If you're looking for challenging, short hike near Berthoud Pass Hassell Lake is a nice destination.
Hassell Lake is above Urad Lake, about a 3.4-mile drive from U.S. 40 (directions below). While the area was closed for nearly three years, it reopened in June 2014 as Urad Lake State Wildlife Area.
Park in the parking lot, then hike up the road, past the closed gate. A sign here explains the rules for the state wildlife area including that dogs must be on leash (except when used as a hunting aid), boating is prohibited and that the area is only open from June 1 through the end of the 4th, regular big game rifle season.
The "trail" starts on the old dirt road that goes to the lakeshore. You'll gain about 100 feet of elevation walking to the dam about 0.3 miles from the parking area. Just before you get to the lake and dam, you'll see a sign that simply says "Urad Lake." A few steps later, you should see the dam to to your right and a partial view of the lake. Just past the dam, we turned right and walked down to the lakeshore.
This is a pretty spot. While there are sections of forest around the lake, you can see the surrounding mountain peaks above tree line. If you look at the shoreline around the lake, you'll likely see several people fishing.
Before you continue on, look directly across the lake at the other side of the dam. While there is a nice trail ON the dam, you'll notice the trail on the other side of the lake is faint and iffy. This area, at least in July 2014, did not have a good trail. That's important, because after hiking to Hassell Lake, you might be tempted to finish looping around Urad Lake, but I don't recommend it.
For now, hike back up to the road, and continue hiking around the lake. The trail is fairly flat here and if you look to your right, you'll get glimpses of the lake and the surrounding scenery through the trees. As you hike around the southwest end of the lake, you may notice signs in the trees that say camping permitted. Camping up to five days is allowed here. Learn more on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.
Continue hiking around the lake until you come to a trail split. We saw one trail going up slightly behind us, but fortunately, there was a sign on our trail that simply said "trail," so we continued on. Just a few steps later, there was a second trail split. Again, one trail went up, the other trail stayed low. Veer left here and walk a few steps to a bridge over a pretty cascade. This is the outflow from Hassell Lake. You'll be hiking along this stream further up the hill.
For now, walk a few more steps to the trail register and begin hiking up the switchbacks. The next quarter mile is quite steep and rocky. If you need a break, take a picture of Urad Lake below you.
The trail continues climbing the side of the hillside. About a half mile from the turnoff, you'll likely hear that stream we crossed early. A few steps later, the trail returns to the side of the stream and follows it uphill. Enjoy the sound of the water and enjoy the scenery as you hike the last quarter mile or so to the shore of the lake.
Hassell Lake sits in a wide open meadow at about 11,300 feet. While there are peaks around the area, they are not next to the lake. The lake is in a marshy area. Find a rock or a tree stump and sit and enjoy. There is a faint trail around the lake, but it's intermittent and gets very difficult to follow.
After enjoying some time at Hassell Lake, return the way you came.
Details: The hike around Urad Lake and up to Hassell Lake and back is about 3.5 miles with about 700 feet of elevation gain.
Admission fee: In July 2014, there was no fee for hiking here. However, you do need a license to fish.
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Directions: From I-70, take U.S. 40 toward Winter Park. Drive through Empire and just past the town of Berthoud Pass, just before U.S. 40 takes a big turn to the right, turn off on the Henderson Mine Road. Drive about 0.6 miles and turn left on the unsigned Woods Creek Road (it's the first left). Drive 2.8 miles on this dirt road to the trailhead. Note, while a carefully driven passenger car can make it to the trailhead, it is not recommended. There are some serious ruts, bumps, etc. in the road.