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King Lake Trail

HARD 63 reviews
#21 of 137 trails in

King Lake Trail is a 12.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is best used from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 12.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,539 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash






From Nederland, head south on Colorado Highway 119 for 0.5 mile. Turn west onto County Road 130 (Eldora Ski Resort sign). Stay on the main road through the town of Eldora. Once the pavement ends, continue for another mile. Look for a sign and vehicles parked above a side road heading sharply down and to the left. This side road leads to Hessie TH and is a cobblestone creek bed that carries water year round. Vehicles without high clearance should park at this junction. From here, it is a -mile walk to the trailhead. This trailhead sees high use, especially on weekends, and parking is limited.

3 months ago

Gorgeous hike! The wildflowers are amazing. It’s a little muddy/buggy, but well worth the spectacular views. Next time, we’ll stay the night and take the loop back!

recorded Recording - Aug 03, 05:05 PM

4 months ago

much harder than people try to play it out to be. it's because on a scale of 1-10, 10 being top hiker; the majority on this trail are 9/10s. the majority are running this insanely rocky terrain.. they're crazy fit.. if you're an advanced to intermittent advanced hiker, this will will really be tough for you..

4 months ago

Absolutely beautiful trail! Wildflowers are everywhere and roaring waterfalls and streams are awesome to watch! The trail has wet-muddy spots the last 1.5 miles to the lake but otherwise completely dry and clear. Highly recommend!

5 months ago

Hiked from the first parking area after Eldora to the small lake 100 yds NE of King Lake on July 4th. First 5 miles were dry. The last mile up to the lake goes from snow patches to a 4 foot snowpack. The smaller lake was mostly frozen over still, and I wasnt able to make it to kings lake due to deep loose snow the last 100 yds. Great hike but your feet will get wet

5 months ago

My husband and I hiked in for an overnight yesterday. We planned on seeing how far we could get around devils thumb. Ran into an older backpacker who said he spent two nights on the trail but the pass was too socked in with snow and ice to pass even with gear. We decided to go what we heard was to the less snowy side to kings lake. Trail is well worn and gaiters and waterproof boots recommended since a good deal of it in snow melt run off. As of today, when you start hitting snow patches you can follow that for a while and there’s a distinctive part where you never see the trail again. 2 groups meandered their way along the river trying to make it up to the lake. Lots of post holing, snow shoes recommended after this point, not hard enough for spikes. We approached the ridge to try to find the bridge over to the lake, but everyone turned back at that point. It was getting late, and weather was turning. If you have GPS and snow shoes you could probably easily make the push to the lake but it’s obvious no one has made it that far recently. We camped a few hundred feet down and hiked out this morning with no issues. Lots of wildflowers popping! Very few people in the peaks wilderness.

Tue Sep 18 2018

This was my favorite hike ALL summer. Not heavily trafficed, closer to Denver, and stunning views the whole way up! I highly recommend. Make sure you arrive early so that you don't have to hike up to the trailhead. I believe there is public transportation that brings you directly there as well - maybe look into that.

Tue Sep 04 2018

Nice hike. The beginning of the trail is like a road, rocky and wide but beyond that is a nice trail with a gradual ascent mostly through an evergreen forest. There are some streams and small waterfalls as well as meadows to look at but not many vistas until above the timberline. The lake is a great destination for lunch but for sure you should do (as I did) the extra 0.3 mile hike to the Continental Divide for better views. A storm was approaching as I was there and could not spend as much time as I wanted to. It hailed on me on the way out. Saw a large group of hikers on the way up but beyond only 3-4 more people on the trail. My total hike time from and to the parking lot was about 7 hours.

Mon Aug 20 2018

This is a fun trail and isn't too difficult. It ends with some switchbacks climbing up to the lake, make sure to push through it, it's worth it. The trail is fairly busy at the Hessie trailhead with many people going to Lost Lake. You may need to take the shuttle from Nederland if it's a busy day, the shuttle runs very often. Once you hit the split to Kings Lake it's less crowded with a few back packers, day hikers, and trail runners.

Mon Jul 30 2018

I will be honest...this is basically like Rocky Mountain National Park with less people. It was not heavily trafficked at all. I saw a few people at the beginning, but near kings lake I only saw 2 people backpacking. This trail is for sure over 12 miles and I thought it was 8. This is not an easy trail...but I also did it alone and started at 3:45pm and didn’t take many breaks. Do not recommend doing that unless you trail run or are a seasoned hiker  jogging the joggable parts had me back just before 8pm. I didn’t have the right shoes...the terrain is incredibly rocky (not big ones you can easily step on, medium round ones that suck to walk on) near the start so make sure you have hiking or trail running shoes with arch support and impact protection. I was able to job a good portion of it...having cross country spikes for 3 miles of the way back was a really good choice. Even for the way up, having shoes with treads was important. Beautiful trail, will be back with better shoes, poles, and will park near the bridge. Next time I might do 4th of July trail. If you go alone be sure to bring pepper spray and a knife...I saw large animal jump across the trail ahead of me and I’m not sure if it was a mountain lion or elk. My friend also saw a bobcat on a trail near boulder. Be sure to check behind and ahead of you to make sure you aren’t being stalked by a mountain lion. They are more active at dusk and evening...

Sun Jun 24 2018

June 23, 2018 Trip Report: Absolute beautiful weather for this hike. Trail to King Lake is easy to moderate in my opinion. Depends on your fitness level I guess. There was 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. Once at the lake, there was a small amount of ice still on the lake. The trail up was wet and soggy in some places, as to be expected this time of year, so if you are worried about getting your hiking boots muddy, stay home! I went on from King Lake and did the loop over and down via the Continental Divide/High Lonesome Trail to Devil’s Thumb Lake. I’ll write about that over on the loop trail link. Get outside in nature and feed the soul!

Sun Jun 10 2018

Did this hike on June 9th 2018, very good long hike. Only complaint is that trails are still snowy at the top and navigation was a pain. The trail gets lost in the snow many places. Would do again later in the season. Final like destination was frozen over but just as spectacular. Total trip was around 15 miles after getting lost a few times.

Sat Mar 03 2018


Sun Nov 26 2017

Great hike for solitude - but because it’s not frequented trails are pretty powdery. I recommend micro spikes for the first half and then snow shoes the rest of the way.

Sat Nov 25 2017

Really fun hike; I loved the solitude and the single-file trails in and out of forest and meadows. I swear we heard moose! The tracks stopped 0.5 miles from the lake, which was really disappointing. Doing little research prior to the trek, we weren't sure which way to go for the final destination. Look up the trail description before heading out since we later read that it's really snowy even in June! Will be back this spring or summer to complete.

Tue Sep 19 2017

Amazing hike. Saw no one on way up and only 10 people on the way down. Great look at fall colors.

Fri Sep 08 2017

super rewarding hike

Sat Aug 12 2017

Just down from this hike today. Went to 12000' overlooking the lake. Quite a lot of hikers and runners. Gorgeous day!

Mon Jul 24 2017

Loved this hike! I was on a solo hike for most of the way, and I ran across maybe 10 people. The last bit up to the lake is the hardest part, but well worth the climb.

Fri Jun 30 2017

We camped at Lost Lake and then hiked to King Lake as a difficult day trip. From lost lake my GPS marked us at 10.4 miles round trip. The hike has some gorgeous views, a few water crossings, and the lake at the end is GORGEOUS. It will be windy at the top. Worth it but pretty difficult.

Mon Jun 05 2017

Amazing walk with stunning scenery and a gushing river. At this time of the year the river is extremely high and fast flowing, with all the run off melting snow. Unfortunately this means the trail itself is pretty much a stream from about 9000ft, and from about 10,000ft the trail is gone under the snow. GPS 100% needed from that point. After slugging through the snow for a few miles, I made it to 11,000ft, then had to concede the snow on the final ascent would win (1/2 mile from King Lake). At that point I hadn't seen anyone for about 2 hours. I turned back. Might have to try again in 1-2 months.

Wed Jul 27 2016

This hike was well worth the trip. I started at 6:15 am and made it to the lake around 830-9ish. Once you get past the initial rocky beginning the trail does get a whole lot better. Extremely lush, full of wildflowers and streams, and overall beautiful. I do recommend bug spray, as the mosquitoes and flies were rampant as well as shoes with good traction to get by the rocky beginning. It's a lot like loose gravel and pretty dry. Overall great hike and workout towards the top!

Sat Jul 09 2016

Good hike with loads of options for shorter distances (lost lake and a nice little waterfall) and long (King or Woodland Lakes). Creek is running strong. We had the wee people, ages 8 and 6, and made it through the valley and right up the last portion of approach to the lake. 8 miles RT for us today. Path is 95% dry, lots of loose rock, though. Arrived 7:15am and had to park quarter mile down the road. Make sure to arrive very early if you want to avoid parking in Eldora.

Sat Jun 11 2016

I did this hike on 6/4/16 and the trail was still covered in snow. We eventually had to turn around because we couldn't see any more tracks in the snow and kept sinking in the snow. Maybe it would be more doable with snowshoes? Can't wait to come back once the snow has melted! The incline wasn't too bad. Only the beginning climb until you reach the turn off for Lost Lake is a bit steep but it definitely mellows out. I can't speak for the last mile of the hike though (I'll update once I complete next time!).

Sun Aug 23 2015

It was a great hike, even though we didn't finish. We were probably 1.5miles from the lake when we had to turn back because of loss of daylight. It was a beautiful but tough hike and very quiet. Will be back to conquer!

Mon Aug 10 2015

If you start the hike on Hessie trailhead, it's primarily loose rock and is pretty annoying, but don't let it make you shy away from what is to come. The trail is filled with wild flowers and Colomines. The water is absolutely beautiful, rather you hike the 10ish miles or take the road up and park near by

Fri Jun 12 2015

Beautiful trek into the wilderness, went June 11th 2015, still too much snow to reach the lake. I ended up losing the trail and getting almost lost. I will definitely be back in a couple months time to see them lakes!

Thu Mar 26 2015

Lots of snow still in June. Didn't make it to lake ,lost trail on top because of to much snow. Still a great hike.2006-June,11

Sun Nov 09 2014

Really wish I could give this trail a better rating... unfortunately we just picked the wrong day to do it. Despite sunny and clear conditions at the trailhead, by the time we got about halfway some storms had rolled in, leading to windy, rainy, and foggy conditions the rest of the way. Hoping that it would clear up, we soldiered on, reaching the lake, but unfortunately the clouds were so low and dense at the top that we could barely even see the edge of the lake. With a trail this length you never know what to expect. Definitely going to return and conquer this trail next summer.

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