Thursday, July 11, 2013

Herman Lake

Distance: 7 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,332ft - 12,018 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,815 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at the trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Sign says on leash, forest service website does not indicate this restriction
Date Hiked: 22 June 2013

Herman Lake in Colorado can be found at the end of a steep trail that starts one exit before the Loveland Pass Ski area on I-70.
The partially frozen Herman Lake
A trip to Herman Lake near the Eisenhower Tunnel can be an arduous slog up steep and unrelenting pitches or a stroll in the proverbial meadow depending upon who you dreamed about the night before or if it took you an extra five minutes to find your car keys. In other words, fitness level and mental fortitude seem to have nothing to do with this trail, which is always harder than it should be. I don't mind a little mountain masochism, but all that gasping and quad burning should come with a greater reward than a mere lake no matter how pretty. That is just me. For the rest of humanity however, Herman Lake is close to Denver and as I have said is rather pretty. That means you will be trudging along with 10,000 of your closest friends each of whom will have brought a dog. Bring along a espresso cart and you might just make your fortune.

The trailhead and all the cars
An example of a steep initial pitch. This early portion of the trail goes up 700 ft in 0.7 miles.
The trailhead for Herman Lake is fortunately large enough to handle the crowds and is located at exit 218 off of I-70 just before the Loveland Ski area. The trail is notorious for its initial ascent up a very steep rocky road that will cause blurry vision and apoplectic fits if you start out too fast. Pace is the key to surviving Herman Lake.

Raging spring runoff
One of the open meadows
The trail slips in and out of shaded forest and open meadows as it climbs steadily upwards. There are a few stretches that are flatter and on this trip we saw more than one family sprawled gratefully along these areas trying to catch their breath.

Looking back down on the route
Finally breaking above treeline at 3 miles
There are mountains on both sides of the trail and all those lovely views provide a more socially acceptable reason to stop, breath, and gawk. A voracious stream parallels the trail and at times adds riparian splendor to the area. Snowfields can linger late in the season and the lake can be quite frozen into the early part of July. It is only in the last three quarters of a mile that the trail breaks above treeline and it is here that the final pitch begins. Remember to pace yourself. It is further to the lake than it seems from below.

Dang, still not to the lake and still going up
The final pitch to the level of the lake
Herman Lake itself is nestled against the Continental Divide and after all that effort I always have always had the desire to pop up to the ridge and explore. Afternoon thunderstorms, which are notorious in this area, have always prevented me. Good excuse huh?

At last on the level of the lake, but there is still a ways to go across the snowfields
Don't be fooled the real lake is much larger.
Herman Lake like Lake Ann and Ptarmigan Lake is a quintessential mountain tarn. In spring the area is filled with wild flowers and snowfields dot the landscape. If you can muster the mental energy to fight I-70 traffic and the wicked ascents, you will be well rewarded.

This lounging hiker stole MY favorite rock.  It was way to nippy at the lake for sun bathing. Are they passed out from exhaustion?
The sun came out, the air warmed, and snoring began in ernest!

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