Blue Skies, Ice, and Snow: Lost Lake Hike

Logs on lake.jpg

There is a theme to my hiking, taking to the trails when the sky is blue, the clouds puffy and white, the air mostly crisp (except for those summer afternoon hikes when the weather turns or stays warm and I can no longer endure not being out and about). We’ve been surprised by the inconsistent fall weather here in Boulder this year, high 70s one day, then low 20s and snow the next. This past week was no exception, walking around capturing photographs of colorful autumn leaves and then walking and kicking up the fallen, brown leaves on the sidewalks, the victims of chilly nights and high winds.

Today was forecast to be warm with cold on its tail by tomorrow morning. We decided to take advantage of a break in schedules, the perfect fall day, and a hike within 45 minutes of our house  to hit the mountain trails.

Lost Lake near Hessie Trail is located about five miles west of Nederland, itself about 18 miles west of Boulder. It’s not quite in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, but past the tiny, old mining town of Eldora, accessible part way by vehicle, then by foot. We’d heard it was very crowded and popular, particularly in the summer months so it was probably good we hadn’t explored it until today. The lower parts of the trail had loose rocks, especially the initial steep grade after we passed over the wood planks placed over marshy areas of the lower trail. We were in for a treat!


We crossed a stream over a fairly new bridge, surprised to see ice along the edge of the water, portending snow higher up and colder weather than we’d anticipated (and we didn’t think to bring our crampons or wear water proof shoes). We hiked among stunted Aspen trees, their luminescent golden leaves already past. We passed several old, leaning cabins, evidence of earlier years when this area was mined. We noticed the still-dry ski runs of Eldora Ski Resort to the south of Hessie Trail. We soon came to a fork in the road, taking the left trail across another bridge, this one slippery and icy, no railings to protect us.

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The trail was steeper than we imagined it would be (altogether almost 1,000′ elevation gain from 8,954′ where we parked along the unpaved road to 9,504′ on the trail above the lake). I felt a little light-headed, unusual for me at this elevation, but I was also slightly dehydrated so maybe the combination caused some discomfort. We continued upward nevertheless.

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Soon we were deep among the pine trees, the path covered with snow and ice: no sun or warmth was reaching it these days. I walked carefully and gingerly, afraid I’d slip and re-injure my recently healed broken arm. I had forgotten my walking sticks (really we were not very prepared today!), which added to my concerns. But no falls, no true slips: maybe going slowly helped me absorb the sights and sounds of this mountain hike: wind rushing through the trees, crashing waterfalls, and the distant voices of other hikers.

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We hiked around boulders, fallen trees, and icy rock steps before emerging to bright sunlight and deep blue skies! The lake was shimmering with sunlight reflecting off the ice and yellowish-brown, almost translucent grasses surrounding the edges. We continued around the lake, again among trees and icy trails, then back out into the blinding sunlight.

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We saw one tent, intrepid campers at this time of year. We encountered silence with only an occasional comment breaking the air. The lake was exquisite from every direction, the views, the light, the trees, the logs caught in the ice, each perspective giving us a new appreciation of this tiny spot.

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We didn’t stay long, just enough to get a taste of the area with plans to return to other trails breaking off from Lost Lake next year when the trails are more stable. Always refreshed, always reminded of how fortunate we are to live in this area, I can’t wait for our next adventure.

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