DIRECTIONS: From Nederland, take Eldora Road west from Route 119 (just south of Nederland). Follow the signs for Eldora Ski Resort but do not take the uphike turnoff for the resort. Stay on Eldora Road, through the Eldora townsite. When the road becomes dirt, you are about 1 mile from the Hessie Trailhead. Bear right and continue on Fourth of July Road for 4 miles to the Trailhead at the end of the road. This road is narrow and very rough in spots. A high clearance SUV or 4x4 is highly recommended although you'll probably see all kinds of cars at the trailhead.
The hike to Lake Dorothy is one of the most scenic hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. With access that is close to both Boulder and Denver and a distance of only 7 mi (RT), it's easy to see why this hike has become one of the main attractions in the Indian Peaks. The Arapaho Pass Trail leaves from the Fourth of July Trailhead, and even with a rough 5 miles of dirt road, the trailhead fills up early and the crowds can get significant on summer weekends. Start early and during the week and this hike will take your breath away (figuratively and literally).
The Arapaho Pass Trail provides almost instant views of the Indian Peaks. From the trailhead, climb for a short while through dense pine forests until the views across the valley start to open up. The trail leading to the Diamond Lake junction crosses multiple creeks and cascades with a stunningly beautiful waterfall crossing just shy of the one mile mark. At 1.2 miles, you'll reach the Diamond Lake junction, stay right and switchback up through the forest for another half mile.
1.7 miles into the hike you'll find yourself on an incredible flat bench with amazing views of Mount Jasper and Mount Neva across the valley. This is one of the prettiest spots along the Arapaho Pass Trail. At the far end of the bench are the remains of the Fourth of July Mine and the junction with the Arapaho Glacier Trail, continue straight on the Arapaho Pass Trail.
The next segment of the hike consists of a trail cut into the slopes leading up to Arapaho Pass. The basin below Jasper and Neva is absolutely amazing and you'll with there were trails leading down to the pristine lakes below. You'll also get your first views of the cirque holding Lake Dorothy, straight ahead, just to the left of Arapaho Pass. Before you know it, you'll pop out on Arapaho Pass and the Caribou Pass/Arapaho Pass Trail Junction.
At Arapaho Pass (a fine destination itself), you'll be rewarded with a brand new viewshed and one of the most magnificent in the Front Range. Across the basin stands Apache Peak, Navajo Peak, and Arikaree Peaks with the mother of all sawtooth ridges connecting them all. To the south of Arikaree are North and South Arapaho Peaks with another fantastical ridge line. Below the peaks, the Caribou Lake basin begs you to set up camp. There is a stone wind-break to make your stay a little more comfortable. After you regain your senses, continue west on the Caribou Pass Trail to reach Lake Dorothy.
Lake Dorothy sits in a cirque, .4 miles from Arapaho Pass, at the base of Mount Neva. The lake is rocky, stark, and beautiful, the perfect place to relax and take in the scenery. At 12,061 ft Lake Dorothy is the highest lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and can still be frozen over until July.
If you are not quite ready to head back you can extend your trip by an extra mile by continuing on to Caribou Pass. See our separate hike description for more on Caribou Pass.
The way down is the same as the way up. This area is especially prone to thunderstorms so be sure to start your descent by late morning. Luckily, you get a second shot at the incredible scenery on your hike out. At only 7.2 miles and 2,000 ft of elevation gain, this hike packs a full Indian Peaks adventure into a manageable day hike.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Lake Dorothy & Arapaho Pass
Indian Peaks Wilderness Area
Roosevelt National Forest
Date Hiked: June 16, 2018
Distance: 7.2 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 10,070 to 12,061 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 59' 40" N; 105º 38' 03" W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service