Arapaho Glacier Trail hike

Indian Peaks
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Arapaho Glacier Trail hike

Distance: 13.0mi
Elevation: 2,792ft
Time: 5-7h

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The hike on this high alpine trail leads you to an overlook of Arapaho Glacier and one of the best views of the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks. Trail ends at the saddle of South Arapaho Peak. It’s a tough hike though; you'll want to bring hiking poles for this one.

Arapaho Glacier Trail hike Map

Getting there

From Nederland, at the traffic circle, take 2nd exit onto W 2nd St. Continue onto CO-72 for 6.8mi. Take a left to Rainbow Lakes on CO-Rd. 116. Take gravel road for ~5.0mi to parking.

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When to do

Early June to Late September

Backcountry Campsites

Rainbow Lakes or backcountry with permit



Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back

Arapaho Glacier Trail
Elevation Graph

Route Description for Arapaho Glacier Trail hike

From the parking lot, the trail ascends through the dense pine trees that make up Roosevelt National Forest. You’ll be on this forest trail for a couple of miles. You’ll skirt along the south boundary of the Boulder Watershed.

The trees will begin to thin. Suddenly, you’ll be hiking above the tree line. From this vantage, you’ll obtain panoramic views of the Indian Peaks Region including North Arapaho Peak, and the Continental Divide.

The trail gains elevation traversing along the North side of two unnamed alpine mountains. Above the tree line, you will enjoy views of Silver Lake (below) and North Arapaho Peak Cirque (above); as you hike over a saddle, you’ll get views of James Peak in the distance.

Continue along the well-marked trail until you reach the base of South Arapaho Peak and the Arapaho Glacier overlook. Arapaho Glacier used to be the largest glacier in the state of Colorado, and it once was the main source of fresh water for Boulder.

After appreciating the amazing view, return the way you came.

Insider Hints

  • Unimproved camping is available along Co Rd. 116 if Rainbow Lakes Campground is full. (Wildlife Alert: Bears are common in this area, proper storage of food and supplies is required, otherwise expect to have guests!)

  • Altitude sickness is a concern on this trail. Bring plenty of water, stay hydrated and don’t party too hard the night before! Descend if you feel symptoms.

  • The pit toilets on the trail are only open during the peak season (6/1-9/15).

  • Visit the Town of Nederland, and grab a bite at Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse or a beer at the Very Nice Brewing Company after your hike.

  • This trail is exposed to the elements. Be prepared for high winds, sun exposure and storms in the afternoon and evenings.

  • If this trail is done early in the season, expect there to be snow present - so bring traction.

  • The trail itself is an unmaintained, single track; expect tree roots, loose rocks and water from spring runoff. Trekking poles and hiking boots with support are ideal for this trail in all seasons.


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Annie Smith 2 months ago

Arapaho Glacier is a tough hike. I am glad I did it in a big group to share resources and keep eachother going because it is definitely worth the trip!

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