Arapahoe Pass and Lake Dorothy Trail

MODERATE 228 reviews
#4 of 110 trails in

Arapahoe Pass and Lake Dorothy Trail is a 7.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
7.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,942 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

Colorado Tourism Office, 1625 Broadway, Suite 1700 , Denver, CO, 80202, Phone: 800-COLORADO

hiking
2 days ago

Absolutely beautiful! A profusion of wildflowers! If you can, hike during the week; you’ll have stretches of the trail to yourself (and a parking spot).

6 days ago

Believe the hype - on the gorgeous hike, the dirt road to get there, and the amount of people. It’s all true!

Be sure to bring a high clearance vehicle, hiking boots, and layers. The road up is slow and bumpy and gets super sketch when vehicles are parked along side it and you’re forced to drive on the little space that remains regardless of its condition.

The hiking trail has lots of water features and rock fields so you’ll need proper footwear. It also gets windy and cooler at the top so bring layers.

Be prepared for an incredible variety of views, wildflowers, and bears, oh my! We felt like we saw it all. The trail was friendly with lots of dogs and even more hikers. It took us about 2 hours up (including a slight diversion where the trail splits at the pass - going right will lead you down to Caribou lake but it is called Arapahoe Pass trail so we took that. We should have followed the sign for Caribou Pass and gone left, up to Dorothy Lake which we eventually figured out). We saw a family of ptarmigan at the pass. The views of the mountains will take your breath away! It was 1 hour, 40 minutes to get back down. Only about 10 minutes from the trailhead we spotted a black bear cub grazing up the mountain. One of my favorite hikes yet.

hiking
6 days ago

7/14. if you wanna do this, start early. I reached by 7.30 in the morning and the parking space was full and cars were already lined up along the road for atleast half a mile. so better reach early.

And the hike, OMG it's just amazing. lots and lots of wild flowers along the entire hike. so if you are interested in photography flowers, it's for you. The trail is well marked. The view does not disappoint you. The spot where tree line ends is just spectacular.

overall it took 3.5 hours uphill and just 2.5 hours downhill. be prepared to spend a good 7 hours on the trails and lake overall.

Above the tree line it is there are some loose rocks, so be careful. The lake is greenish blue adds to the amusement. Just walk past the lake for an amazing Mountain panoramic view.

hiking
8 days ago

SO CROWDED/HEAVILY TRAFFICKED. Arrived at 8:30am on Friday 7.13. Upper lot was full and there were about 15 cars lined up along the road, so ~30 cars total. Once on the trail though, I was able to pass a few groups then was mostly alone. Definitely want to do this one in the AM because like others have said, coming down the volume of people had almost doubled.

Of course we're all there because the hike is amazing with lots of running brooks cutting across the trail, wildflowers, nice shade for the first half, and amazing views at the top. Was tough to trail run with so much loose granite towards the top, but I made due.

11 days ago

You know this hike is going to be great when people endure the final few miles of the drive in attempting to ruin the underbelly of your car. But the second mile of the hike up has amazing wildflowers and the top of the pass is a sight to behold. One of the best hikes I’ve done in Colorado!

12 days ago

beautiful and not too strenuous. easy 3.5 hours

hiking
13 days ago

This hike was beautiful and if you make it to the top you get to see such a variety of views!! The wildflowers are blooming and look out for a waterfall across the way at the beginning.

You do have to take a really sketchy road to get there, as all the reviews suggest. It is scary but do-able in a sedan. It would be better to have a big car. We arrived at 9am and the parking was more than full which means walking even further from your car to the trail. Arrive early to avoid people.

We loved having so many dogs on the trail!! It was so fun, but do be aware that people don't always keep their dogs on leashes while hiking. We got to run around with three labs at Dorothy Lake and it was a dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also: being from Texas the altitude really took me by surprise. This made an already strenuous 2,000 feet climb a lot harder. If you don't acclimate to altitude well be aware.

rock climbing
13 days ago

My wife and I completed the hike over Arapahoe pass and down to lake Dorothy this morning.
Let me start with the good:
- this place was touched by the hand of God, it's so beautiful, so fast and so varied. Wildflower gardens of violets, Columbines, paintbrush, daisys. Ptarmigans, Pika, Marmots.
Lake Dorothy is flush with trout and clear as glass and has a serious Sound of Music vibe to it.
Now the not so good:
The endless crappy dirt road to the trailhead resembles a Bagdad side street. If you dropped mortors on it, it might actually improve it.
"Lightly traveled" trail is fake news, it's the worst kept secret in Colorado. We got there at 6:00 am, the lot was full then. We had the mountain pretty much to ourselves until we started coming back at 10:00. Then it's a trail version of I-25 with every dog known to man.
Back at the crappy dirt road, ten thousand illegally parked cars and one ranger to write all the tickets. Poor dude...
I'll be back tomorrow!

hiking
13 days ago

Great climb And awesome views. I would definitely recommend this hike! Be prepared to drive on a rocky dirt road to get there.

13 days ago

This hike was amazing! This is the best time to go... wildflowers EVERYWHERE and the lake is beautiful and the mountain views are incomparable.

Despite all this, I would NOT recommend hiking here on a weekend. We grabbed the last spot even though we arrived at 8am. I would have preferred to change my work schedule to come on a Monday instead so we didn’t have to stress about parking and crowds.

13 days ago

I do not recommend doing this hike on a weekend unless you start early. It’s a very popular hike, and the parking lot is very small. However, the trail is beautiful. There are tons of wildflowers right now and several waterfalls as well. If you actually go to Dorothy Lake it ends up being longer than 7.1 miles. It’s worth it to make the trek down and add a couple extra miles to your trip though.

hiking
16 days ago

Gorgeous hike complete with bubbling streams, wildflowers, breathtaking views and a waterfall. There is a lot of shade throughout the hike so we weren’t uncomfortable at all. Parking was nightmare. We had to park half a mile away from the trailhead, and it was completely overrun with people when we arrived at 1pm...but it is called the Fourth of July Trailhead and it was the Fourth of July so, I guess that is to be expected. By the time we were walking back down at 5 we had the trail to ourselves. That’s why I docked one star-it says it is a lightly trafficked hike but it is extremely heavily trafficked!

hiking
18 days ago

Did this hike again on Sunday (7/1/18). This is favorite of mine, especially this time of year. Wildflowers are wonderful and the trail is free of snow. I consider this hike easy, but might be moderate for those not use to a steady climb in elevation. Lake Dorthy is a sweet little lake, peaceful if not too crowded and a good spot to linger over a long lunch break, weather permitting. It is windy as heck up there though, so be prepared with layers, even on a sunny day if you reach the lake before 11am. Parking can be a nightmare as well, so the earlier you get to the trainhead, the better. I would not consider this a lightly trafficked trail at all! By the time I was coming back down around 1pm, there were a so many people that I would say the trail was overrun with people. However, given how beautiful and accessible this trail is for all levels of hiker, I'm not surprised and it won't keep me from doing it again next summer. If you plan to follow Caribou Pass around the mountain from Dorthy Lake, there was still enough snow in places to make the trail not safe to pass. We followed it along as far as we felt was a safe bet, but turned around due to snow covering the trail. We did see some people press on through this snow, but I would not risk it. The fall, if you should have one, would mostly likely result in death or serious injury. Not worth it!

hiking
18 days ago

Fantastic trail with amazing views the whole way. Not too technical. Very windy towards the top. We huddled behind a rock at the top to eat lunch and take in the amazing view of Dorothy Lake.

18 days ago

Gorgeous trail with excellent views nearly the entire hike and a few beautiful stream crossings. First half is shaded. Second half mostly sunny but cool and windy due to altitude. Parts of the trail near the pass are rather rocky making it a little more slow-going. Otherwise trail is steady with a gentle incline the entire way. Went on a Thursday, arrived around 930 and the trailhead had about 15 cars. Drove to the trailhead with a Honda Fit, slow going but doable. Beautiful hike, will definitely return!

hiking
18 days ago

Did this hike on Monday 7/2. Road to the trailhead will take you a good 30-35 minutes, so book time for that (we did it slowly but successfully in an SUV -- did see some sedans though). Parking lot itself can hold maybe 15 cars, with space along the road for some more; we found space at noon, though it was a weekday.
The trail itself was gorgeous and worth the drive. Roughly half the ascent is in pine forest, half on exposed hillside. It took us about 5 hours with an accidental 20-minute diversion and several stops along the way. Sadly, no signpost at the top to signal the end of the trail. We didn't need poles, but saw many people with them. We also saw several marmots!

hiking
19 days ago

Did this hike yesterday (7/1) and it was amazing! It was a challenging hike but worth the wonderful scenery. Just a warning, the road leading up to the trailhead was pretty rough. We were able to do it in a smaller car but we were wishing we had more clearance. The last part of the hike up to the lake was pretty rough going, lots of rocky parts to walk through but it was absolutely worth it when you get there. One of my new favorite hikes I’ve ever done!

backpacking
19 days ago

Incredible views bursting with wildflowers and surrounded by snow capped peaks. Small stream crossings so water resistant hiking shoes are good. If carrying a heavy pack and heading up to Lake Dorothy or beyond you'll want poles. Easy to navigate and definitely bring layers I switched into different jackets/shirts several times. Road up there has a lot of pot holes but really isn't that bad, we got up there in a 4 cylinder hyundai no problem. Beautiful tundra up around Dorothy. Favorite trail this season!

hiking
19 days ago

Second time up to the lake and the Arapaho Pass. Got to trailhead around 6:00 AM few cars in the lot. Crystal blue sky and not a cloud to be found. Trail was in perfect condition all the way to the lake and the pass. The waterfalls all flowing and the wildflowers seem to be in peak and blanket everywhere. Windy (as usual) at the divid and the lake is open with no ice. Went around Caribou Pass but was stopped by one snow field near the end. There is a trail, just not sure of the underlying snow to break off and end up in Caribou Lake ;). Was A LOT more traffic than expected. Perfect day to spend a Sunday

hiking
21 days ago

Fantastic hike. Never disappoints! Waterfalls, lakes, views.....and part above tree line. Challenging, but not hard!

28 days ago

Absolutely breathtaking. Wear shoes with good ankle support, it gets rocky towards the top. Lots of water 8-) and a sweater. Always windy above the tree line! Everyone should experience this beauty!!

trail running
1 month ago

Trail in. Rey good shape. (The road to it, not so much.) A few stream crossings with steep, rushing water were the hardest obstacles. Cold and windy up top with gorgeous views the whole way.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike; trail is in good condition. There are a few patches of snow as well as some stream crossings, so waterproof boots are a good choice. Windy up on the ridge, so bring your layers.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

This was spectacular trail! Highly recommend. We arrived 10 mins before 9 and parking was full so we had to park on the side of the road. A popular area. The trail climbs steeply. Dry at first. Then muddy past waterfalls. Dry again until reaching the tundra with intermittent packed snow for half a mile maybe. Then a climb to a WINDY saddle. Being 95 in Denver, we debated packing puffies as we were in shorts and a T-shirt and I'm glad we did. The views are tremendous and the lake still frozen. For more details and pics visit https://etbtravelphotography.com/2018/06/13/roadtrip-to-the-rockies-lake-dorothy/

hiking
1 month ago

Wow. This hike tops out at 12,000 feet and crosses the Continental Divide. Wow, personal best for me. I started early, hiking solo with my dog, on a leash. It was a slow steady climb up the side of Arapaho Pass. I was headed to Lake Dorothy but I veered right instead of left and I wound up in the most incredible basin overlooking an emerald blue green lake. I would’ve kept going but encountered deep snow fields and I took a bit of a tumble and decided to turn back. I had spikes and poles but in spite of it I fell and got a little scraped up from the snow and ice. So then I headed back to Lake Dorothy and it was really beautiful too. It was one of the most glorious hikes I’ve taken in a very long time.

hiking
1 month ago

4th of July Road gets funkier the further you go past Hessie Trailhead and limited parking at the trailhead at the end. Beautiful trail all the way. Saw a moose pass over the trail and onward near the mines. No shade above tree line stretch to the pass and lake. Amazing views all around from the pass looking into two realms of the Rockies from one Ricktacular spot!

hiking
1 month ago

Such a beautiful hike! We kinda went through 3 seasons in a few hours :) There are still patches of compact snow and some mud along the way. Nothing to make this hike "technical". Waterproof shoes recommended. Trecking poles/gaiters not so much.

1 month ago

1 month ago

Great hike with a view that is worth it. Currently some snow fields along the way. I’d recommend gaiters and micro spikes. Although I just dealt with getting my feet a little wet and didn’t mind too much.

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