Hiking Fall River Road near Idaho Springs, I noticed a sign for the Continental Divide Trail that said Loch Lomond 2 ½ miles. I’ve hiked to the Loch via the road, but here was a chance to try a different way.
The CDT crosses Road 274 about 1.7 miles from Fall River Road (directions below). The trail can be hard to see in the trees on the right side of the road, so look carefully for the brown sign.
The sign says Loch Lomond Road ½, Loch Lomond 2 ½, James Peak 4 ½, Rollins Pass 11. Take just a couple steps and you’re in the forest on a single-person wide trail. The trail gets a bit rocky and steep at times, but it’s a pleasant hike in the forest.
About a third of a mile from the start, you’ll come to a trail split. Turn right and you’ll quickly hike up to Loch Lomond Road. Turn left and you’ll stay in the forest longer. (I prefer left.) Eventually the left trail also reaches the road. At this point, you can cross the road and continue on the CDT, but it will take you to James Peak and you’ll miss the lake. Hiking up the road is not very exciting, but it is the most direct route.
A short distance up the road is a “Park here sign.” However, even when the road is closed (before July 15) most 4-wheel drive enthusiasts park at the closure gate and not the sign.
The road gets pretty rocky, but soon the trees open up and you’ll be able to enjoy the view of the Continental Divide as you hike up. When the road turns north, listen for the sound of rushing water. There’s a creek just below the road that often has pretty cascades. Come early enough in the season and you may see snow down there, too.
When the road bends to the west again, there’s a small creek crossing. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to jump across on the rocks, or you may have to walk through the water and get your feet wet.
Loch Lomond itself was a surprise. We saw a man-made bank as we approached. That's Loch Lomond. It was apparently dammed at some point. However, don't let that or the Jeep road stop you from visiting this gem. Loch Lomond sits at the bottom of a rocky basin with high peaks and a cascading waterfall as its inlet stream.
At the lake, you have two options.
Option one, take the faint trail on the south side of the lake and climb to the source of that waterfall. There are three lakes in the basin directly above Loch Lomond. Read more here.
Option two, walk the dam to the trail on the northeast side of the lake. This trail climbs up to the ridge rewarding you with beautiful views of the Loch Lomond area and the lakes above the Loch. This trail splits, creating a loop down to the upper lakes or up to James Peak and/or the Continental Divide Trail. Even if you don't hike all the way to James Peak, consider hiking this trail to the CDT and using the CDT to loop back to the Jeep road.
If you want more hikes, check out this list of 200+ great hikes in Colorado.
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Details: The hike to the lake and back is about 5 miles, but add extra distance for however far you have to hike the road from your vehicle. The elevation gain is about 1100 feet.
Directions: From I-70, take exit 238/Fall River Road. Go a couple hundred yards on the frontage road, turn right on fall River Road and reset your odometer. Drive 6.5 miles and turn left on Road 274. From here, it's about 1.7 miles to the trailhead. Passenger cars can drive the first mile. Depending on your skills and clearance, you may be able to drive further. Just remember, once you park, just hike up the road and look for the trailhead on your right. It can be easy to miss.