Hessie is an extremely popular trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness named after a ghost town above Nederland. While it is not a major mountaineering trailhead like the nearby Fourth of July TH
, there are a number of more obscure destinations including Peak 12695
, the Devil's Thumb
, and Skyscraper Peak
. Hessie is also a reasonable winter access point for ski touring and easy snowshoe trips when higher trailheads are more inaccessible.
Hessie is west of the hamlet of Eldora west of Nederland. Drive south on the Peak to Peak Highway (CO 119) from Nederland. Turn right following signs for the Eldora Ski Area, then bear right when the ski area road heads left up the hill. Drive carefully through the town of Eldora where the pavement ends. The road continues as gravel to Hessie (one mile) and the Fourth of July TH (five miles). The first mile is narrow but easy road passable by any vehicle. At one mile, the road splits and a steep, very rough road leads down to the left to the ghost town. Most cars choose to park in the small lot at the junction or along the road.
High clearance vehicles can continue another half mile to the actual TH. My Subaru has successfully navigated this road, but only barely. The crux is a stream-bed with a series of large rocks to be avoided. For those unwilling to risk their vehicles, a good trail leads from the road junction to the ghost town.
In the winter and spring, the road is closed at Eldora. This adds 1.5 miles of easy hike to any approach.
Get there early, summer or winter, as this is an extremely popular trailhead. Parking is prohibited along several portions of the roads and tickets have been issued on busy summer weekends.
The most popular Hessie destination is definitely Lost Lake, 1.5 miles above the TH (2 miles from the road junction where many people park, 3 miles from Eldora at the winter closure). This is a nice family hike to a scenic lake with camping and limited views of the Divide.
Above Lost Lake, Jasper Creek divides into three drainages, each with a good trail system. The southern basin reaches King Lake and the twin Betty and Bob Lakes below Rollins Pass. The middle basin holds Woodland Lake and the Skyscraper Reservoir. The northern drainage holds the artificial Jasper Lake (campsites) and the lovely Devil's Thumb Lake. Each requires a 4-6 mile approach, but is well worth the effort. Established trails from the north and south drainages access the Divide and can be connected via a 2.5 mile stretch of the Continental Divide Trail. The "Hessie Loop" is a great hike or trail run.