kara at lost lake
Travel date August 2020

Before starting your hike to Lost Lake from the Hessie trailhead in Nederland Colorado, you’ll need to know a few important things. We share those plus more to help plan your hike.

Lost Lake was our first Colorado hike to a lake and it was amazing. The water was amazingly clear and it offered a great introduction to high elevation lakes in Colorado.

How do you get to Lost Lake Nederland?

Lost Lake is a beautiful alpine lake in Colorado. Lost Lake can only be accessed via a hike from the Hessie Trailhead in Nederland. The Hessie Trailhead is located less than an hour from Denver and half an hour from Boulder.

The US Forest Service operates the Hessie Trailhead. The popular trailhead provides access to the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Devils ThumbLost LakeKing LakeWoodland Lake and Diamond Lake trails.

lost lake is only accessible via a hike from the Hessie Trailhead in Nederland

How hard is the hike from Hessie Trailhead to Lost Lake in Nederland?

The moderately rated trail to Lost Lake is 1.75 miles from the trailhead but the trailhead can only be accessed by 4wd or 4×4 vehicles. If traveling in a 2wd vehicle or arriving via the shuttle, the hike from the low-clearance vehicle parking is 2.2 miles. Our hike was 4.4-miles including the additional section from the low-clearance parking area.

The trail was a bit rocky and had a slight incline for the majority of the outward section. The trail passes through a pine forest, beside the beautiful Middle Boulder Creek, then finally leading to an emerald alpine lake. The main part of the trail gains 1,000 feet of elevation in less than 2 miles. After crossing the second bridge over Middle Boulder Creek, the trail narrows into a single track. At the time, I thought it was a steep hike. In hindsight, it was uphill but not too steep. It was a nice, mild introduction to the truly steep hikes we’d find during our summer in Colorado.

the moderate rate hike to Lost lake from hessie trailhead is all uphill for the first 2 miles

How long does it take to hike Lost Lake Trail?

The 4.4-mile hike can easily be completed in under two hours by experienced hikers. If wondering how long it will take to hike to Lost Lake, it will vary based on your experience, fitness level, and motivation. We had spent the past 3 months hiking in Utah, Wyoming and Montana so our fitness level was respectable.

We found the Colorado elevation to be a bit more challenging and weren’t in a rush to finish the hike. Once we reached the lake, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the lake and a 15-minute snack break along the shore. Our hike took 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Are dogs allowed on Hessie Trail to Lost Lake?

Leashed dogs are allowed on the Hessie Trail. The free shuttle bus from Nederland also allows leashed dogs.

Can you swim in Lost Lake Colorado?

Yes, you can swim in Lost Lake Colorado. However, the lake is located at 9,786 feet elevation so the water may be a bit cold for most visitors.

Can you camp at Lost Lake Colorado?

Camping is allowed at Lost Lake. Eight lakeside campsites are first come-first served. We saw a few families hiking to the lake for overnight camping. In my opinion, the roundtrip hike might be too much for smaller kids but the excitement of an overnight camping trip would make the one-way hike worth it.

No water or restroom facilities exist at the lake. Remember to pack in and pack out everything to keep the lake clean for future visitors.

The US Forest Service requires camping permits for overnight trips from June 1st until September 15th. Permits cost $5 per group, per trip.

Are permits required for Hessie Trailhead or Lost Lake?

Individuals taking a day hike to Lost Lake from Hessie Trailhead in Nederland do not need a permit. Overnight camping requires a permit during peak season.

Organized groups must have permits for all activities year- round. Group day hiking permits are free.

Is Lost Lake busy?

Lost Lake is one of the busiest hikes in Nederland. The trail to Lost Lake is busy during the week but weekends draw even larger crowds.

Parking to hike Hessie Trailhead to Lost Lakes in Nederland

Parking for the Hessie Trailhead is available for 2wd vehicles along Fourth of July Road in designated sections. Observe posted signs for parking restrictions. Parking outside of designated areas will result in towing or fines.

The 2wd parking area was full when we visited mid-day Friday but the small 4wd parking area had several empty spots. The Hessie trailhead has limited parking so arrive early to secure a parking spot.

We parked about one mile from the actual trailhead in the 2wd parking area because the road crosses a creek and requires 4×4 beyond this point. We saw a Subaru driving in shin deep water to the 4wd parking area during the first part of the hike. I am not sure I would have tried the drive even if we had a 4×4.

If you can’t arrive early and plan to visit during the weekend, there is another option. The town of Nederland offers a free trailhead shuttle bus.

Facilities available at Hessie Trailhead

Portable toilets and trash cans are available at the Hessie Trailhead. Drinking water is not available. No other facilities exist along the trails.

If necessary, water could possibly be filtered from the Middle Boulder Creek. The trail follows the creek for the majority of the hike to Lost Lake. Since we are day-hikers, we bring our own water and do not have experience filtering water.

middle boulder creek along lost lake hike

Trail Options from Hessie Trailhead

There are multiple trail options to hike other than Lost Lake from Hessie Trailhead in Nederland.

An easy trail option is a 0.6-mile hike to the First Waterfalls on Middle Boulder Creek. Moderate hikes include the 1.2-miles to the Middle Boulder Creek and Lost Lake. Difficult hikes include 5.4 miles one-way to Woodland Lake, 5.8-miles one-way to Skyscraper Reservoir, 6.5-miles one-way to Jasper Lake, 7.5-miles one-way to Devil’s Thumb Lake, or 16-miles on the Big Loop Back Packing trail. The Big Loop Back Packing trail includes the Devil’s Thumb Pass Trail to the Continental Divide on the High Lonesome Trails back on the Kind Lake Trail.

first waterfalls at middle boulder creek

How do I get to Lost Lake?

From the 2wd parking area, head towards the Hessie Trailhead. There is small path on the right leading through a small forest along the 4×4 road to the trailhead. This path leads to an open clearing. The Hessie Trail sign is visible from here.

Once you reach the 4wd parking area and the trailhead, you pass over the first bridge. Take the Devil’s Thumb Trail which climbs steeply for about half a mile on an old road. In 0.8 miles at Devil’s Thumb Bypass, cross the bridge to stay on the main trail. You’ll continue up a gravelly path to another junction. The three-way split has giant logs blocking both the left and right paths. Take the middle path which is the marked trail. Continue for another mile following signs for Lost Lake.

bridge on lost lake hike

Is there a shuttle to Hessie Trailhead in Nederland?

Boulder County offers a summer shuttle to the trailhead from Nederland High School. To reduce parking congestion at the trailhead, the shuttle and parking are offered for free. Leashed dogs are allowed on the shuttle. Shuttles run every 15 minutes during operating hours. The journey to the trailhead is approximately 10 minutes.

The shuttle only runs during weekends from late spring to early autumn. Friday service is available starting in August. Saturday and Sunday shuttles start in late May and end in early October. The shuttle also operates on specific holidays. Check the Boulder County shuttle website for the most current hours to plan your hike from the Hessie Trailhead to Lost Lake in Nederland.

Where can I hike in Nederland CO?

For fewer crowds, other hiking options in the area are Caribou Ranch, Brainard Lake Recreation Area, East Portal Trailhead, Mud Lake, or Sourdough Trail.

Other Hiking Options Near Nederland if Hessie Trail to Lost Lake is Too Busy

Boulder County operates Caribou Ranch. It is open for hiking from July until March. Trail options include the moderate rated 1.8 mile Blue Bird trail or easy rated 1.2-mile DeLonde Trail.

The US Forest Service operates the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Day use fees apply. America the Beautiful passes provide admission. The trails at Brainard Lake are open for hiking, biking and equestrian use. Dogs are allowed. RV, bus and trailer parking is available.

The US Forest Service operates East Portal Trailhead, located in the James Peak Wilderness. Trails accessible from the East Portal trailhead are South Boulder Creek Trail, Forest Lakes Trail, Crater Lakes Trail, Ute Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Dispersed camping is allowed at least 100 feet from trails and water sources.

Boulder County operates Mud Lake. Leashed dogs are allowed. Trail options include the 1.1-mile easy rated Kinnickinnick loop, the easy rated 0.8-mile Tungsten Loop or a 0.7-mile easy rated trail linking to the Caribou Ranch trails above.

The US Forest Service operates the Sourdough Trail. No permits or fees are required to hike the Sourdough Trail. The Sourdough Trail has several moderate options but the shortest is 5.7-miles one way to Red Rock Trailhead. Longer options are 12.6-miles to Beaver Creek trailhead or 14.7-mile to Buchanan Pass trailhead. Distances are all one-way. It is open year-round for biking, hiking and equestrian use. Dispersed camping is allowed without a permit.

hessie trail in nederland colorado

What is else there to do in Nederland?

Check out Top 15 Things to Do in Nederland: Our Favorite Colorado Hippie Town to learn what else there is to do in Nederland.

To learn more about one of our favorite attractions in Nederland, read Why You Can’t Miss The Amazing Carousel Of Happiness in Nederland Colorado. Check out our upcoming Golden Gate Canyon State Park post to learn more about the nearby Colorado state park that offers wonderful hiking and camping.

Hike Summary: Hessie Trailhead to Lost Lake in Nederland

In summary, there is a reason the Lost Lake is the most popular hike in the area. If you are looking for a gorgeous mountain lake and are up for a little workout, the hike to Lost Lake from the Hessie Trailhead in Nederland is a great option.

mountain views from nederland colorado

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