Lake Dorothy is a beautiful alpine lake in the southern part of Indian Peaks Wilderness. A moderate 7-mile hike with just over 2,000 of elevation gain offers views of ragged peaks, mountain lakes and creeks, opportunities to see wildlife, and access to other fantastic spots.
The hike begins at the Fourth of July Trailhead located 6 miles northwest of the small town of Eldora (39.995204, -105.634256). The dirt road does not generally require four-wheel drive or high clearance. It is a very busy trailhead in the summer months, so it is recommended to get there early in the morning –certainly before 7 a.m. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.
The first mile ascends some 700 feet as the trail winds through the pine forest. At that point (40.004130, -105.646392) the trail splits to Diamond Lake to the left and to Lake Dorothy to the right. After another 0.9 miles and 450 feet of elevation gain, the trail splits again – Arapaho Glacier Trail to the right, and Lake Dorothy and Arapaho Pass straight. There are remnants of the area’s mining past around that spot, and keep an eye out for moose in the willows.
From that point the hike is above the treeline on a well-marked and rocky trail. Arapaho Pass is another mile ahead (40.014556, -105.678125). Beautiful Caribou Lake is visible from that point. Take a left there to continue to Lake Dorothy or take a right to hike down to Caribou Lake. Lake Dorothy is an easy and beautiful half-mile hike away. Take a moment to take in the views of the range capped by South and North Arapaho peaks to the east and dominant Mount Neva and Mount Jasper to the southwest. On a clear day, get a glimpse of Lake Granby over 10 miles to the northwest.
Lake Dorothy provides a great setting for a picnic and to admire the view. Hiking around the lake offers great views to the south as red belly marmots sunbathe on the rocks. This route makes for a great day hike, and there are different places to camp in the area that require backcountry permits. Be aware of the weather, which can change suddenly, and be ready to head down below the treeline if lightning storms approach, which is not uncommon in the summer.