Devils Thumb Pass and King Lake Trail

HARD 54 reviews
#3 of 13 trails in

Devils Thumb Pass and King Lake Trail is a 15 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

15.0 miles
3,533 feet

dogs on leash






nature trips


trail running





wild flowers





Directions from Eldora: Travel west to the Hessie Townsite on CR #130

trail running
14 days ago

Pro: Not much snow.
Con: It all turned to mud and high creeks.

So I'm thinking maybe there's a week in August where there's no snow, and no mud, or high water, before it starts snowing again, but I digress. This is a beautiful and amazing route, with gradual inclines until you get near High Lonesome, at which point it gets a tad steep. Once you're up top, there's a shoe-sized narrow single track trail through the tundra, and it's hard to believe they have a guy up there mowing the lawn but it looks like a giant putting green. I saw two marmots and a dude who was hiking the CT from Mexico and smelled like a garbage can. Okay but here's your warning. There's some exposure and snow over some rocks once you get to the beginning of the Devil's Thumb trail (don't try to sled down it you fool!). I used my hands to arrest any potential fall but it was a bit steep and scary. At the rocks just scramble down and you'll see the trail again, it's kind of hidden. After that there's a lot of loose rock/tripping roots for the rest of the way, with several stream crossings. Unless you mastered the long jump, prepare to get your feet soaking wet. There's no way around it. Then there are a few sections where there is friction-less mud, so watch your footing. Also there are spots where plants have overgrown the trail and disguise hazards, but that's their way of playing a trick on you! Anyway, it took me around 4 hours with stops etc because I took a bunch of pictures. I'd post them but it would spoil the beauty for you, so take your own pictures. Also the wildflowers are awesome right now.

15 days ago

7.1.2018 - Two day backpacking trip on the Devil's Thumb trail with a detour to Bob and Betty Lakes. Virtually no snow encountered but the winds were strong above treeline. Bonus: Fabulous flowers everywhere!

24 days ago

June 23, 2018 Trip Report: Absolute beautiful weather for this hike. No storms, just amazing blue sky and warmish temps for an all day hike. I did the loop, King Lake first (clockwise) and then over the High Lonesome Trail down to Devil’s Thumb. Trail to King Lake is easy to moderate in my opinion. No snow left on the ground until right around 3 miles in from the King Lake trail split off (or 4 miles from trailhead), and then only small patches here and there. The snow was of no consequence once I did encounter it, so no trouble getting to King Lake. There was a bit of snow on the trail that leads you up to High Lonesome Trail junction, but again, not enough to keep you from getting where you want to go. Once up on the Continental Divide, it was extremely windy, but nonetheless, offered spectacular views and good easy trail conditions. If weather permits, take your time on this section and really soak up how awesome the landscape and views are, and count your blessings you get to experience such things. There was another patch of snow right before you begin your decent down the Devil’s Thumb trail to the lake. This patch is a bit tricky and requires the utmost of caution. The patch is only about 6 or 7 feet wide, so you are not on it long before hitting dry boulders to walk on. The trial down to the lake is steep, rocky and narrow. Poles would be nice if you have bad knees, or want to protect your knees! The only area of trouble I got in following the trail was between Devil’s Thumb lake and Jasper Lake. There was a large patch of snow on the trail amount some trees and I got off to the right following foot prints only to realize about a 1/4 mile in, that I had gone the wrong way. My instincts told me Jasper was to my left, but instead of bushwhacking it through forest, I turned around and back tracked to where I lost the actual trail. This little detour cost me an extra mile of hiking. Once at Jasper Lake, the trail down is easy to find and follow. Overall, I would say this entire loop hike is strenuous. I can see now that going counter-clockwise is the much harder way. Side Note: I called the Forest Service the day before for tail conditions, and they advised me to wait 2 more weeks before doing the loop. However once at King Lake, I saw so many people coming over from the Devil’s Thumb route, that I asked several people what the trail was like. Armed with their trail repots, I went for it. And was glad I did.
I logged a total of 19 miles for the day's hike.

1 month ago

So my husband and I are from Georgia and planned to hike clockwise. We were pretty unprepared At least for how the trail actually was when we went on 5/28. There easily was 3 ft of snow that we hiked 3 miles through lost out of our minds because the trail is not well labeled. We also did not realize how storms go in the mountains, so when the thunder, lightning, rain and hail started we were a little worried but thought we could tough it out-don’t do it if you’re not prepped with freeze gear and can handle falling through snow every step

3 months ago

Awesome views and fishing

8 months ago

Beautiful! Went counterclockwise, I’m out of shape...

10 months ago

Got to the trailhead around 7:30 on a Saturday and there were only a few spots left. Did the trail counterclockwise (Devil Thumb lake first) which led to a pretty challenging climb up the pass (carried 35lb packs). Pretty crowded up to that point, but then it dropped off. We camped right by King Lake which was beautiful but really exposed. Fortunately there was no lightening but we had to guy out every line on the tent due to high winds - kinda sketchy. Beautiful hike with plenty to explore off the trail too.

11 months ago

My first real Colorado hike. So beautiful and everything I hoped for and more. I recommend going clockwise (King's lake first), as it's a more gradual ascent compared to the other way.

trail running
11 months ago

Started kind of early in the morning, so took the 9AM shuttle from Nederland. Turned out to be a great idea as many people who parked on the side of the road were already hiking at least a mile if not more just to reach the shuttle bus drop off point.
Opted to run the loop in a counterclockwise direction. I think that is a much better way to go through this route. One reason is the morning sun provided great views along Devils Thumb Trail. Second: King Lake Trail drops below tree line pretty quickly so a potential afternoon thunderstorm would find you in the protection of a dense forest.
Otherwise not many people on the trails: every few minutes a group.
Fortunately I was able to complete the loop before the thunderstorm, that just moved in as the shuttle bus took be back to the RTD parking lot in Nederland.
Sunny day and an awesome experience. The views were spectacular!!! I can only recommend this loop.

11 months ago

One of the most beautiful hikes I've done! Get there early if you want a good parking spot. Passed by three beautiful lakes, waterfalls and met some fun people along the way! Highly recommend for an endurance hike!

11 months ago

probably the best hike in Boulder county

11 months ago

Amazing hike!! Awe-inspiring views and ever-changing scenery. I have done a lot of hiking in CO and this is possibly my favorite.. Most go CW; this lends itself to a milder incline. Trails are very well marked. Little bugs, virtually no snow. Arrive earlier than you think; it was already slim pickings at 6:45am this morning.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We camped this loop over weekend and took backpacks. Nice trip, beautiful scenery, lovely flowers and not too busy. First night in Devil's thumb lake, second at Kings lake. I might reverse that if I had to do it again, because Devil's Thumb pass was a bitch much with a full pack at altitude and divide, but still highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wonderful, beautiful hike. However, with the loop we hit a glacier with no way around it (July 2017). We had to slide down it, but I would not recommend as it was very unsafe. I am not sure how everyone else is doing this loop as I didn't see any tracks on this glacier. I would love to come back for fishing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Stunningly beautiful hike!! Colorado hiking at its best. Get there early or take the shuttle from Nederland to the trailhead.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It was a nice hike and I camped out that evening. I did see there is no camping with out a permit June 1st through September 15 also no fires are allowed east of the continental decide. Just a heads up. Also the trail was very busy

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hands down the best hike I've been on this summer. I've done a majority of the hikes in the Nederland's area and this easily tops the list at number 1 in my opinion. It has the best components of every hike. It took me most of the day, about 10 hours in all, but that was with talking to other campers and hikers along the way, plus a few extra stops to rest. The views along the high lonesome Trail makes it all worth it, especially when overlooking Devils thumb lake and eventually kings lake. 10/10 would recommend this for well seasoned hikers.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hiked May 19. Still tons of snow. Still fairly compact in the shade, started getting slushy in the sunshine. Snowshoes would have been really helpful. Hike was beautiful regardless. Amazing vistas. Didn't see another person after the 1st mile or so. Would have definitely lost the trail in the snow several times over if it hadn't been for some day or so old tracks. Saw a few mountain lion tracks. Will definitely repeat in summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This is an ambitious hike that has everything!!!! Water (in season), wildflowers, meadows, rugged mtn views, lakes, aspen, evergreen, you name it.

It was breathtaking in every way. wear waterproof shoes and get there early. We went during the week and saw 3 other people!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First day of summer! Snowshoes were a good idea.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

I've hiked this trail several times,early autumn and early spring. I love this trail for it's rugged beauty. In early autumn the aspens were golden yellow and the water falls were incredible. In early spring I had my three sons and the snow was still fairly deep. We had to go off train & over the ridge to avoid deep snow. The waterfalls were absolutely amazing. The spring melt made for a spectacular show. Great for dogs, a little tough for young kids. It is my favorite place.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Devils Thumb trail is amazing to run and provides a great variety of conditions to keep it interesting. Technical conditions range from dirt single track to loose rock. There are some challenging hills, but these are usually followed by flat stretches to help recover before the next hill.
The trail to the lake is about 6 miles from TH. An additional mile can be tacked on by pushing up to the Continental Divide. That mile is tough with decent elevation gain. But it is worth it just on the view alone.
Do arrive at the TH (fork at July 4th Road and Hessie) early as roadside parking is limited and does fill up fast towards late morning. Additionally, there are very few people on the trail that early for the outbound leg.
Bring a camera.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

You can make an excellent ~17 mile loop out of this trail if you continue up after Devil's Thumb Lake up to the continental divide, head south for about 2 miles then drop down to the King's Lake trail which will take you back to the Hessie trail head. Running I spent a little under 5 hours and it does add another +1,200 vertical feet to get up to the divide, but the view are worth it. I originally found this trail on the blog I linked to.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beautiful hike once you get past the first mile or so. Not sure why it's rated difficult. I would give it a difficult if it was to the pass. Arrive at the trail head early if you like solitude.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Somewhat technical. Breathtaking scenerey (literally). Phenomenal trail. The only downside was the huge amount of people on the first mile or two of the trail.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Probably the most popular Indian Peaks Wilderness hikes is Devils Thumb Lake Trail. The scenery was breathtaking. Be sure to arrive early if hiking over the weekend as parking becomes a premium. I started hiking at 7am and I was alone almost the entire hike up. Coming back down was a different story and I passed lots of people, mostly runners. An enjoyable hike all around.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Awesome hike! Beautiful colors......saw 3 moose!!!!

17 days ago

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