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Herman Gulch Trail

This post has everything you need to know about hiking Herman Gulch Trail near Idaho Springs, Colorado.

Blue Apline lake near Idaho Springs
Herman Lake in Colorado

Herman Gulch Trail is one of the best hikes for viewing wildflowers near Denver during peak season. While it’s rated moderate, this is a fairly tough hike given the constant incline and elevation gain.

Where is Herman Gulch Trail?

Herman Gulch is located just 20 minutes outside of Dillon, Colorado in the Clear Creek Ranger District of the Arapaho National Forest. The drive from Denver to Herman Gulch Trail is one hour and is easily accessible by a standard 2WD.

Wildflowers at Herman Gulch Trail

Overview of Herman Gulch Trail

Distance7 miles
Elevation gain1,815 ft
Time3-4 hours
DifficultyModerate/Strenuous
Trailhead39.702415, -105.854325
Entrance feeNone
Best time to visitMay to September
BathroomsNone
DogsLeashed
Good for kidsYes
Exiting the treeline at Herman Gulch Trail
Herman Gulch Trail

Review of Herman Gulch Hike

Having hiked this with two kids who were 1.5 and 3.5 years old at the time, I can say that this is no easy hike with or without kids. Herman Gulch Trailhead starts at 10,332′ elevation which already makes it harder to breathe if you’re coming from Denver or anywhere in the front range. From there, the first section is a steep climb up for the first mile or so.

Toddler standing in a field of wildflowers at Herman Gulch
Field of wildflowers at Herman Gulch

After the steep climb, you will eventually be rewarded you with a clearing and stunning valley views. If you’re hiking this in July, this is where you’re likely to start seeing wildflowers of all colors and if you’re lucky – maybe even a moose!

Valley views at Herman Gulch

This clearing continues for another mile or so of more-or-less flat, easy trail. Our kiddos were able to hike this on their own and enjoyed seeing all the wildflowers along the way.

Herman Gulch trail

Eventually the trail will start going uphill again and this is probably the hardest part of the hike. The elevation at this point is around 11500′ and hiking uphill here is definitely in the strenuous range. There are several tough switchbacks which will lead you to the first lake.

This is *not* the final lake!!

First lake at Heman Gulch

This area has stunning views of the valley from above, and many many more wildflowers.

Indian Paintbrush wildflowers

The trail continues for about 0.2 more miles until you reach the final lake – Herman Lake. This is the real gem of this hike and is absolutely worth the effort of getting here. The water is strikingly clear, and the color of the water is a deep turquise

How long does it take to hike Herman Gulch?

It took us about 6 hours start to finish to hike Herman Gulch Trail. We had two kids in carriers on us who hiked some of the way up and slept on us most of the way down. We made several stops for photos and snacks and had about a 30 minute break at the top lake. If hiking without kids, I would estimate this hike to take between 3-4 hours. The hike down was very easy and took us about an hour since it was all downhill.

Best time to hike Herman Gulch

This trail is best used during the summer between May to September but can also be done as a winter hike. The trail gets fairly busy during the summer so try to get here either on a weekday or before 7:30am on a weekend. The parking lot is large but fills up very quickly.

Camping near Herman Gulch

Since Herman Gulch is in Arapaho National Forest, dispersed backcountry camping is allowed without a permit. There are multiple dispersed campsites along the trail, but the best spot is just after the meadow clearing and before the second steep incline, about 2 miles in. Camping is not permitted within 100 feet of any water source, so make sure to stay within the correct distance away from the stream that hugs the trail in some sections, as well as the lake at the end.

Tips for Hiking Herman Gulch

  • Water – Make sure to bring plenty of water. Altitude sickness can happen to anyone and one of the best cures is drinking lots of water! If you’re not feeling well, head down to lower elevation.
  • Snacks – Lots of food and snacks. You will be burning a LOT of calories here so don’t underestimate the power of food 🙂
  • Camera – here’s some of our favorite camera equipment that we bring on hikes
  • Make sure to Leave No Trace! That means everything you bring in has to come back with you; doggie bags, trash, food, etc
  • Do not feed wildlife
  • Do not pick the wildflowers!

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