Arapaho Glacier Trail

MODERATE 39 reviews
#4 of 11 trails in

Arapaho Glacier Trail is a 12.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

12.5 miles
3559 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips




wild flowers



3 months ago

Really beautiful hike. It's a quick way up above treeline, and then a very long difficult hike from there. The first time I hiked this I did an overnight and camped at the 4th of July mine. People are not kidding, and take them seriously when they say this trail is far more difficult than its moderate rating. This area is prone to intense winds, and some spots of decently high exposure and steep drops. You're hiking atop a ridge. You're exposed to tons of wind, any weather that moves in(especially lighting) is extremely serious. If you hike the entire thing brings lots of food, water, and layers. There is no where along this route that you will be able to fill your water bottle.

6 months ago

I did this trail on Sunday. The trail is beautiful! wild flowers, Trees, views of the Boulder Watershed and you can see the flat irons from the back side. It is a bit steep in spots but easily manageable. It did get chilly toward the top when the clouds came out so make sure to bring layers. We luckily got back down before the rain started. Highly recommend this hike, it is a great workout and its very beautiful!

6 months ago

Beautiful hike. It's wooded for the first 1.5-2 miles, and then alpine tundra for the remainder. It is strenuous and rocky, but a fairly steady grade. Amazing views of the Boulder Watershed, and to the South and East. Lots of small birds and marmots on the tundra. Beautiful red, green, and yellow grasses and lichen. It can get very windy at the higher elevation, I attempted this hike once before and turned back due to the weather. I recommend getting an early start.

6 months ago

Hiked this today, breaking off to do Old Baldy (13038), since we'd already done S Arapahoe a couple times. Good hike, great views, about 11.5 miles, 3200' vertical gain. Long, gentle slope. Windy on the ridge, but a v. nice hike.

6 months ago

Beautiful! Saw a massive herd of elk hanging out on the tundra. Only trail I've never seen another soul on whole hiking in Colorado!

7 months ago

The information here is largely accurate with the oversight of a few MAJOR points. Honestly, this is NOT a safe trail. The areas referred to as "waterfalls" are in fact, "washouts" and should be approached with extreme caution, particularly the washout near the outset of the trail when approaching from Rainbow (south). Next, the huge amount of exposed rock all along the narrow parts of the trail, often with very steep drops, pose risks for falling and injuries (or worse). Wind and weather (not to mention lightning strikes) have NOT been emphasized enough here to sober up a novice or tourist hiker into considering another trail choice. Although trail injury record keeping is dodgy, people actually do fall and injure themselves on this trail AND have to be evacuated. I love this site and think you do a great job but even the Forest Service has overlooked publishing the obvious hazards on this trail. Sure it's a stellar, awesome view and altitude hike for the strong with high mountain experience and immunity to risk. But it just isn't safe for most people expecting a moderate day hike. I rate it low because of the risks. Can't imagine it in snow and ice! Thank you and sorry but live to hike another trail friends.

7 months ago

this was a hard trail. don't be fooled. it was a steady uphill and then at mile 1 you start hitting a rocky trail. traversing the rocks were difficult. A trail runner wiped out right next to me. I twisted my ankle twice. it evens out around mile 5 and the views were spectacular! well worth the extra caution. Even today July 8th 2017 there was some snow to get through.

7 months ago

Camped and hiked this one in 2011. The views on a clear day are amazing! Once you get above tree line, the whole world opens up!!

8 months ago

My wife and Ihiked this on June 17, and unfortunately had to turn back about 3.5 miles in. There was enough snow and down trees to lose the trail, and it got extremely disorienting as we tried finding our way back a few hundred feet and then attempting to follow the trail. We decided to err on the side of caution and will return in late July or August, when the trail should be clear. If you're familiar with the trail or have a GPS you would have no problem, but wanted to provide this heads up to others like us who were new to this hiking area.

Also, a Rainbow Lakes campground manager let us know there are around 40 moose in this area, so caution should be taken. A young girl had narrowly missed a trampling at her campsite just a few days prior!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

I love this trail! If you're looking to try out some higher elevation hikes, this one is pretty great. I've only ever hiked it about half way, which is roughly 6 miles round trip, but it's still substantial and offers beautiful views.

From the Rainbow Lakes Campground, the trail starts out easy/moderate, then as you go along the Boulder Watershed it levels out quite a bit for probably about a mile, give or take. It's a lovely walk through the woods. Then you'll hit some switchbacks and start gaining that elevation. The switchbacks end right as you break tree line, and the views are spectacular. From there if you go up and over that first little hill out to the switchback, you'll get a great view of the watershed, glacier, and Arapaho peaks. It's BEAUTIFUL. If you're looking to do only about half of the full 12-mile trail, this is a great turnaround point (it's actually a little less than half, but still a good stretch). I've taken it maybe a mile further, but was unfortunately turned around by the weather (actually, 2 of the 3 times I've hiked it, I've encountered bad weather, so use caution in the summer time once you break that tree line).

Otherwise, the wild flowers are on point in the spring/summer, it's never really busy, and Nederland is super close for a delicious post-hike beer at Very Nice. Oh and the dirt road leading to the trailhead is about 5 miles of extra rugged driving, so just make sure to take a proper vehicle.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

I really enjoy going up here in the summer, gives a great vantage point.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Great hike, but the wind was brutal. When I got to the top I could only stay up there a few minutes I was so cold and not prepared to endure such strong winds. You're pretty exposed half the way up. The road up to Fourth of July trail head is a little bumpy. If you're in a car you'll just need to go slow. Parking is insane so be there early.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I hiked this on Sunday the 11th. Trail conditions were perfect, beautiful views, beautiful forest with a few trees starting to change color. My little dog and I got to within about 1 mile of the overlook, and the wind kicked up.. MY GOD, THE WIND!!! Steady blowing around 60mph, with gusts over 80mph.. my poor dog got blown over a few times, and I could hardly walk against the force, so we had to turn around. Awesome trail, though! I'd never hiked to the glacier from the Lakes, I've only climbed up from 4th of July.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Beautiful lake (Dorothy) at the top. Lots of wild flowers and beautiful sights. Relatively difficult - made it up and down in 4 hours but spent about 40 minutes at the top enjoying

Friday, July 29, 2016

Camped at rainbow lakes park and went for a hike with our German Shepard and two chihuahuas. The hike was hard for me and the chihuahuas because of the altitude. So the chihuahuas got to ride in our backpacks for the hike down.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I know the Indian Peaks Wilderness well, but have never hiked the Arapaho Glacier trail until earlier this month. I had traveled the Arapaho Glacier trail down to the fourth of July Mine, and continued on to the Arapaho pass down to Caribou Lake. It was over 20 miles, and over 4,000ft of gain(the arapaho glacier + arapaho pass, both ways). The view from the Arapaho glacier trail is phenomenal. The hike up from the rainbow lakes trailhead is much easier than the switch backs heading up from the mine. It was one of the more tasking backpacking trips I've been on. The way back was very tasking, high winds, plus climbing up 2 ridges in the same day.

If you're looking for something more challenging than the Arapaho pass starting from the fourth of july trail head, this is a good route to take. Be warned that the Arapaho glacier trail can have very high winds, and once you get up there a ways there's a lot of exposure, and its a long way till you get to the treeline. So be smart, and get down by noon.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

See forever!

Monday, August 31, 2015

From the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead parking lot, the hike to the overlook is more like 12.5-13 miles rt according to my GPS, with about 2700 ft. of gain. It's a beautiful trail with great views of the Boulder watershed. The overlook is spectacular and well worth the walk. We saw only 3 or 4 other people on the trail all day. We arrived at the trailhead at about 7:50am on a Saturday and there were only 2 other cars in the lot. The campsite was full.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Great Hike. lots of mountain flowers, lots of sun.2002-07-14

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

One of my favorite hikes in Boulder area. Views are stunning with beautiful snow and snow melt at the end of June. Go during the week to avoid crowds.

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