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