When Pat told his brother we were planning to hike to Hell’s Hole, he immediately asked if this meant we would be spending the day exploring the devil’s butt crack.
(Spoiler alert: we would not.)
Your guess is as good as mine for where the name Hell’s Hole came from. I tried to research it but came up empty. But I can tell you one thing: this hike does not live up to its name. There’s nothing hellish about it. It’s not hot. It’s not fiery. Nothing about this hike was torturous. It’s not even really that much of a hole. It’s a glacial cirque. And the scenery is beautiful.
The Hell’s Hole Trail begins at the end of West Chicago Creek Road, about 8 miles (12.9 km) southwest of the town of Idaho Springs. It’s a dirt road but reasonably well-maintained and we had no trouble navigating it in our Forester. There is parking for maybe 40 cars and there’s a bathroom at the trailhead. For those not looking to hike, there’s also a picnic area here.
The trail is fairly straightforward as it climbs past the picnic area and begins to gain elevation through a grove of aspens. Once reaching the broad ridge line, the trail approximately remains on top of it and continues in a relatively straight line through a pine forest, eventually approaching tree line at about 11,500 feet (3505 m). There are a few very gnarly, twisted trees here – I think they’re bristlecone pines.
And we’ve reached Hell’s Hole. That’s it. That’s the end of the trail. There is a small pond surrounded by willows, some flowers and other small alpine plants, and a few choice spots to have a snack and enjoy the view.
In summary: a gradual forested hike to a subalpine glacial cirque.
The Important Stuff
- Getting there: Hell’s Hole trail begins at the end of West Chicago Creek Road, 8 miles (12.9 km) southwest of Idaho Springs, Colorado
- Fees and passes: none, but overnight stays in the Mount Evans wilderness require self-registration for a free permit (this can be done at the trailhead)
- Hiking: 9.3 miles (15 km) round trip with 1916 feet (584 m) elevation gain
- Where to stay: if you’re looking to make this an overnight trip, there is a campground just prior to the trailhead or you can backpack in and camp anywhere along the trail (providing wilderness regulations are adhered to)
- Other: while not as popular as other hikes close to Denver, the parking lot was overflowing by about 11am