Loch Lomond (Idaho Springs)
- It is an off road trail rated at a 2 – meaning that most any SUV with a clearance of about 6+” could handle it granted the driver is comfortable taking the risk of off roading. This was my third trail off roading, but I would have done this second or first had I known how great of a beginner trail this would be.
- The trail is rated a 2 (out of 10) mostly for its water crossings and steep ledges
- 4.8 miles RT with only a couple of points to turn around before the end
I was hesitant to just keep the loch a secret, but I think I will share this amazing place with the world. This is a beautiful little trail near Denver that most any SUV can handle. I would highly recommend this as a beginner’s trail to off roading granted the driver has done some necessary research about how to off road as well as have an SUV capable of the trail. I first started off roading in my father’s 2003 Toyota 4Runner Limited (9.1″ clearance, truck frame and shocks, decent tread on the tires, 4.7L V8 engine putting out 320 ft. lbs. of torque and 235 HP, 4WD, locking differentials, downhill assist control (DAC)). Granted, on this trail, I don’t think I had to really ever engage 4WD. I have off roaded with friends who engage 4WD at the TH, but I prefer to only engage it if I need it because it burns gas and is often unnecessary. I have also taken my SUV, which is a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder LE (3.5L V6 putting out 240 HP and 265 ft lbs of torque, 8.3″ of clearance, pretty worn out shocks, decent tire tread). My car had no problems what so ever, but I have also off roaded with it on much harder trails.
The start of this trail is about the same difficulty of trail the whole way through, so don’t expect too many surprises later. The one thing I would say can be tricky is that there is a water crossing about half way up that can be pretty deep early in the season. Just remember what your car is capable of and don’t flood your engine or cabin. I have done this trail many times and can tell you that there is a winter closure gate that doesn’t open until June or July sometime. You definitely want that gate open so you can make it all the way to the loch; however, you can always hike around the gate if you are super committed to getting to the loch before the gate opens.
Just after the water crossing, there is a small turn off to the driver’s right when going up that leads to a small mud pit. It is SUPER fun to go through, but just know when you go through mud you cannot see what is below. I made sure to go through this slowly with 4WD first to test it and I made sure I was with another car that could tow me out with my cables if I got stuck.
There are a ton of camping sites above the water crossing and a lake at the top where you can fish. There are also some lakes above the top of the loch and summits of mountains that can be hiked at the top of the loch. I have spent a half day at the top and not run out of stuff to do.
I have also camped at the loch and it is super fun to just get away easily, camp out of your car (which isn’t really camping in my book, but that’s something to discuss another time), and just hang out around the loch! It can get pretty busy on the weekend, so be sure to get up there early. My friends and I camped here one time after summitting Mt. Bierstadt on the morning of the Labor Day Weekend and still manged to get an amazing camping spot!
Also at the top by the loch is a “donut” shaped off road loop that can be driven – more drifted than driven, as it is very slanted and thus requires some pretty good speed to go around without the risk of rolling. I have done it every time I go up and haven’t had any issues. Just make sure to get a bit of speed to run at it and you’ll be fine!
I’d also suggest you bring up a telescope if you’re into astronomy, as the night sky up at the loch is amazing!! I love astronomy, so any chance to get away with my telescope is an opportunity I will take any day of the week!