Panorama from the Rainbow Lake hike in Indian Peaks, Colorado
Panorama from the Rainbow Lake hike in Indian Peaks, Colorado

Rainbow Lakes Trail

Indian Peaks Wilderness
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Rainbow Lakes Trail

Distance: 3.1mi
Elevation: 276ft
Time: 1-1.5h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.9 Overall Rating
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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 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 6.8mi. Take a left to Rainbow Lakes on CO-Rd. 116. Follow the gravel road for around 5.0mi to the parking.

I’ve done this 42 people have done this
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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.

If you want to find other great hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness, check out the Lone Eagle Peak hike, Lake Isabelle trail or the Arapaho Glacier Trail.

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

Adamcox 2 years ago

It was a perfect day. There was never a full moment and we laughed and enjoyed the time that we were all together here.

10.0 Overall Rating
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2h 00m Time Taken
Suzy TQ 2 years ago

We loved this trail. Lake at the end is pretty.

9.0 Overall Rating
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Physical Difficulty
2h 00m Time Taken
Earl M. 2 years ago

It was a short, but crazy beautiful walk. I highly recommend it.

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Jay Adams 2 years ago

The pristine water from the lakes was exceptional. Nice ecosystem, saw few frogs and fishes.

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BoulderBound 2 years ago

Easy hike without much elevation change. The lake is a nice lunch spot or just to enjoy the air.

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Tiffany Swift 2 years ago

This was a beautiful trail, and the beauty surrounds you on all sides. The trail was not crowded. Well maintained trail.

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Ricky J. 2 years ago

Nice environment. We were surrounded by lush forests and lively creeks. Such a cool place.

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Florence P. 3 years ago

Great easy trail. It was a lovely day.

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onoyuki 3 years ago

It looks so alive and the water looks so clean and fresh.

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Eugene L 3 years ago

Rainbow lake is such a wonderful gem! The moose we saw nearby the lake wasn't used to people, so they run when they notice you. Make sure to keep distance.

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14 Comments Show all

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