Herman Lake

Herman Lake (Loveland)

  • TH: On I-70W, exit at 218 (just before Loveland Ski Resort).  Take the first right onto Watrous Way to Herman Gulch TH.  This parking lot has been covered with deep snow in the winter, requiring 4WD Low and all my clearance on my 9.1″ 4Runner.
  • Attempted 2/05/13 (and many more times)
  • Apprx 6.6 miles round trip
  • Apprx 4-5 hr hike depending on snow depth
  • Easy snowshoe trip
  • Snow will remain on this trail for a long time.  Hard packed for the first half, hard solid powder at the top.
  • Equipment:
    • sunblock (the reflection off the snow will burn you like you wouldn’t believe)
    • sunglasses
    • snowshoes (you’ll likely need these to reach the lake)
    • AT Skis (if you prefer to snowshoes, it is certainly steep enough to ski down in sections)
    • microspikes (it is hard packed at the bottom of the trail)

This is a great trail a little further up I-70, so it is definitely a solid half day’s hike up around here if not almost a full day’s hike.  This is a great trail for snowshoeing or for skiing (cross-country or all-terrain).  I have seen it all on this trail and it is steep enough to tackle whatever you want on this trail.  The trail branches pretty quickly, so you should make sure to go to Herman Lake (hiker’s left at the fork, I believe).  I have gone left at this fork and it is a beautiful trail as well.  It is hiked far less frequently, so I was in waist-deep powder after about a mile and could only hike about a mile in depths like that before I was exhausted.  Both hikes are amazing, but I would suggest Herman Lake if you intend to finish the hike.  But if you want to practice deep powder snowshoeing, I would go left at the fork; however, there won’t be any steep sections to ski down if you want to ski.

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Herman Gulch Trail starts off pretty steep.  If it is the least bit icy or hard packed, you’ll need definitely want crampons, microspikes (no need to overkill it with crampons) or snowshoes with teeth if you don’t have any spikes.  It’ll level off after about a mile.  It’ll run in between two mountains for the next stretch of the trail.  I have considered snowshoeing up the mountain to the west (hiker’s left) but I have seen the aftermath of avalanches at the base of the mountain one too many times for it to be worth it.  If you want to snowshoe up a mountain and ski down it, I would suggest a number of 14ers and a solid avalanche beacon.

The first ascent
The first ascent

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After the valley you’ll have to go up a pretty steep section again to reach the lake.  Even once you are at the lake, you can go up the small mountain peaks that are surrounding the lake (I have done it, they are very steep, but fun to “sled” down on the back of your snowshoes if you don’t run a full crampon system on your snowshoes).

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I took a B line up that small col to the left of the large rock. It was pretty damn steep at the top, like you might imagine!

The lake will remain frozen for a long time, I am pretty sure I hiked across the lake and it was fine, but I wouldn’t ever advise hiking across a frozen lake – it just isn’t worth it.

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The avalanche prone valley
The avalanche prone valley

The valley itself is safe from any avalanches, it is wide enough that any avalanches from the mountains will stop before it reaches the trail.  With that, I have seen WAY too many avalanches around the mountains to suggest going up them.  Better safe than sorry, and there are much better places to ski down if that’s what you are looking for.  Overall a great trail to get away from the city a bit more but still not have to worry too much about ski traffic.  A nice trail for someone looking for something a step above an easy snowshoeing trail.  Nothing too challenging if you take your time, but the steep sections will work your legs for sure.

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The summit above the lake
The summit above the lake
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