skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Hiking The Devils Thumb Bypass Trail In Colorado

Hiking the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail in Colorado

Our intention had not been to hike the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail – a day hike close to Boulder, Colorado. But my memory was obviously not as good as I thought it was. We’d been heading for the Fourth of July Trailhead just past Eldora and the outstanding hiking trails that head out from there.

Somehow we ended up on the Hessie Trailhead shuttle – because parking has become such a huge issue – and I mistakenly assumed the shuttle was going to the Fourth of July Trailhead. It did not. It stopped 4.5 miles short ….at the Hessie Trailhead. Stupid on my part – but time was short – so we headed out hiking the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail.

Starting the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail at the Hessie Townsite
Starting the Devils Bypass Trail at the Hessie Townsite
Pass a cooling stream early on in the hike
Pass a cooling stream early on in the hike
Hiking the Devils Thumb Bypass is at its best when you hit the alpine
Where the great hiking really starts – in the high alpine
Heading towards Devil's Thumb Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness
Heading towards Devil’s Thumb Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness

What the Devils Thumb Bypass trail looks like

As you can see from the photos the day was hardly what I would call a disaster. The wildflowers were out and once out of the trees the views were superb.

The only real downside to this hike is that the first mile out of the parking lot isn’t very interesting as it follows an old fire road. The walking is uneven on cobblestone sized rocks. And it takes longer to get the great views on this hike compared to the trail out of the Fourth of July Trailhead.

Wildflowers are prolific but with heat won't last long
Wildflowers are prolific but with heat won’t last long
Excellent signage on the Devil's Thumb Trail
Excellent signage on the Devil’s Thumb Trail

After you’ve finished hiking up the fire road – which is mostly in sun – you reach a junction. I’ve done the hike to Woodland Lake many times, though I have no photos to prove it – but I do remember that it’s quite lovely the higher up you go.

We chose to hike the Devil’s Thumb Trail. We knew we wouldn’t have time to go all the way – because of a 4:30 PM wedding – but we figured we’d go as far as we could, as fast as we could. My husband John would dispute the ‘fast’ comment since I seemed to stop at every wildflower and viewpoint to take photos.

A fellow hiker enjoying the view and the shade (89 F that day)
A fellow hiker enjoying the view and the shade (89F that day) while hiking the Devils Thumb Bypass trail
Beautiful, wild columbines - the Colorado state flower
Beautiful, wild columbines – the Colorado state flower (Aquilegia caerules is the Latin name)
This pond is a welcome sight on a hot summer's day
This pond is a welcome sight on a hot summer’s day
Beautiful wildflowers in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Beautiful wildflowers in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Hiking on the Devils Thumb Bypass trail through wildflowers
Hiking the Devils Thumb Bypass trail through wildflowers
We see more Indian Paintbrush than anything else
We see more Indian Paintbrush than anything else
Indian paintbrush seen while hiking the devils thumb bypass
Indian paintbrush – a flower with similar health benefits to garlic – IF eaten in small quantities
Heading towards Glacier Lake while hiking the devils thumb bypass
Hiking the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail and heading towards Glacier Lake

We had to turn around just short of Glacier Lake. I find that hard to do when you’re so close – but it would not be cool showing up late to a wedding ceremony.

In hindsight we should have hit the trails at 8 AM and the 10 mile round-trip to Glacier Lake would have been very doable. It’s another two miles from Glacier Lake to Devil’s Thumb Pass. From experience I can say that I have never been disappointed with the scenery in Colorado once firmly above tree line.

Know before you go on the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail

The Hessie Trailhead is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Boulder. To get there drive up Boulder Canyon on Highway 119 to Nederland. Turn left and follow the road (the Peak to Peak Highway now) to Eldora Road – about ½ mile out of town. Turn right and drive to the Nederland High School if you want to catch the FREE shuttle to the Hessie Trailhead.

Take the same road but drive 4.5 miles further to reach the Fourth of July Trailhead. Get there early (by 8 AM) as parking spaces are limited. The hikes out of the Fourth of July are renowned for their red, white and blue flowers – hence the Fourth of July name. The hike is at its peak around July 4th. 

The free Hessie Trailhead Shuttle operates on weekends from 8 AM to 8 PM. There is lots of free parking at Nederland High School.

You can take public transit from downtown Boulder all the way to Nederland High School and then catch the bus to the Hessie Trailhead. Pretty sweet set-up and it’s a cheap way to get around.

Pick up picnic supplies in Nederland.

Remember that all of these hikes are at altitude. The Hessie Townsite sits at 9,000 feet. That’s your starting point. Bring lots of water, extra food (never tuna sandwiches at altitude – trust me), and layered clothes. You should always carry the 10 essentials.

You can backpack in to Jasper Lake and camp but you do need a backcountry permit between June 1st and September 30th. Pick one up at Indian Peaks Ace Hardware in Nederland OR at the Boulder Ranger District Office at 2140 Yarmouth Avenue in Boulder.

The parking lot gets ridiculously busy early in the day
The parking lot gets ridiculously busy early in the day

Further reading on things to do in Colorado

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Devil's Thumb Bypass hike, Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. There is a magic to Colorado hiking not the least of which is that intense blue when you look straight up. We were probably at about 11,000 feet above sea level on this hike and it gets even better on top of a 14er.(There are 54 peaks in excess of 14,000 feet high in Colorado and they are called 14ers.) The other magic relates to getting above tree line and the beguiling views. There are innumerable hikes that get you above treeline and you will never forget the experience. The last bit of magic is that, for us, Colorado is bloody hot in the summer and these hikes get you a little bit of cool. Of course, if you do it in the winter, you can get a lot of a bit of cool. We highly recommend hiking in Colorado.

    Devoted husband of HikeBikeTravel lady

    1. Agree with my husband that getting out in the Colorado mountains is generally a good way to deal with the heat. And he’s so right about the blues. Even with all the forest fires, there were deep blue mesmerizing skies.

  2. Wonderful photos. The spring/summer flowers are beautiful. I have no plans for hiking in Colorado this year but I really must get back there. Your trail info will be helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for stopping by! I love your pictures – you’ve inspired me to go out next weekend to see what I can find in my area. Really beautiful hike!!!

  4. Beautiful wild flower photos. I’ve done more than one hike I didn’t intend to because of getting lost, not finding the right trail head….glad that it turned out OK for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search
Cart

Pin It on Pinterest