Arapaho Glacier Trail


Elk near Araphaho Glacier

The Arapaho Glacier Trail leads northward from the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead (located before the Rainbow Lakes Campground) and enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Climbing through the woods for about two miles, the trail exits onto the open tundra with a fine view into the City of Boulder Watershed. As posted, this area is closed to public access. Do not trespass.

After several switchbacks, the Arapaho Glacier Trail crosses to the south side of the ridge. At its highest point, the trail offers a spectacular overlook of the Arapaho Glacier, South Arapaho Peak (elevation 13,397'), and North Arapaho Peak (elevation 13,502').

The Arapaho Glacier Trail descends 1,300 feet down a series of switchbacks to the south, intersecting the Arapaho Pass Trail at the Fourth of July Mine.

Click here for a trail description.

At a Glance

Permit Info: This trail lies within the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area:
  • Camping permits required for all overnight trips between June 1 and September 15. Overnight permits cost $5 per group, per trip from June 1 through September 15.
  • Organized groups are required to have a permit for both camping and day-hiking year round. Day-hiking permits are free.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Indian Peak Wilderness restrictions apply:
  • Motorized and mechanized vehicles are prohibited.
  • Pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times.
  • Campfires prohibited.
  • Campsites must be at least 100 feet away from water and trail.
  • Group size is limited to 12 (people and livestock combined).
Fishing and hunting: permitted in accordance with regulations established by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
Closest Towns: Nederland, Colorado
Water: None
Restroom: Vault toilets at the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead
Operated By: U.S. Forest Service
Information Center: Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Ave, Boulder, CO 80301, Phone 303-541-2500, Fax 303-541-2515; Contact Us

General Information


From Nederland, head north on Colorado Highway 72 for approximately seven miles. Look for the University of Colorado Mountain Research Station sign and turn west onto National Forest System Road (NFSR) 298. This road is a five-mile, native-surfaced road. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.

The Rainbow Lakes Road is gated during the winter near the Sourdough Trail.




Hide detail HIDE

Day Hiking

Difficulty Level: Difficult


Permits required (see "Permit Info").

Fire Information Campfires are prohibited year round.
Areas & Activities


  Area/Length : 
Rainbow Lakes Trailhead to Arapaho Glacier Overlook - 6 miles; Fourth of July Mine - 7.8 miles.

  Elevation : 
10,000' - 12,700'