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Boulder, CO: Rainbow Lakes to Arapahoe Glacier

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Distance: 13.1 miles


One of the most eye-popping routes in Boulder County, this 13-mile out-and-back through burly Indian Peaks Wilderness offers a bit of everything Front Range: mountain-rimmed lakes, fields of low bush, aspen groves, coniferous forest, a hidden waterfall, and far-reaching, 360-degree views of Rocky Mountain paradise.

Although the trip starts off nice and easy along Rainbow Lakes, the climb to Arapahoe Glacier Lookout gains more than 3,600 feet over exposed, rocky terrain. The first half of the Arapahoe Glacier Trail is a 3-mile steady ascent under a pine and spruce canopy. Once past the tree cover, marvel at the massive lakes (Goose, Island, and Silver) that stretch from the Continental Divide to Arapahoe Moraine. Look right for views of Bald, Klondike, and Chittenden Mountains.

Follow the thin trail as it switchbacks to a 12,000-foot saddle where vast mountain views await. From the saddle, it’s a 2-mile march over gnarly singletrack to Arapahoe Glacier Lookout. Even if you take time to catch your breath at the lookout, you’ll lose it again at the sight of craggy North and South Arapahoe peaks. When finished, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan and Chelise Simmons

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