the Herman’s Gulch trail into July. Be prepared for mud well into summer. And remember to slosh right through the stuff; walking around muddy sections of trail can widen the existing trail and cause damage to the surroundings.
Herman’s Gulch is a hugely popular trail, so be prepared for a crowds on weekends. At the top I spotted a trail that appears to crest the Continental Divide. And at some point I hope to explore that and backpack from Ptarmigan over to Herman Lake. In the meantime, Herman’s Gulch is an amazing trail that offers a good workout but doesn’t suck up the whole day. And in summer, I always bring the wildflower field guide.