West of Nederland, Colorado, the 11 acre Devil’s Thumb Lake sits at 11,180 feet in elevation within the breathtaking Indian Peaks Wilderness. Devil’s Thumb Lake can only be accessed via a 6 mile trail, which slowly climbs in elevation before reaching the alpine body of water. From there, it’s a six mile trip back down to the parking lot, unless you are enjoying the scenic backcountry overnight.
Devil’s Thumb Lake History
Devil’s Thumb Lake is named after the adjacent rock formation that towers over the water. “Devil’s Thumb” is a 12,150 foot granite spire that also gives its name to the nearby Devil’s Thumb Pass along the Great Continental Divide.
Activities at Devil’s Thumb Lake
Hiking up to Devil’s Thumb Lake is an incredible way to enjoy wildflowers, rushing streams, and breathtaking mountain views. It is very popular all year round, with visitors taking in the scenery during a variety of outdoor activities.
Bridging & Wildlife: A visit to Devil’s Thumb Lake nearly guarantees at least one exciting wildlife viewing experience. In addition to the lurking mountain lions, foxes, and coyotes, visitors may even see black bears or even moose visiting the lake. Beyond that, Indian Peaks Wilderness is home to pika, marmots, eagles, elk, jays, hawks, hares, hummingbirds, and more.
Camping: During the summer, camping in the Devil’s Thumb Zone requires a backcountry permit which is inexpensive and easy to obtain in Nederland or through the US Forest Service. There are a limited number of spots available in each backcountry zone. If you are unable to book a spot near Devil’s Thumb Lake, there is still a chance that you can visit the lake and camp in an adjacent zone.
Fishing: With a valid Colorado fishing license, anglers are welcome to bring their rod and reel to Devil’s Thumb Lake. Although the area is difficult to access, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife will occasionally stock Devil’s Thumb and nearby lakes with cutthroat and brook trout.
Hiking: Devil’s Thumb Lake is positioned right against the Great Continental Divide, which can be reached by a mile long uphill climb from the shore. Indian Peaks Wilderness is extremely popular for both day hikes and extended backpacking trips.
Swimming: In the summer, swimming is an option at Devil’s Thumb Lake, but not necessarily a good one. Although the icy cold Rocky Mountain waters may be too frigid for most swimmers, a dip in Devil’s Thumb Lake is a worthy reward for a challenging hike to the shore.
Skiing: In the winter, Devil’s Thumb Lake is a popular destination for backcountry skiing (downhill), cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.
- From Nederland (East), 1120 Hessie Rd #1104, Nederland, CO 80466
- From Fraser (West), Devil’s Thumb Trailhead, Nederland, CO 80466
Season: Year Round, Backcountry Permit Required June 1 – September 15.
Fees: Backcountry Camping Fees
Maps: Indian Peaks Wilderness Map (PDF)
Website: fs.usda.gov/… (Devil’s Thumb Trail)