Panorama from the Rainbow Lake hike in Indian Peaks, Colorado

Rainbow Lakes Trail

Indian Peaks
View Photos
Trail of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoViews of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoParking of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoMap on the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoJunction on the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoWildflowers of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoSign on the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoTrail of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian PeaksViews of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian PeaksBeautiful views of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoTrail of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks has great viewsLake views of the Rainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoRainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks, ColoradoRainbow Lake Trail Hike in Indian Peaks has good signing

Rainbow Lakes Trail

Distance: 5.0km
Elevation: 84m
Time: 1.5-2.5h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
10 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

The Rainbow Lakes Trail is a nice family-friendly hike that will - in a short amount of time - take you to four scenic mountain lakes. The trailhead leaves at the Rainbow Lakes Campground, so if you want to plan a trip with the kids, this is a great activity to wear off all those s’mores you ate the night before.

Rainbow Lakes Trail hike Map

Getting there

To get to the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead, from Nederland, take the 2nd exit onto West 2nd St. at the traffic circle. Continue onto CO-72 for 10.9km. Take a left to Rainbow Lakes on CO-Rd. 116. Follow the gravel road for around 8.0km to the parking.

I’ve done this 7 people have done this
I want to do this 12 want to do this route

About

When to do

Early June to Late September

Backcountry Campsites

Rainbow Lakes Campground or backcountry with permit

Toilets

Yes

Family friendly

Yes

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Out and back


Rainbow Lakes Trail
Elevation Graph


Rainbow Lakes Trail Description

After entering the Rainbow Lakes trail from the trailhead, bear left and follow the path that curves through the dense forest. As the trail gently ascends, you’ll soon arrive at the first lake. Continue on the well-traveled path to reach the second lake.

You have to go over a log crossing to get past a creek (the water level changes depending on the snowmelt). Then, you’ll need to hike over a rocky section. Ultimately this will bring you to the third and fourth Rainbow lakes. Each of the four mountain lakes has a scenic backdrop of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

The trip back is the same way you came in.

Hiking Trail Highlights

Rainbow Lakes

The Rainbow Lakes are a series of picturesque lakes and beaver ponds in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness area in Colorado. Although this hike takes in the four main lakes, there are actually a total of nine lakes in the region, some of which are inaccessible on the main trail but can be seen occasionally from the path. Surrounded by dense forest, lively creeks and lush marshland, with nearby peaks rising in the distance, this idyllic spot is a wonderful place for a family hike.

This lush, green region is a haven for local wildlife, including moose, which like to conceal themselves in the tall reeds that surround the lakes. It’s also a common area for bears, so make sure to take precautions when hiking or camping. Plenty of wildflowers line the trail in summer and the aspen forests are simply gorgeous in autumn when the leaves turn and the trees are ablaze in a riot of colors.

The Rainbow Lakes region is one of the most popular parts of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, and the trail can get quite busy in the peak season. Come early in the morning to avoid the crowds or at sunset to catch the last rays of light on the water.

Rainbow Lakes Campground

The Rainbow Lakes Campground is situated just next to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, at the end of Rainbow Lakes Road. Open between mid-June and mid-September, this is an excellent base for exploring the region and is well equipped for hikers. There are plots for tents and small trailers and come with fire grates and bear lockers. If you want to extend your trip to take in some of the longer hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, such as the challenging Arapaho Glacier Trail, this campground is a great place to stay.

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 here, bring plenty of water, stay hydrated and don’t party too hard the night before!

  • Overnight permits are required to camp in the Indian Peaks backcountry. Overnight permits are limited and must be obtained in advance for camping dates 6/1-9/15. Visit the Indian Peaks visitor website for more details.

  • 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.

Comments

ddiana 1 year ago

lovely walk along the wild lakes and river

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
1 Comment

Similar hikes to the Rainbow Lakes Trail hike

Blue Lake Trail hike in Indian Peaks, Colorado

Blue Lake Trail

Difficulty:
6km
195m
2-3h

This awesome hike takes you through some of the best alpine meadows in the region. We hope you like wildflowers…

Trail of the Long Lake hike in Indian Peaks, Colorado

Long Lake Trail

Difficulty:
6.55km
38m
1.5-2.5h

This is a short and relatively easy hike with mild elevation gain. What’s even better is that it also offers…

Lost Lake trail, Indian Peaks

Lost Lake

Difficulty:
6.84km
248m
2-3h

This is a popular, family-friendly hike, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. Lost Lake is a moderately…