One of Colorado’s most popular art installations, the Breckenridge Troll is a 15-foot wooden sculpture built by Danish artist Thomas Dambo. Sitting happily in the forest less than a mile from the road, this gentle giant is easy to access and a must-see on any trip to Breckenridge.
Known as Isak Heartstone, the troll sculpture was completed in 2018 as an exhibit for the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts. Artist Thomas Dambo, who has built dozens of similar trolls during his impressive career, made Isak out of scrap wood as a way to demonstrate the importance of upcycling and reusing materials.
History of Isak Heartstone
Isak Heartstone was left in Breckenridge as a permanent installation after the conclusion of the festival, but publicity and a social media craze brought thousands of visitors to Breckenridge to visit the sculpture. Local residents quickly began to complain, resulting in plans to dismantle and destroy Isak.
Luckily, Dambo fought back, and the destruction was thankfully stopped. The sculpture was relocated to its current position on the Trollstigen Trail in 2019, where it continues to be a popular destination and photo-op.
As for the sculpture’s name, a group of visitors reportedly brought a heart-shaped stone to the troll as a gift. Dambo, believing it to be a perfect fit, made the stone a permanent part of the installation, and the name Heartstone stuck around.
The Trollstigen Trail isn’t far from the center of Breckenridge, so it’s fairly easy to access. It’s located within the White River National Forest.
There is limited parking available at the trailhead, so arrive early to get a spot. Parking at the nearby Ice Rink’s lot is not permitted, but there are a few spots next to the trailhead marked by a sign that says “Troll.” Expect the lot to be full during peak hours, weekends, and holidays.
For parking in downtown Breckenridge, the most convenient lots are the South/North Gondola Lots. Free parking is available at the Satellite Lot off I-70, but it requires a ride of the Breck Free Ride to get to town.
Probably the easiest way to get to the trailhead, is simply pay to park downtown and hop on the free Breckenridge bus. Get off the shuttle at the Ice Rink stop, then make the short stroll to the trailhead.
Isak Heartstone isn’t located too far from downtown, so it should be straightforward to walk or bike to the trailhead from a parking spot downtown. Street parking is available, and there are also a number of paid lots within a reasonable distance.
If you’re considering biking, be sure to scope out a place to lock up your bike, as they are prohibited on the trail. Plan to spend about 20 minutes walking or 5-10 minutes biking from downtown.
Hiking the Troll Trail
After making it to the trailhead, start the short hike to the sculpture. The path is well maintained, and much of it features either large paving stones or a wooden boardwalk. Due to the site’s popularity, the path is meant to be one-way, ultimately forming a loop that is about a mile in length.
The trail is flat and well-maintained, so it should be accessible to strollers. Wheelchairs may be able to navigate the trail, but it is not officially constructed to ADA standards.
If the short stroll to the sculpture isn’t enough, the hike can be expanded in a few ways. Continue past the sculpture on the Illinois-Creek Trail, or cross the street and hike part of the Sunbeam or Hermit-Placer trails for some extra mileage.
Leave no Trace: Isak Heartstone was almost dismantled due to disruptions caused by visitors, so be sure to leave no trace on the trail or the sculpture so that Isak can stick around.
Pictures: Pictures with Isak are encouraged, but be sure to not climb on the sculpture or damage it in any way while posing for photos.
Watch for Crowds: Isak Heartstone is one of the most popular attractions in Breckenridge, so large crowds should be expected. Visit during the early morning and avoid weekends for the best experience. Additionally, walk, bike, or take the shuttle to the trailhead to make transportation easier.
Winter: Though the sculpture is free and open 365 days a year, the trail is not maintained during the winter, so be cautious when planning a winter visit.
Dogs: Dogs are permitted on the trail, but they must be leashed at all times.
Address: White River National Forest, Breckenridge, CO