Well, well, well…
Fall is making its way back to Colorado just as the summer calendar is winding down. And, honestly, it feels lovely. The past few months of temperatures in the 90s has been brutal. I moved away from Florida for a reason! (Well, not that reason, but it was a perk!)
This past weekend I was excited for cooler weather to roll into town and I actually had plans to ride this crazy fun dirt route in Boulder instead of go for a hike…but on Saturday, just barely a mile into my trail run, I went down hard when my toe clipped a root in the middle of the trail.
I scratched up my shoulder, elbow, and leg real good and also whacked my wrist pretty hard on the ground. After my run (yeah, I still finished nine miles because I’m insane) I knew gripping my handlebars the next day wouldn’t feel great. It ended up being a blessing in disguise because this was a beautiful hike and it felt really nice to get up onto a new trail for a change of pace.
Sunday, the morning of my hike, started very early when my alarm went off at 5 a.m., but that’s a typical wakeup call since parking lots at the more popular trailheads sometimes fill up before sunrise. I packed all my things into my bag, grabbed my hydration pack and got on the road to Nederland with coffee in hand. Barely anyone was out on the roads at that hour and the drive felt so peaceful as I snaked my way up Boulder Canyon higher, higher, higher until I reached the lot, a few miles outside of Ned in Roosevelt National Forest. This trail doesn’t go through National or State Parks lands, so that’s another reason it’s more popular: it’s free! When I arrived around 6:40 a.m., all lot and side road parking was totally full, so I had to park about a mile down the road (which I totally paid for later). I think some of the cars were from overnight campers, too.
Anyway, when I finally made it to the trail and got going, the morning sun was still low in the sky and casted an orange glow over the mountains and wide-open fields.
It was gorgeous and something I missed so much since I put big weekend hikes on hold. I was also glad I packed a jacket because it was windy and very chilly up there around 9,000 ft. where I started.
The first bit of the trail followed a stream through the forest; there was lots of shade for awhile under the thick trees until it opened up into a gorgeous, grassy meadow. The mountains in the distance stood so tall with little bits of snow still hanging on. By the looks of them and the pictures I saw online, I could tell that’s where I was headed!
The further I ventured onto the trail, the more and more beautiful it got. There was some more hiking in thick trees that smelled like Christmas, stream crossings with rushing water that I could’ve listened to all day, and lots of helpful trail signs.
The one thing to know about this trail is it’s not really called Jasper Lake Trail, you just have to follow the signs to Devil’s Thumb and you’ll be on the right path. I found that from a woman who posted a review on the AllTrails app, and that cleared up a lot of questions as I got closer to my turnaround point.
After several hours, I made it up to the lake, which was just perfectly nestled amongst the mountains. The water gently rippled as the wind blew over it and through the trees. I think I reached about 11,000 ft. Several runners and hikers passed me going both ways, and it felt like everyone was so happy to be out there in the sunshine. I tried to savor it a little before I made the long trek back down the mountain.
There were lots more people and groups heading up as I made my way back down, so I was happy I had gotten an early start. The hike down was actually tougher on my legs than the way up; the trail is littered with rocks, some the size of suitcases and others that are smaller and cover the entire trail. Needless to say, I slipped a lot and almost lost my footing as the rocks rolled underneath my shoes every step. After 12 miles of that I was so ready to be back down at my car, and finally, at 14 miles on the dot, I collapsed into the driver’s seat and guzzled the hot water that I left in my car. It had warmed up to somewhere in the 70s I’d say.
I headed down back to Nederland in search of real food and something cold and fizzy to drink. I stopped into Mountain People’s Co-op, which is a super cute (very pricey!) whole foods health store that has to-go sandwiches, sides, drinks, etc. None of the options looked amazing but the little old lady in there at the register was so nice that I bought a tempeh sandwich and a kombucha. My plan was to sit outside and enjoy it in the sunshine, but Nederland was so busy and there were tons of people milling about that I just felt overwhelmed, so I left, haha. I had a few bites of the sandwich in my car, but it was made with vegan mayo which tasted…sour? It was weird and gross, so I waited until I got home to have something else.
Anyway, I really liked the Jasper Lake Trail! But I will say that you have to hike pretty far for the payoff at the lake.
Even if you didn’t have to add two miles onto the hike (like I did because I parked so far away), you’d hit 12 miles no problem. And with several thousand feet of climbing above 9,000 ft., that’s a long day for anyone. I don’t know if I will do that trail again soon because there are so many more to explore, but I had a great time and since the incline is fairly gradual, it’s a good one for beginners.
Hope you’re having an amazing week!