Leo, Ray and I decided to head to Hell Hole Reservoir for a one night backpacking trip. None of us had been out there before and the drive was a little longer than we thought it would be. Hell Hole Reservoir is located in Eldorado National Forest in the Georgetown Ranger District. The trailhead is located 22 miles east of Georgetown on Wentworth Springs Rd, then 29 miles northeast on Highway 2 (Eleven Pines Rd). The roads are well marked, narrow and paved. Sites do not need to be reserved and you can reach camp by either boat or trail. We opted to hike it the 5 miles from car to camp. This picture is of us getting ready to hike. You can see the reservoir in the background. See map below for trail.
You do not need a permit to camp but you do need a fire permit so get one at the ranger station you pass in Georgetown. The reservoir was a little low. Still plenty of water for boating but you could see how much more full it could be.
We parked in the upper parking lot you pass on the road in and then hiked down the stairs to the boat ramp entrance. You then have to hike over the bridge at the dam side of the lake. The Ranger told us that we could drive over the dam to the other side and then park there. That IS NOT the case. It is a road but it is all fenced or chained off.
On the other side of the dam you can see this monument marking the date the dam was completed and the amount of water that it holds back. Why they call it Hell Hole Reservoir I didn't know until recently. I was emailed by a fellow backpacker who told me, "back when they were making the reservoir, the crew was laying down dynamite. A thunderstorm came through and hit some of the dynamite and blew up a bunch of workers. So they decided to call it Hell Hole." Thanks Laura!
I didn't take too many pictures on the way in as the trail went in and out of sunlight so much it was hard to get any good shots. Plus I think we were all motivated to get to camp since we were all hungry.
There were not many people around the lake. We saw mostly people on boats and hanging out right on the water. The trail does go up and down a bit and the first 2/3 have some good views of the reservoir. The ranger did tell us to watch out for both bears and rattlesnakes. We saw neither but we did tie up our food at night and be careful to watch for snakes.
The day was really warm. We had a slight breeze that helped but in the exposed sections it was still hot in the afternoon sun.
They have water coming into this lake in the middle of it through some pipe that comes all the way down the ridge. I am not sure what all that is for.
This is almost at camp. i think this formations would almost all be under water when the reservoir is full. I swam to one that was near our campsite but didn't walk around it too much as it had been used by birds who had made a mess of most of it.
The trail was pretty overgrown in spots toward the end. You should watch for both blue ribbon marking the trail and plenty of ducks. There were only a couple of spots that were a little tricky on the way in where the trail and dry creek beds were difficult to distinguish. On the way out of course we had no problem seeing the trail.
Each campsite has a "stove" that I guess you could use (if it wasn't fire season) and a picnic table. The tables are really sturdy. There are also pit toilets. No water is provided so bring a filter and pump from the reservoir.
Here is camp in the morning. We camped at the site we found that had the best view and proximity to the lake. There was a nice breeze that night to keep us cool. I think it was a little far of a drive for a one night trip. I think it would be neat to boat in instead of hiking in as well.
Here is Leo posing for Backpacker.com Well he thinks he is anyway.
Here is a shot before we started a downhill section to the dam. You can see the bridge way in the distance. The spillway is under the bridge. Nothing was going through the spillway while we were there. They do have water coming through the dam if you look at the canyon on the other side of the dam.
The red line shows our exact route. The elevation data is from camp to the car. The net elevation change was a gain of 47 feet from camp to car. Don't let that fool you though as we went up 1313 feet and down 1266 feet. It doesn't look to bad on the elevation profile and it really wasn't bad. On the way in we really warmed up though as the sun was beating down on us on the exposed sections of trail. I would recommend that you do this hike in the early to mid morning hours while you have the most shade.