Colorado, Colorado Hikes

Colorado Day Hikes: Lost Lake

There are many Lost Lakes in Colorado. Apparently. I didn’t realize this until I just googled “Lost Lake” in an attempt to verify the mileage of this hike and a whole bunch of options came up. Turns out there are at least 7 or 8 of them. Back in the day, people must not have been very good at keeping track of all the lakes.

Anyway, on an unseasonably warm February day Pat and I headed out with our friends Kaylyn and Holden to snowshoe to the Lost Lake that’s just outside of Nederland, Colorado, a small town about an hour west of Boulder. This is one of the more highly recommended snowshoe hikes in the area due to its proximity to Denver and relative ease. The last section to the lake is very steep, but other than that it was a gradual and scenic couple miles.

Lost Lake is located about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) from Hessie Trailhead west of Nederland. Since it was winter and the gate was closed, we had to park and walk the last 0.5 miles (0.8 km) up the road, making it about a 2.1 mile (3.4 km) one-way trip with just under 900 feet (275 m) of elevation gain. This is a very popular hike; we arrived around 8:30am and were able to park fairly close, but by the time we made it back to the trailhead at 11 parking was extending quite a distance down the road. During the summer months there is a shuttle from Nederland to alleviate the parking nightmare.

The first section of the hike, in which we walked up the remainder of the road, was extremely slippery. The road dips down into a depression and is commonly flooded and/or icy.

Road/winter trail

Once we reached the trailhead, the trail alternated between well-packed and somewhat fluffy so we were glad we had our snowshoes. Most of the trail, as well as the lake, is located within the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, so standard wilderness restrictions (dogs must be on leash, permits required for backpacking, etc.) apply on this hike.

There are some pretty views from the trail, and Eldora Ski Area is visible on the hillside above and we could see a few skiers navigating the slopes.


We reached Lost Lake without issue and found it to be frozen solid and surprisingly smooth. Something that was unexpected to me when I first started winter hiking here is that mountain lakes don’t freeze uniformly. The ice is usually very rippled or wavy or bumpy. Lost Lake, however, was smooth enough that we took off our snowshoes and spent the next 15 minutes sliding around on the lake like little kids.

Our friend actually made a short video of the hike, complete with our frozen lake shenanigans… you can watch it here!


And I guess that’s about it. I took very few photos since this was a pretty short hike. There are a handful of other lakes further up the Hessie Trail and also a bunch up the nearby Fourth of July Trail, so this is definitely an area we’ll be returning to soon… hopefully next summer!

The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Hessie Trailhead is located at the end of Hessie Road/Route 130 (dirt but accessible to 2WD cars) just a few minutes west of Nederland, Colorado
  • Fees and passes: none
  • Hiking: Lost Lake is located about 2 miles (3.2 km) up the Hessie Trail; the trail is well-marked and easy to follow
  • Where to stay: this hike is an easy day trip from Denver, but to extend your stay in the area there are lodging and camping options in Boulder, Nederland, and on the surrounding Forest Service land
  • Other: in summer, plan to park in Nederland and take the free shuttle to the trailhead to alleviate traffic and congestion; in the winter, plan to arrive early to secure one of the limited parking spaces along the road (I’ve been told that the no parking zones are strictly enforced)

5 thoughts on “Colorado Day Hikes: Lost Lake”

  1. I’ve had my fair share of visiting frozen lakes (in the Pacific Northwest, Poland, etc.), and it really does amaze me how the water ripples freeze over to create that textured look. It’s nature at its finest…and most fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

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