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South Arapaho Peak

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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South Arapaho Peak

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  • The main climb to the ridge can be seen from the trailhead.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Mixed forest below the treeline.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Above the treeline shows the trail beginning to steepen.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Looking southeast toward Boulder.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Indian paintbrush.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The Continental Divide seen from the ridge.- South Arapaho Peak
  • One of the many lakes in the Boulder Watershed.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Admiring the extended views above the treeline.- South Arapaho Peak
  • More wildflowers on the trail.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Getting a better view of the craggy peaks guarding the lakes.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Rainbow Lakes.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The climb above the treeline gets beaten with sun.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Keep climbing up toward Noname Peak.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Looking south at more of the Indian Peaks Range.- South Arapaho Peak
  • First look at South Arapaho Peak.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Looking south at Jasper and Neva peaks.- South Arapaho Peak
  • More views south of Skyscraper Peak.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The Arapaho Glacier below North Arapaho Peak.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The Class II scramble up the summit.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Alpine lakes fed by the glacier just to the right.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The true summit can be seen only after cresting the summit ridge.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Looking north at the glacier and peaks beyond.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Summit identification disc.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The long string of lakes fed by Arapaho Glacier.- South Arapaho Peak
  • More views to the Southwest.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Even in August many snowfields can still be seen.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The Class III+ ridge to North Arapaho Peak is not to be underestimated.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The summit.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Looking south from the summit.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Clouds can change the views quickly.- South Arapaho Peak
  • The cliff along the north side of the scramble.- South Arapaho Peak
  • South Arapaho Peak (13,400 feet) and North Arapaho Peak (13,500 feet).- South Arapaho Peak
  • Views to the west on the way down.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Marmot enjoying the sun.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Looking back at Albion Peak.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Follow the trail the way you came.- South Arapaho Peak
  • Wildflowers along the route.- South Arapaho Peak
  • - South Arapaho Peak
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Varied trail. Above the treeline.
Cons: 
Crowded parking.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,426.00 ft (1,044.24 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
13.40 mi (21.57 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
9,974.00 ft (3,040.08 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Arapaho Peaks are a very prominent set of peaks that stand as the tallest two mountains in the Indian Peaks Range. South Arapaho peak (13,400 feet) is the shorter of the two, but only by 100 feet, and they both are home to the largest glacier in the Front Range. North Arapaho Peak (13,500 feet) also holds claim to being the highest summit on the Continental Divide north of Denver. The easier of the two climbs is certainly South Arapaho Peak, which has the added bonus of getting better views of the glacier and North Arapaho Peak.

There are several ways to summit South Arapaho Peak, but the longest route and arguably the most scenic is the Arapaho Glacier Trail from the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead. This trail takes the ridge leading off the eastern slopes of the Arapaho Peaks and just to the south of the Boulder Watershed. Many signs along the path will warn you that the lakes and the Arapaho Glacier that feeds them are owned by the city of Boulder and is the main water source for the city. Anyone trespassing in the private area will be given a hefty fine.

Starting bright and early to avoid the limited parking and afternoon storms at the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead, follow the only trail up into the trees. You will soon see a signed fork in the trail. Take a right to stay on the Arapaho Glacier Trail, and that will be the last turn you have to make until you’re on your way back. The trail from here climbs steadily with some gentle ups and downs until reaching the treeline, which immediately opens up incredible views to the south, north and east. As you continue climbing the ridge, the views keep getting better. Continue on this trail as it undulates along the ridge until reaching the unsigned saddle between South Arapaho Peak and Old Baldy. It will be unmistakable, as Old Baldy is a big, flat open summit whereas South Arapaho Peak is a sharp mountain requiring a Class II scramble to get to the top.

From the saddle, make sure to evaluate the weather and take pictures of the glacier. The hikes becomes more difficult while scrambling the final 700 feet to the summit. Be forewarned of the false summit, which is a few hundred feet prior to the real summit. Continuing along the ridge to North Arapaho Peak is a 3-hour extra commitment with Class III+ scrambling, so take it on if you have the time, conditions and experience to do it safely. After enjoying the views at the top, make your way back down the way you came and take notice of the changing light as the day progresses.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(21 within a 30 mile radius)

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(110 within a 30 mile radius)

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