A rather hidden gem, part of the magic of the Denny Creek Trail leading to Lake Hartenstein lies in its seclusion.
The Denny Creek Trail is a well-maintained path in the San Isabel National Forest. The trail weaves through pine-studded forests with plenty of clearings along the way boasting views of yawning valleys. Several creeks rush with ice-cold snowmelt, and most are bridged with logs for easy crossings. You can easily hike from the trailhead to the lake in a few hours, and you may find the urge to laze by the water until nightfall.
What Makes It Great
If it’s climbing you’re after, this area is an explorer’s delight. On either side of the Denny Creek Trail, unnamed peaks stretch up into the clouds at around 12,000 feet. On them, distinctive rock formations provide optimal lookout spots for wildlife, and scree fields dotted with wildflowers yield refuge for screeching pikas. Should you crave something more challenging, the trail to Mt. Yale, one of the Collegiate Peak 14er’s, intersects with the Denny Creek Trail less than a mile from the trailhead.
At the end of the trail, there are a number of a spacious campsites encircled by lithe pines and views of Lake Hartenstein. Ample space and fire circles provide an idyllic wilderness experience. Numerous creeks trickle snowmelt into shallow flowing pools, perfect for filtering drinking water. And don't be surprised to see a curious marmot or two prowling about and searching for food scraps.
Who is Going to Love It
This hike is perfect for intermediate hikers. A few steep segments and uneven, rocky terrain could challenge beginners, and the threat of afternoon storms may accelerate an otherwise leisurely stroll. Most intersections with the creek are bridged for the hiker’s benefit, but some are not, and we would recommend hiking poles to assist with balance.
Lake Hartenstein has perfect camping spots for backpackers of all skill sets.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There is a free parking lot at the trailhead with roadside parking to accommodate any spillover. The trail is very well-marked, but we would still recommend stopping in the San Isabel Ranger Station for a map. Your pup will love this spot, but keep him leashed.