Hermit Pass, Colorado Preceded by Bluegrass

Highway driving feels heavenly after taking the road up to Hermit Pass. If you ever want to feel your insides bounce all over the place for over 2 hours then this is the road for you! In my head I said that like the character Stefon played by Bill Hader on SNL haha. But before we get into Hermit Pass, I have to give a shout out to those that put on the High Mountain Hay Fever bluegrass festival in Westcliffe, Colorado. This was our first year attending and we had a great time spending the day with my family. Definitely some great entertainment and how can you not love the scenery!



Perfect scenery for a festival in the mountains!


Old-time Kozmic Trio was my favorite. They sounded great and have a sense of humor. They blew a power source during the performance, jumped off the stage and started playing the crowd like nothing had ever happened, love that!


The pulled pork nachos were so good!


Hermit Pass

Ok, so back to the Hermit Pass trail. Standing at the edge of Westcliffe, you can see Hermit Rd headed straight for the mountains. Driving toward the mountains, a sign marks the way to Hermit Pass (do not turn at the Hermit Basin Conference Center sign, very confusing). The trail gets rocky not too far into the drive up the mountain. The drive to the Hermit Lake trailhead is about ~4.1 miles from the Y where Hermit Rd and Sampson Ridge Rd split. It’s an additional 1.5 or more up to the pass. On this last trip it took us just over 2 hours to get to where we parked just below the pass. We didn’t stop but a couple of times for us to rearrange ourselves after bouncing around so much. Four-wheel drive is a must for this trail.

The Rainbow hiking trail (TR1336) follows the road for a stretch. We saw signs marking where the trail crossed the road. Aspen groves are plentiful and in the fall turn into a mass of brilliant gold foliage (fall photos below were taken last September). We did see wildflowers while driving up to the pass this year (nearly 2 weeks ago now), but were aiming to get to the top by sunset so we did not stop for photos along the way. Some of the photos below were taken from the top just after we got there near sunset. I don’t recall seeing many columbines or paintbrush on the way up. We saw many flowers that looked like some type of sunflower. There were a couple of places with a decent slope next to the road where some nice photos could be composed of the flowers. Up near the pass you can see the valley floor and the Wet Mountains in the distance to the east and both Horseshoe Lake and Hermit Lake below. We were hoping to get photos of both sunset and stars as well timelapse, but clouds were plentiful so we did not stay long passed sunset. The afterglow was fading when we left and we began the long, slow drive down the mountain…in the dark. It was a whole different experience being on that road in the dark, not something I would recommend. It began raining lightly on us when we were about halfway down the trail and we made it down safely!

This trail is great for summer or fall. The hike to Hermit Lake is mostly level and about 1 mile round trip. It’s a beautiful serene lake. I’d like to camp at one of the many available camping sites along the 4×4 trail and do a sunrise shot there someday. The aspens last fall were just brilliant with plenty of composition opportunities. Someday Jess and I will have to try this trail with an ATV. I think the drive up would be much quicker and easier on the body. Hope you enjoy the combination of fall and summer photos below!


The road doesn’t look very bad here, but for over 2 hours you’re driving over a road strewn with rocks. After multiple body parts began slamming into the sides of my dad’s FJ Cruiser, I was beginning to wonder if hiking would be faster.

Golden Cathedral

There are beautiful groves of aspen along this trail which shine brilliantly in the fall.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 macro lens
40mm, f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO-100


Fall colors and side lighting make for interesting black and white photos.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 macro lens
17mm, f/6.3, 1/320 sec, ISO-100


Looking down at the final stretch of road up to the top of Hermit Pass. Photo by Jess Coffman


Just a bunch of boulders around here.


Getting closer to the tree line, you can start to see where you’re going! This photo was taken just shortly before we arrived at the Hermit Lake trailhead last fall.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 macro lens
17mm, f/9, 1/100 sec, ISO-100


A side pond next to Hermit Lake with Eureka Mountain in the background.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 macro lens
23mm, f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO-100


Panoramic from a lovely fall day at Hermit Lake with Eureka Mountain the background. This is a stitch of 7 images.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 macro lens
16mm, f/8, 1/160 sec, ISO-100


Marmots are plentiful on this trail. On our way up Hermit Pass we probably saw at least 10 of these guys running around. One had fun checking out our camera gear, likely looking for food.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens
130mm, f/10, 1/40 sec, ISO-1600


Looking to the west near Hermit Pass
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens
11mm, f/10, 0.6 sec, ISO-200


We had just 30 seconds of sunlight hit a peak below Eureka Mountain. This was the only image I was able to capture in that short time.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens
16mm, f/10, 1/3 sec, ISO-200


Panoramic above Horseshoe Lake at Hermit Pass. You can see the Wet Mountain Valley floor in the background. This is a stitch of 10 images.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 macro lens
33mm, f/10, 1/8 sec, ISO-100


Next up: I think I’m going to do something a little bit different for the next blog entry and go through the editing process for a photo from our recent trip to Colorado. I may put up a voting poll for anyone interested in participating in selecting a photo.

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