Caribou Lake via Arapaho Pass Trail

HARD 19 reviews
#7 of 13 trails in

Caribou Lake via Arapaho Pass Trail is a 9 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
9.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,585 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

fishing

hiking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

historic site

This hike takes the the Arapahoe Pass Trail from the Fourth of July Trail Parking lot over the Continental Divide and down into Caribou Lake. Caribou Lake is picturesque and feels very remote. The trail from the divide down into the Caribou Lake bowl is very "switchy." Looking back down in to the bowl from atop really gives you a sense of awe!

hiking
4 hours ago

I actually ended up hiking this path while trying to find Dorothy Lake, but am very happy I found this gem. If you’re brave enough to descend the mountain, there is a beautiful valley that you’ll likely get all to yourself. There were only a couple of birds in the area – otherwise it was completely silent and still. The trees and lake in the valley are pristine. Bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic to enjoy the valley.

You’ll want your energy for the hike back up the trail. It’s a series of very steep switchbacks with quite a bit of wind and sun exposure. All in all, it took about 6 hours for two semi-experienced hikers to hike the entire trail to Caribou Lake. While it’s a challenge to climb up and endure the return walk after the valley, the trail is rewarding. Bring plenty of water.

hiking
20 days ago

Did this last Saturday. We got to the trail head around 9:30am. Parking was sparse, but it wasn't a "parking emergency" as someone had previously stated. I'd recommend an AWD/4WD for the road (or at least a car with decent ground clearance), but I saw a couple of sedans that managed to make it up, so it's not impossible. If you get to the trail head past 9am, expect to add at least a quarter of a mile to your hike due to parking further down the trail head. The hike is absolutely gorgeous. We were lucky to go when the wild flowers were in full bloom. The views were unreal and kept getting better every minute. Once you reach the top of the pass, you're greeted with 360 degree views of the landscape. You'll have the choice to make the descent down to Caribou lake, which is essentially a series of steep switch backs. When we first reached the initial descent trail, our first thoughts were "man, this is going to suck coming back up." However, we proceeded on. The trail wasn't too bad going down. The view at the lake is absolutely breathtaking, and does feel slightly remote- a nice change of pace from the pretty populated trail. After the lake, we started back up the seemingly vertical 1200ft ascent to the top of the pass. The ascent back up took around 45 minutes and was definitely not easy. However, unless you're sprinting it, it really isn't that bad. You'll definitely get a workout in, but the views at the lake are 100% worth the 1200ft descent/ascent from the pass.

1 month ago

Bring your big boy (or girl) pants for this one! Sketchy trail down to Caribou lake but you'll be rewarded with the most scenic Oasis in Mount Mordor. You'll have it to yourself and few others because everyone has to make that conscious decision to actually trek down the mountain to the lake, I'd say 80 percent say hell no. Lots of trout, flowers and just beautiful surroundings. We loved this place until we had to make the long trek back, it's a tough one. I already complained about the train wreck of a dirt road car pile up on the lake Dorothy page, I won't repeat.

1 month ago

The hike itself is exceptional. This review relates directly to parking logistics and the dangers currently present at the top of Fourth of July trailhead. By 10 A.M., more than 200 cars were parked illegally, stopping all incoming and outbound hiking car traffic on the road. Local residents were running around screaming at folks who parked on the side of the road, blocking traffic. It took more than an hour and a game of musical trails to ensure we could make it off the mountain this morning. Parking logistics are at an emergency status on this trail. Park services must take action now.

hiking
1 month ago

Trail is in pretty good condition as of June 14. There are still a few small snowfields covering some of the well-made switchback trail down to the lake from the top of the pass, but they are manageable.

hiking
2 months ago

As of June 2nd, about half of the trail is still covered in snow. I would recommend bringing yak tracks or micro spikes along with you to ensure you don't slip when hiking over the hard-pack snow. Hiking boots with proper ankle support is key (I don't know how many people I saw trying to do this hike in gym shoes). To get to the trailhead you must drive roughly 4 miles down a dirt road. I would recommend getting there early as this trail gets very busy by 10am.

The hike itself is very beautiful and somewhat challenging. The vertical is gradual, instead of switchbacks. About halfway through the trail turns more or less into a goat trail, so take your time as it is pretty sketchy. The views from the lake and by the pass are absolutely stunning, albeit a bit windy. I would highly recommend this hike for anyone looking for a challenging hike and to avoid the craziness in other National Parks.

hiking
2 months ago

As of June 2nd, about half of the trail is still covered in snow. I would recommend bringing yak tracks or micro spikes along with you to ensure you don't slip when hiking over the hard-pack snow. Hiking boots with proper ankle support is key (I don't know how many people I saw trying to do this hike in gym shoes). To get to the trailhead you must drive roughly 4 miles down a dirt road. I would recommend getting there early as this trail gets very busy by 10am.

The hike itself is very beautiful and somewhat challenging. The vertical is gradual, instead of switchbacks. About halfway through the trail turns more or less into a goat trail, so take your time as it is pretty sketchy. The views from the lake and by the pass are absolutely stunning, albeit a bit windy. I would highly recommend this hike for anyone looking for a challenging hike and to avoid the craziness in other National Parks.

hiking
11 months ago

Awesome hike! Unfortunately, too many people agree, so expect a ton of traffic on 4th of July Rd and the rest of the trail until it breaks off for diamond lake. The further you go, the less traffic. I wouldn't dare hike this area over a weekend, unless there's lots of snow and traffic's thinned.

11 months ago

Such a great hike with beautiful views. It's definitely a great workout.

hiking
Friday, June 30, 2017

I did this more as an accident. I meant to go to Dorothy Lake but ended up here instead. It was a great mistake. I had the entire valley around the lake to myself. Huge Greenback Cutthroat in the lake and Arapaho Creek! getting there was not difficult, but getting back was tough. The switchbacks up to the pass wore me out. The wind gusts were strong and knocked me into the side of the mountain a couple times. Views were stunning at all times with many areas of wild flowers. Marmots and Picas running all around too. There were only a few snow fields that required crossing on the back side headed down to the lake. Wet and muddy around the lake.

hiking
3 days ago

hiking
9 days ago

hiking
15 days ago

23 days ago

hiking
11 months ago