Just over an hour away from Boulder, the Rainbow Lakes area is an easy access dayhike destination for novice hikers or families looking for a taste of Colorado’s alpine scenery. This rocky 0.8-mile one-way climbs 300 feet to a smattering of lakes surrounded by stubby, just-below-treeline pines in the shadow of 12,310-foot Caribou Peak. Bring a fishing rod, a picnic, an extra layer, and your raincoat—even in late summer, hail isn’t uncommon.
The trail begins at the western edge of the Rainbow Lakes campground area and follows a wide, rocky path. A small sign marks a left-hand turn 200 feet from the trailhead and the pine and aspen cover gets thicker as the trail continues climbing northwest toward your first lake view. As it winds uphill, the trail stays within earshot of a gurgling creek, but doesn’t offer a glimpse of still water until after one-third of a mile. There is one easy creek crossing after the second lake—watch your step on loose rocks and the slippery split-log bridge—but the trail tops out at a lake scattered valley shortly thereafter.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland and MacKenzie Ryan