Arapaho Pass Hike – Indian Peaks Wilderness

This weekend Dan and I went snowshoeing in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. We had a few options in mind because we weren’t sure what the trail accessibility would be like with the recent snows. We went to the Fourth of July Trailhead with the intention of hiking to Diamond Lake but changed our plan to Arapaho Pass as we were hiking.

Arapaho Pass from Fourth of July Trailhead

Distance: 3.2 miles one-way

Trailhead elevation: 10,120 feet

Pass elevation: 11,906 feet

Net elevation gain: 1,786 feet

Dogs: allowed, on leash


From Eldora drive west along Fourth of July Rd, staying to the right to pass the Hessie trailhead. In early November the four mile drive from this point to the trailhead was snow packed, it was definitely nice to have snow tires. When we went in May this year the snow drifts made it all but impossible to drive on this road.

Since it looks intriguingly rough around the edges, I wanted to see what the internet had to say about this tiny town. Eldora has a population of ~140 people and “is characterized by small cabins, a sprinkling of vacation homes, and several long-shuttered mercantiles” per the almighty Wikipedia. Additionally,

Eldora was originally named Happy Valley in the 1890s for the discovery of the Happy Valley Placer Mine by John J. Kemp and seven city associates. The town was soon renamed El Dorado, Eldorado or Eldorado Camp. But, as frequently happened at the time, the U.S. Postal Service mistakenly delivered their mail to towns by the same name in other U.S. states, particularly to El Dorado, CA, creating havoc by delaying payroll checks and important papers. Consequently, the U.S. Post Service changed the conflicting name by dropping the last syllable “do” from Colorado’s Eldorado.

Quite a riveting history.

The Hike

From the trailhead, follow marked signs toward Arapaho Pass. Approximately one mile in you will reach the Diamond Lake Trail Junction, keep going! Two miles now until the pass. The trail winds through beautiful conifer forest and has some amazing views along the way:

Arapaho Pass 1

At 1.8 miles, Arapaho Pass Trail reaches the Fourth of July Mine and the Arapaho Glacier Trail intersection.

Arapaho Pass 3
Of interest to Dan

The Arapaho Pass Trail continues west on an old road for 1.2 miles to the top of the pass.

Arapaho Pass 4
Snowshoes activate

This is where we put on our snowshoes as the trail had only been broken by one other person. Otherwise it would have been a post holing delight.

Before you know it, you’re at the pass.

Arapaho Pass 6
A closeup of our faces!!

From here you can go back (like us) or continue in one of many directions. The Arapaho Pass Trail continues north (right) from Arapaho Pass and drops 750 feet down a series of switchbacks to Caribou Lake. From here, Arapaho Pass Trail continues nine miles to Monarch Lake. Or follow Caribou Pass Trail west along the ridge for about 0.25 miles to visit Lake Dorothy (elevation 12,061 feet). Caribou Pass Trail continues on an old road, blasted into a cliff, to Caribou Pass. Some parts of this trail are “narrow and not for the faint of heart.”

Or you could meander up South Arapaho Peak which stands above 13,000 ft.

Down we go:


It’s 4 PM and the sun has set.
A considerable portion of this hike is above timberline, meaning be prepared for weather to roll in quickly.

Overall a great, easy hike for snowshoeing.

The end.


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