Hell’s Hole Trail – Winter

Distance8.55 mi
Elevation Gain1913 ft
My Time4 hr 29 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownIdaho Spgs
Food NearbyPicci’s

Hell’s Hole Trail

I did the Hell’s Hole trail in the Fall and really enjoyed the hike with all the Aspen tree’s changing colors. You can click here to see that more thorough review of Hell’s Hole. This time I tried it in the winter and with my first snow shoe experience and really understand why it is called Hell’s Hole.

Getting Started

In the winter the road to the trailhead is not maintained so there could be snow or it could be impassable. We started the trail and it wasn’t too bad for the first 2.5 miles. The trail is pretty much the same for this first half.

This is a very steep trail gaining almost 2000 feet of elevation in just over 4 miles. That elevation is still there in the winter it is just covered in snow. Spikes were really important for this first part of the hike and the blanket of snow made for a beautiful hike through the woods.

Tall pine and aspen trees surrounding the snow covered trail during the first part of the Hells Hole trail.

Snowshoeing

After some post-holing around the two and half mile mark it was time to switch to the snowshoes. It was my first time in snow shoes and you can read that write up here. While I wasn’t as agile as I would like in the shoes I am glad we put them on.

The main trail was still pretty well packed down at this point but it was starting to get really narrow. I would say at times it got down to about 8 inches wide. As soon as you stepped off the trail you would start to sink again.

The more narrow trail through the snow higher up on the trail at Hells Hole.

There is still a bit of elevation gain to finish in the last two miles of the hike so that made for some challenging moments with shoes. As you get closer to the end of the hike the trail comes between some willow bushes. This narrows the trail even further. As a novice to snowshoeing that became a problem as well to stay one foot in front of the other.

We didn’t make it all the way to the end but we did come really close. The snow cleared out toward the end and honestly I didn’t want to take the shoes off to continue. The views of the hole in the winter are just as stunning as in the fall though!

A frozen lake and 2 peaks near the end of the Hells Hole hike.  My picture also caught a sun flare that arches across the sky.

Elevation and Distance

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 8.55 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 4 hours and 29 minutes.

Effort

This was a much more challenging hike in the winter than it was in the summer. The most noticeable difference is that even though I went .2 miles shorter distance this hike took an extra half an hour to make a shorter distance. That was just the moving time. If we add up the total time, which includes breaks, this hike took an extra hour and half than when I did it in the fall. Here is the step count from my Fitbit. I also took about 3,000 more steps due to the snow on this hike.

The step count for my trip to Hell's Hole was 26,191 steps

Terrain

In late January there was some snow on every part of the trail. For the first 2.5 miles of the trail we did ok with spikes only. At around the 2.5 mile mark we had to switch over to snow shoes. The snow had gotten to about two feet deep in places. The main trail was relatively well packed still but as soon as you stepped to the right or left you would start to sink. Obviously, snow comes and goes and the terrain may be different when you get there.

Access

Hell’s Hole trail is on Chicago Creek Road just past the campground. Chicago Creek can be found by taking 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.

In the winter there is no snow clearing once you get past the last home on Chicago Creek Road. That means the one lane dirt road may be covered in snow. I did get stuck a bit in my lower profile car but was able to make it to the trailhead.

There are pit toilet facilities and picnic tables there as well.

Wrap up

I enjoyed this hike in the fall but it was a hard hike. Adding the snow and trying snowshoeing for the first time put this over the edge. I struggled, especially with the snowshoeing. It was one of those hikes that I didn’t think I liked until I was on the way home.

In retrospect, it was a beautiful hike and a big accomplishment for me to do as well as I did. I didn’t quite finish but came as close as I wanted to. I would not suggest this hike if you haven’t hiked in the snow as the elevation and the snow make it a little tricky. Overall, I think it was worth it. I just don’t think I am going to try it again!

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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