Devils Thumb – Off Trail Option

A classic backpacking loop with an off-trail twist.

Once or twice a year, my buddy d-low and I get in a backpacking trip together.

It is a chance for him to get into the mountains overnight, a chance for us to catch-up and for me to re-acquaint  myself with the mountains in Boulder’s backyard.

The place I am speaking of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. A small, but varied, wilderness area with high peaks, alpine lakes, forested terrain and an explosion of wildflowers in the summer.

Though the area is very popular on the east side of the divide (!), relative solitude can be had if a hiker goes past the popular lakes and esp if one goes off-trail.

On a variation of a classic backpacking loop, d-low and I would go off-trail on the second day.

The off-trail variation would prove to be stupendous. A divide walk with unique views and descent into a drainage that is in direct contrast to the distant trail above. We had the place to ourselves. The only entry fee? Being comfortable with off-trail hiking, some minor scrambling and being able to read a map.

It would prove to be an excellent trip.

We started at the crowded Fourth of July TH at 9 AM. Even at this reasonable hour, many day hikers, trail runners and so on were already out and about. But not many backpackers.

We made our way up to Arapaho Pass. Once past the Diamond Lake turn-off, the crowds already thinned out.


Down Caribou Pass we went and onto the quiet and peaceful High and Lonesome Trail. This trail is also part of the CDNST.

We made our way up towards Devils Thumb Pass and made a camp for the night.

The following morning, we made it up to the high pass on the Continental Divide.

Rather than go down the trail, we continued north on the divide and headed up to Devils Thumb Peak.

On top of Devils Thumb, we continued our divide stroll along to Mount Jasper.

On Jasper, we could see to east of the divide and the lakes below.

And we could also below to the North Fork drainage where we would be headed. Mt Neva dominated the landscape.

From a small saddle below Jasper, we would descend through scree and talus into the drainage.

Once tundra was reached, some snow fields would be crossed below Neva.

We continued our hike cross-country across the drainage. Soon we could see the shoulder of S. Arapaho Pk and the trail below.

After some undulating cross-country travel, we reached the trail again. We looked back to where we came.

Back on the trail, some last wildflower shots were taken:

Another great little trip in the backyard of the place we call home.


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David Poston
David Poston
9 years ago

Was Arapaho Pass passable? And Devil’s Thumb?

4 years ago

Thank you for this report, I believe you helped me figure out what we are going to do in the coming weeks since we are not able to get our permit in RMNP any longer.   We are thinking our route could be: Day 1: Enter Hessie TH- Camp near Betty Lake Day 2: Follow the CDT and when it reaches Devils Thumb Pass, follow your off trail route- Camp at Neva Lakes Day 3: Next day hike and camping around Jasper/Storm/Devils Thumb Lakes Day 4: Last Day hike out Hessie TH Could I ask a little advice please?   1) If… Read more »