For those who enjoy walking through a bit of history, the Hagerman Tunnel is the perfect half-day hike. While the mileage may be slightly intimidating to beginner hikers, it is an easy trail, with very little elevation gain so almost anyone would be able to enjoy it. It provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains, passes by two lakes, and goes to an old railroad tunnel built in the 1800’s.
Know Before You Go
Location: San Isabel National Forest. The closest town is Leadville
Trail: Hagerman Tunnel Trail
Distance: 6.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 675 feet
Season: Late Spring through Mid Autumn
Trip Date: 09/15/2020
Getting to Hagerman Tunnel Trail
Directions: From Denver, take I-70 West to exit 195 toward Copper Mountain/Leadville. You’ll pass by the Copper ski area on the right. You’ll continue on CO-91 to Leadville. At the end of the main stretch in town, turn right onto McWethy Dr./County Road 4. Follow County road 4 past Turquoise Lake. The road will divert into two roads. Take the dirt road on the left (the Hagerman Pass Road) and follow it for 4.7 miles.
Parking: There is a large parking lot at the right across from where the trail starts. It can get crowded on the weekends in the summer, so come early if you plan to hike during those times.
Backpacking: Backpacking is allowed in the San Isabel Forest and Mt. Massive wilderness. You can connect many of the trails together. Access trail maps through the Forest Service and plan your route.
Camping: There is both dispersed and paid camping in the forests around Leadville, including the road to the trailhead. Check the Forest Service link about to see where dispersed may be allowed. For close paid camping, there are campgrounds all around Turquoise Lake. Check with each of these as some may be reservation only.
Hotels/AirBnbs: Leadville is the closest town and has a couple of motels and rental properties.
Tips for Hiking the Hagerman Tunnel Trail
When the trail splits halfway, you can go either left or right for the loop. I recommend going right, instead of left. This makes it so you have a really nice view of some of the mountains while hiking. It also leaves the highlight, the Hagerman Tunnel, for later in the hike.
If you like wildflowers, come during late July/early August to see some great colors. Or if you happen to be more of an autumn person, come in late September/early October to witness some stunning oranges and reds.
This trail is pretty easy going. Bring the 10 essentials and you’ll be set. There is a short section that is a little steep, so if there is snow on the ground, I would recommend bringing some form of microtraction.
My Trip Report of Hagerman Tunnel Trail
The Hagerman Tunnel trail was a fun, mellow hike, which was something I definitely needed when we did it. It is different than a lot of the nearby mountain hikes in Colorado. While we still got to see some pretty alpine lakes and a really cool tunnel, the elevation gain felt pretty non-existent. It is rare to find a trail with the views that doesn’t have the elevation gain, and I’ve been recommending this trail to many people.
I met up with Lindsey that morning and we made the 2.5 hour drive down to the Hagerman Tunnel. This was one I’d been wanting to hike for a while, so since we both had the time, we decided to make the drive. Getting there was a bit of a hassle. We missed the turn off for the road, going right/straight instead of left onto the dirt road. Once, we figured out our mistake, we turned back around and headed up the dirt road. I took my 4WD car, but an AWD could easily make it. There was only one spot that you might want a little bit of clearance, but with careful driving most cars would make it.
There isn’t a sign for the Hagerman Tunnel, so we were slightly confused at the Midlands Trail. This is correct though.
The trail is easy going and meanders along the forest. There are great views of the mountains to the once you exit the forest. The trail eventually comes to an obvious split. It loops around so you can go either way. We chose to go right as we heard it was a prettier way to go, providing better views of the mountains than going left.
We continued on the trail and it eventually turned right, going next to the first lake, Opal Lake. It was chilly, so we opted for not swimming, but I’m sure during the summer that it would be a nice alpine swim. We continued down the trail and through some cut bedrock, before coming to a second split off. Going down left finishes the loop and straight goes to the Hagerman Tunnel.
The Hagerman Tunnel apparently goes back almost half a mile to the other side of the mountain, though there is a sign warning of the dangers of going inside. We only went in a few feet and opted to not continue due to lots of ice with running water beneath it. We snapped a few pictures before exiting the tunnel and going back to the split off, taking the trail that went down to the second lake.
Hagerman Lake is next to the old ruins of the mining town that was here in the late 1800’s. We passed by the remains of some old buildings on the way down the trail. From here, the trail joined up shortly with the main one, and we made the short hike back to the car.
Bring out the kayak or paddleboard and float around on the Turquoise Lake after hiking. Stop in Leadville on the way back to enjoy the small mountain town.
If you are in town for a few days, hike one of the many surrounding 14ers, including Mt. Elbert which is the highest point in the state.