Fall Hike: Hells Hole Trail

Distance8.77 mi
Elevation Gain1913 feet
My Time3 hr 58 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownIdaho Spgs
Food NearbyPicci’s

The Hell’s Hole trail is in a really nice forest hike with plenty of Aspen Trees. It has some really steep sections that had me huffing and puffing but it was worth it.

Getting Started

If you are only interested in a fall hike to see some color changes you are in luck for the first mile of this hike. The parking lot is full of Aspens and after passing by some picnic area’s you will find yourself in another field of the fall favorites.

The Aspen trees also signal the beginning of some of the steepest sections of the trail coming up. So if you are just there for fall colors but not really into a strenuous hike, it might be best to just stick to this first part.

The Hills

When the Aspens begin to stop the hills really begin. There are quite a few of them and they get pretty steep. In fact, the first three total miles of the hike are pretty much all up hill to one degree or another. Most often you will have a 10-15% grade but some of the hills will get up as high as 28% so be prepared for that.

A view of sugarloaf mountain from the trail.  Pine trees are in the foreground with the mountain looming in the background

Clearing and Views

At just about the 3 mile mark you will come to bit of a clearing with a large log that is down and it was a really good chance for the FMLT to take a bit of a break and get some snacks. This is at the end of the hardest of the inclines.

You will still be going uphill from here on but at a more manageable grade that peaks at around 12%. The views also get considerably better from this point on and you can start seeing things other than trees and start to see the end objective of the hike.

The view from the first clearing with two large mountains in the background and pine trees in the foreground.

Hell’s Hole

The last mile of the hike is in open air with many small Willow trees rapping at your legs as you progress on a narrow trail. The views get really nice as you are surrounded by some rock walls. There is a small pond/lake at one point but this late in the season there really wasn’t any water left.

A single pine tree in a field of willow trees with a large rock wall behind.

Just past the “lake” the trail will come to an end in a field that is in the valley and surrounded on 3 sides by rock walls. The willows lead from the field up to the rocks edge. I do wonder if in the spring this is completely under water which would be really cool. Even with no water there was a nice view.

The end of the hike at a field.  Willows stretch to the base of the mountains that surround the field.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 8.77 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1913 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 11,520 feet. I was also moving for a total of 3 hours and 58 minutes.

Effort

This one was tough. A lot of steep sections at the beginning and in the middle. The steep sections were also stacked on top of each other with just small sections of flat in between to catch the breath. The later sections of the trail flattens out and the end is pretty flat and easy. here is my step count from my Fitbit.

Steps from today's hike were at 23, 137.

Terrain

Most of the trail is a nice dirt trail with some large rocks and roots embedded. There are a few sections when you enter the Wilderness that become loose rock and get a little more challenging. Towards the end of the hike near the clearing there are many small willows that impede on the trail and whip at the arms and legs. I would recommend a good pair of hiking shoes.

Access

Hell’s Hole trail is on Chicago Creek Road just past the campgound. Chicago Creek can be found by thaking the Mt. Evans exit on I-70 near Idaho Springs and heading south. Chicago Creek road is a pretty good dirt road with a few large holes and there is parking for about 15 cars at the trailhead with some overflow along the road. There are pit toilet facilites and picnic tables there as well.

Wrap up

Hell’s Hole started as a nice hike to see some fall colors and quickly turned into a really good workout with almost 2000 feet of elevation gain in just over 4 miles of this out and back. The forest was as nice as ever and had a well defined trail that was pretty easy to manage.

I really enjoyed this hike. It was a lot of going up with not too many flat spots to catch the breath but it was still really pretty. My only complaint is that there is no real end goal. Most hikes will lead to a summit or to a lake or waterfall. This hike lead to a field that had great views but maybe not that “Oh My” moment.

In this case the hike itself was the steak and the sizzle. It really was a pretty area and a good workout and overall a really nice hike.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes on my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have any suggestions for a hike or any other comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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