Arapaho Glacier (#905)

Elk near Araphaho Glacier

Length: Rainbow Lakes Trailhead (TH) to Arapaho Glacier Overlook - 6 miles; to Fourth of July Mine - 7.8 miles. DISTANCES ARE ONE-WAY

Elevation: 10,000 feet at the Rainbow Lakes TH; 12,700 feet at the Arapaho Glacier Overlook; 11,200 feet at the Fourth of July Mine

Trail Description: 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 summary.

View a trail map here.

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
Best Season: Hiking conditions are best from July through September.
Restrictions: Indian Peak Wilderness restrictions apply:
  • Motorized equipment and mechanized transportation are prohibited.
  • Pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times.
  • Campfires are prohibited year round.
  • Campsites must be at least 100 feet away from water and trail.
  • Group size is limited to 12 (people and livestock combined).
  • Processed weed-free feed is required for stock.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles.
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

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 Trailhead and CU Mountain Research Station. This road opens when conditions permit, normally in June.


Day Hiking


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude :