Distance: 2.65 miles Elevation Gain: 401 ft Min Elevation: 9,976 ft Max Elevation: 10,267 ft
This hike was done in mid-August. One or both of us had been sick for almost 2 weeks and thus we weren’t able to do much hiking for a bit. After we were both feeling better we decided to go out and just do a nice easy fun hike; and that’s what we did. But, life happened and we never had a good good opportunity to publish our story. Now that flooding has overtaken much of our part of the country we have had to stay indoors, making this a good time to share our experience at the Rainbow Lakes.
The Rainbow Lakes in Indian Peaks Wilderness are a collection of nine or so lakes and ponds. Indian Peaks Wilderness is 76,586 square acres according to the Forest Service and is on the southern border of the Rocky Mountain National Park and the northern border of the James Peak Wilderness. Much of the water for Denver and Boulder is in a reservoir just north of where we hiked. The hardest part of the hike by far is the drive to the trailhead. We would not recommend trying to navigate this without a high clearance vehicle. The road is very rocky with large potholes.
One of the first things we noticed on the hike were the abundance of aspen trees. We intended to go back to the area to see the aspen trees change color and put on a show for us, but the flooding may have made that an impossibility. Mixed in with the aspens were many Lodgepole pines and a few spruces and firs. Another point of interest was the diversity and quantity of fungi on the hike. Amamitas, coral mushrooms, puffballs, boletes and many others were littered all over the trail. Some had gorgeous red and yellow colors. Below are some of the plants we saw on the hike.
After a very brief hike we reached the first of many interconnected lakes. This first lake was a bit marshy and didn’t have a huge appeal to us, but had its own charm nevertheless. The second lake, however, was quite pretty. It was significantly larger than the first lake and much less muddy. It felt more open and the mountains behind the lake to the west made a nice backdrop. Both of those lakes are shown below.
We kept going and found ourselves crossing a small stream. Quickly after crossing the stream we noticed a small talus field and we went to explore it a little bit. Once on top of the talus field we could see two more good sized lakes with numerous anglers on both lakes. The view was very pleasant and we took a seat atop a boulder and began to notice many small yellow birds flying in and out of the trees in front of us. We couldn’t get a good shot of these guys due to their shy nature and our lack of having a zoom lens, so we’re not sure what type of bird they were. There were many other birds around those lakes and we did see some gray birds who were hopping around the boulders and on the ground. Below are some of the pictures we got of the lakes and the birds.
In what became a very wet summer indeed, a very typical afternoon shower came through and we headed back to the trees. It was only a mild drizzle, but it was a little chilly up there. On our way out we saw some more of the lakes and ponds and got a really cool picture of a large bird. This bird had a small rodent in its mouth as it flew to the top of a tree right next to us. An image of the bird in flight is below. However, due to lighting and distance we weren’t able to get a good picture of it.
It was a short hike, but fun. We ran into some very friendly people and had a great time out there. There are other hikes that can be done from the Rainbow Lakes trailhead which are much more substantial, such as a glacier hike. If it is possible to get back out here this year we are going to try, since we want to do the Aparahoe Glacier hike; but the rains have flooded the area so badly that many roads into the mountains no longer exist. We will have to see.