Analysing terrain data
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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
Though Hartenstein Lake is in a wilderness area, the trailhead is located on the newly paved CR306 (Cottonwood Pass Road) for super-easy access.
In the winter, the road is plowed to the Denny Creek trailhead, making it a popular start-point for several Buena Vista area hikes, including 14,196' Mt.
Yale. The 3.1-mile (6.2 miles roundtrip) hike to Hartenstein Lake may not be long in mileage, but it is not an “easy” one.
Starting at 10,000', the first half mile is a steep attention-getter; lungs will appreciate a slow start as they get accustomed to the altitude. The initial climb is on a wide, rubbly trail that does not present any technical difficulties as it wends up through mature forest and alongside Denny Creek.
The views are somewhat limited, but the sounds of the creek and the beautiful pine trees provide a peaceful vibe. After crossing the creek, at about 1.7 miles, there is a signed junction.
Continue on for Hartenstein Lake; a right turn takes climbers to the summit of Mt.
Yale. The trail becomes narrower and quite rocky as it climbs fairly steeply upwards, with views of gorgeous mountains to the signed junction for Hartenstein Lake and Browns Pass.
Go left for the final leg of the journey to Hartenstein Lake.
For the remaining .7-mile, it is well-worth slowing down to fully appreciate the jaw-dropping views as the terrain opens up before dropping briefly back through the woods to the lake.
In addition to being a popular day hike, Hartenstein Lake is a destination for flyfishers seeking cutthroat and brook trout, as well as a favorite for backpackers.
Whatever the motivation, the views make it worth the effort to get there.
As with several other Sawatch alpine lakes, Hartenstein can be a jumping-off point for extended hikes from a base camp at the lake.
From there, it is possible to climb 13,237' Turner Peak for those with advanced route-finding and off-trail skills.
A hike on the excellent trail to Browns Pass is an enjoyable option from the lake. Hartenstein Lake is one of the few area hikes that has year 'round trailhead access.
The route is wonderful in the summer and, in the snowy months, quite doable for those with snowshoes and winter travel and navigation skills.