The Fourth of July Trailhead is just an hour from Boulder and locals know that its namesake month is prime season for hiking alongside cascading meltwater and a flush of columbine, asters, and Indian paintbrush. The trailhead is packed with Boulder- and Denver-based campers, but don’t let a busy parking lot scare you away—the crowds thin as hikers branch out across the trail network that begins here.
This route begins with a steady climb under a canopy of old spruce trees with occasional creek crossings. Soon, breaks in the trees reveal the gray cluster of peaks around Mount Neva to the west and hidden lakes to the south. Just before mile 1, cross slick boulders at a break in a waterfall; if you nail the wildflower season, this will be columbine central.
Stop by the old Fourth of July Mine at mile 2; from here, you’ll see the pass to the west—keep a lookout for climbers and skiers navigating the year-round snowfields on South Arapaho Peak and Mount Neva. The trees thin above the mine and the hardpacked trail gives way to an exposed, rocky path sloping one mile towards the 11,906-foot pass, a rare flat plain between craggy granite ridges of the Indian Peaks. Bonus: If the weather (and your legs) are holding, continue uphill for a quick visit to Lake Dorothy, a high alpine tarn.
-Mapped by Jenn Fields