The hike from the Herman Gulch trailhead to Herman Gulch Lake is a 6.5 mile out and back. It's part of the CDT as well, so if you hit the trail and want to keep on keepin' on, you absolutely can. From the trailhead to the lake, you'll be gaining about 1,655 feet of elevation. The views are stunning and the trail is very easy to follow. The real treat comes in the last mile or so, when you reach the tundra. The land opens up, the marmots squeak excitedly and then BAM! You're surrounded my waterfalls and mountains. Not too shabby.
Currently, the area is drowning in bright wildflowers. It is the most incredible display I've ever seen. There are Columbine everywhere. Something to keep in mind on this trail is that there is wildlife everywhere. It is prime habitat for moose, bear and mountain lion. Keep an eye out for elk as well. I think as far as "bang for your buck" goes... this hike is top notch.
We hit the trail at dawn with Bivy the adventure dog at our side. We had the forest to ourselves until about two miles in, when three trail runners past us, heading back to the lot. They must have started a hell of a lot earlier than we did! From the get-go the wildflowers were overflowing on to the trail. Waterfalls were full and the creek we followed provided an amazing soundtrack.
When we arrived at Herman Lake, the views were panoramic and incredible. I certainly didn't expect to hike such short mileage to wind up at the base of some very big mountains. Herman Lake sits at the base of Pettingell Peak. A mountain with a peak reaching 13,553. You will also have views of The Citadel, Hassell and Hagar Peaks. All 13ers that see very little traffic compared to many peaks in the area. So if you're looking for some solitude, consider those for your next summits.
"Earth laughs in flowers." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I cannot wait to get back here. Next time I plan to get to Herman Lake and go right up Pettingall for some amazing views and hopefully some mountain goat sightings. Luckily this is one of our closest trailheads. This area of Arapaho National Forest is wild and wonderful. I can't imagine the beauty it will display come fall. When the leaves turn yellow and the bushes turn red. Perfection.