hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Straddling the Continental Divide, and covering the spectacular Front Range just to the south of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is one of the best places for outdoor adventures in Colorado. This rugged wilderness is characterized by jagged, windswept peaks, serene alpine lakes and lush forest, which you can explore on 133 miles of beautiful hiking trails. Hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness is an adventure you’ll never forget.
So-named for the Native American tribes that once gave their names to many of the peaks of the Front Range, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is a remarkable part of Colorado, and one of the best hiking destinations in the region. You’ll have the opportunity to hike through a remarkable landscape, passing from dense, atmospheric forests to windswept alpine tundra and rocky ridges. The highest point in the area is North Arapaho Peak, which tops out at an elevation of 4115m – as you may imagine, the views here will take your breath away.
This remarkable region is known for its unusual flora and fauna, including many stunted trees and alpine plants that have learned how to survive in the stark conditions of the alpine tundra. If you’re lucky, you’ll also have the opportunity to spot amazing animals such as moose, black bears, and mountain lions.
The Indian Peaks Wilderness area is a remarkable, rare and important wild landscape in the United States. Hiking here is a real privilege, and an opportunity to witness the natural world at its most beautiful. If you’re tempted to explore this majestic region, don’t hesitate! To give you a little inspiration for your next adventure, we’ve put together a list of all of the best trails and places to visit in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Top Hikes In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
As the name suggests, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is the perfect place to get away from it all and out into the wild! This vast, lush country is the ideal place to reconnect with nature and experience some of Colorado’s most beautiful landscapes. You’ll find rugged trails that climb high into the mountains, passing pristine alpine lakes and wildflower-strewn meadows. These strenuous hikes are perfect if you’re looking for a challenge or a place to get into training for one of Colorado’s epic 14ers.
However, you don’t need to be a particularly fit or experienced hiker to enjoy a little of what this beautiful region has to offer. You’ll find plenty of short, family-friendly and easy hikes that provide some jaw-dropping mountain views, without the need to expend too much effort. Whatever your age or hiking ability, the Indian Peaks Wilderness has a trail for you!
Easy Hikes In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
Rainbow Lakes Trail Hike: This family friendly trail is one of the best easy hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness! The route packs plenty of incredible sights into a short distance, passing by four scenic mountain lakes. These lakes are surrounded by dense forests, rushing creeks, and lush marshland, creating a beautiful setting for a relaxing hike.
Family Hikes In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
Lost Lake Hike: This easy, family-friendly hike is perfect for an afternoon out with the kids! The trail begins at the historic mining town of Hessie Townsite, before passing through a series of pretty aspen and pine groves. This relatively easy hike offers spectacular views for relatively little effort, making this one of the best family hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Day Hikes In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
Lone Eagle Peak Hike: This stunning hike is one of the best day hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness! The rugged trail passes through picturesque scenery and past tumbling waterfalls, before arriving at Lone Eagle Peak. The mountain is perfectly reflected in the crystal waters of the lake, creating one of the most dramatic and beautiful views in Colorado. Bring a picnic and linger a while to admire this incredible scenery.
Challenging Hikes In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
Arapaho Glacier Trail Hike: This strenuous hike will lead you all the way to an incredible viewpoint overlooking the Arapaho Glacier, with a vista that extends over the Continental Divide and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The route passes from a dense pine forest to an open path above the treeline, offering fabulous views as you hike. This is a tough hike, so make sure you come prepared: bring hiking poles, plenty of water, and be prepared for high winds on the exposed trail.
Other Great Hikes In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
Diamond Lake Trail Hike: This beautiful route will take you all the way to a stunning alpine lake with unparalleled views over the mountains. The trail ascends gently through a fragrant pine forest before descending into a valley and crossing a picturesque creek. The hike up the other side of the valley is a pure delight, and the reward is the beautiful Diamond Lake, which reflects the surrounding peaks like a mirror.
Pawnee Pass Hike: This strenuous hike is an Indian Peaks classic, and a wonderful way to experience the breathtaking scenery of the Continental Divide. The trail begins by rising gently to Long Lake, before proceeding to a series of steep switchbacks and emerging at a scenic alpine meadow. Here, above the treeline, the views are extraordinary, and just keep getting better and better as you hike. The rocky, rugged terrain of the Continental Divide makes this route somewhat challenging, but the views make it one of the best hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Blue Lake Trail Hike: This lovely route to Blue Lake passes through some of the most picturesque alpine meadows in Colorado. The trail is littered with gorgeous wildflowers, which makes this one of the best hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Blue Lake is your destination, and it’s a fitting reward for your exertions, with the looming Mount Toll towering in the background.
Long Lake Trail Hike: This short, easy hike is perfect whatever your age, fitness level or hiking ability. The trail skirts around Long Lake, passing through lush wildflower meadows. You’ll enjoy fabulous views over the Indian Peaks Wilderness, but this easy route won’t sap your energy. Make sure to start early to avoid getting caught in any afternoon storms.
Lake Isabelle Trail Hike: This beautiful trail will take you all the way to a stunning alpine lake with views over the Isabelle Glacier. It’s a deservedly popular route, and widely considered one of the best hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness, so get here early to avoid the crowds! At the lake you’ll have a remarkable view of Navajo Peak, which dominates the mountain cirque. Make sure to come prepared for all weather conditions, as this trail is somewhat exposed to the elements.
Lake Dorothy Hike: Lake Dorothy is one of the prettiest lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, sitting at the base of Mount Neva, and surrounded by some truly fabulous mountain scenery. This route ascends gradually through a dense, scented pine forest, before reaching a flat alpine meadow with expansive views over the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The route is long and strenuous in places, but the sight of the gorgeous lake at your destination is worth all the effort!
When Is The Best Time To Hike In The Indian Peaks Wilderness?
The Indian Peaks Wilderness straddles the Continental Divide, offering some truly spectacular hiking territory. Like other high-elevation regions, the best time to hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness is between May and October, when the trails are free of snow, the weather is warm and sunny, and you’ll be able to enjoy this wild country at its best! Spring can be somewhat wet and muddy, and late snows can often disrupt higher-elevation hikes. July and August are the most popular months for hiking, but the trails can be busy, and you may need to plan well in advance to secure backcountry permits. When autumn comes and the leaves turn, the region glows with golden colors and the trails are much quieter, so we think this is perhaps the best time to hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. In winter the park is covered in snow, but this leaves plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing!
Other Outdoor Activities In The Indian Peaks Wilderness
Hiking and backpacking are some of the most popular things to do, but if you’re looking for other outdoor activities in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, you won’t have to look very far! This stunning natural region is the perfect place to try your hand at trail running and rock climbing, as well as wildlife watching and stargazing. In winter, the landscape is transformed by heavy snow, creating a magical winter wonderland where you can go snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing. Whatever time of year you visit, there’s an outdoor adventure for you.
How To Plan A Trip To Indian Peaks
If the Indian Peaks Wilderness is on your hiking bucket list (and we think it should be), it’s time to start dreaming of the trail! Our guide to planning a trip to the Indian Peaks Wilderness should be your first port of call for all the information you’ll need to start planning your trip. We’ve put together tips on how to get there and around the region, where to stay, and all the best hiking trails in the area. All you need to do is grab your gear and start dreaming of your next wilderness adventure!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Indian Peaks
Do you need a permit to go hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness?
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is a fragile, protected area, and during peak season there are certain restrictions placed on larger hiking groups. You’ll need a permit to stay overnight in the Indian Peaks Wilderness between June 1 and September 15.
How did the Indian Peaks Wilderness get its name?
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is named for the eight well-known peaks in the region, which took their name from the different Native American tribe who previously lived there.
How big is the Indian Peaks Wilderness?
The Indian Peaks Wilderness covers 77,932 acres of spectacular landscapes, including mountains, streams, lakes, and hiking trails. It covers part of the Continental Divide, and part of the Rocky Mountain National Park, and is most located within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.
The best hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.