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Hike to Interlaken Historic Resort

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

October 16, 2021

A close-up of the historic hotel at Inter-Laken Resort in Twin Lakes
The hotel building from Historic Inter-Laken Resort

There are few areas more scenic in the state of Colorado than the area around the Collegiate Peaks, with majestic views of some of the tallest peaks in the state. But if you’re like me and don’t see yourself bagging these 14k footers, don’t worry. There are plenty of beautiful and unique trails to explore in the area!


Among these is the Interlaken Trail, which follows close to the southern shore of Twin Lakes. This is one of my favorite trails in Colorado so far, with stunning views, lots of explorable lakeshore, little elevation change, and a neat destination at the end of the trail. In my opinion, this hike is a must!


Dexter's house surrounded by yellow trees in autumn
A view of Dexter's house from the shore of Twin Lakes

Interlaken, Twin Lakes...Where’s That?

I recently recounted my Interlaken Trail adventures to a native Coloradan who spends a fair amount of time outdoors hiking and fishing. His response: where is Twin Lakes?


A small, unincorporated town, Twin Lakes (the original mining town here was Dayton) sits at about 9,600 feet above sea level in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. At the base of Mount Elbert, Twin Lakes is approximately 21 miles south of Leadville and 25 miles north of Buena Vista. Route 82 through Independence Pass starts in this tiny mountain town.


The town itself was founded during the silver mining days as a go between Leadville and Aspen, sitting at the base of the route through Independence Pass. The Historic Interlaken Resort was a popular destination during the 1880s, though it’s success was short-lived. Check out this cool photograph taken by the famed landscape photographer William Henry Jackson in 1875.


A view of Mount Elbert from Interlaken trail in autumn
Mount Elbert through aspens with the moon atop

The Interlaken Trail

Stacia and I hiked the Interlaken Trail one Saturday morning in late September. We hit the trailhead around 9am and had the trail mostly to ourselves for the first hour. There are multiple short side trails branching off the first half-mile of the trail, many leading down to a rocky lakeshore, others leading to backcountry camp sites.



At one point, the Interlaken Trail joins with both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, and these lakeside campsites offer an ideal spot to stop for the night before heading on to conquer Mount Elbert (if trekking north). But Stacia and I are hardly that ambitious. Instead, we enjoyed a stunning autumn stroll through the pine and aspen forest, here and there peaking out at Mount Elbert awash in ochres and umbers.


Mount Elbert in Autumn from Twin Lakes shoreline
A view of Mount Elbert from the shore of Twin Lakes

The trail itself is relatively flat, with an overall elevation change of 213 feet according to AllTrails. At one point, the trail crosses a bridge over a small creek and then enters into a grove of quaking aspens that were nearly at the height of their fall foliage show in late September!


Then, after a pleasant stroll of about 2.25 miles, suddenly the trail opens up to a sandy, sage-covered opening with what’s left of the Interlaken Historic Resort.


Dexter's House in Twin Lakes from trail
Dexter's House at Inter-Laken Historic Resort

Exploring Inter-Laken Historic Resort

I love trails with a clear destination at the end (waterfalls, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, historic ruins, oh and did I mention waterfalls?). In terms of destinations, this trail takes the cake! There’s literally an old, well-maintained ghost town (ghost resort?) at the end, and the best part is it’s only accessible by trail or by boat.


Traveling west on Interlaken Trail, the first building you see (and the most iconic) is Dexter’s house. James V. Dexter was a wealthy miner who purchased the resort in 1883, built it out, and turned it into a popular travel destination until his death in 1899. The resort finally closed in 1950.


View of the top of Dexter's house at Twin Lakes in Autumn
The cupola of Dexter's house in Autumn

Dexter’s house is the only building that’s been restored and maintained enough for visitors to enter and explore--you can even walk up into the 3rd floor cupola for 360-degree views of the lake and surrounding mountains.



But the current perspective from the cupola is a slightly different from the original view, since several of the buildings were relocated (moved back from the lakeshore) when a dam was built. Some buildings were finally stabilized and repaired in 1979 by the Bureau of Reclamation.


Other buildings still remaining include the hotel building, two granaries, a hexagon-shaped privy (which contained leather toilet seats!), a stable, laundry, and cow barn.


Needless to say, the hike to Inter-Laken Historic Resort is a unique experience. I recommend visiting in autumn so you can see the resort framed by golden yellow aspens. With that said, be sure to arrive at the trailhead early, as traffic picked up considerably toward mid-day.


-Jessica

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