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Columbine Lake Out-and-Back

Intermediate
 4.6 (12) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A beautiful day hike up to stunning alpine lake below the Continental Divide.


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Map Key

6.4

Miles

10.3

KM

Out and Back

11,060' 3,371 m

High

10,088' 3,075 m

Low

978' 298 m

Up

978' 298 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

23%

Max Grade (13°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Streams, waterfalls, and great views. Not too strenuous and lots to explore.

Arapaho National Recreation Area pass and camping permits are required. No campfires allowed.

Overview

Columbine Lake (11,060 ft.) is located 3.4 miles from Junco Lake Trailhead on the west side of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It lies under Mount Neva (12,814 ft.) in a broad treeline basin ringed by level meadows, tree-topped knolls, and alpine terraces.

Columbine Lake is a family-friendly destination that sees heavy traffic throughout the summer. It is a good 6.8 mile day hike. Stay on designated trails and avoid trampling vegetation around the lake.

Camping permits are required and limited. Fires are not permitted at Columbine Lake.

Need to Know

You'll need to buy a day-use pass at the kiosk along the road up to Meadows Creek Reservoir. The parking at the Junco Lake Trailhead can fill up quickly on summer weekends. The are pit restrooms and an information cabin next to the parking lot.

Description

The trail begins on a rocky jeep road that steepens to an unmarked fork; keep left (1.0 mile: 10,350 ft.). It rises to a large meadow at the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary, past which dogs must be leashed (1.28 miles: 10,420 ft.). The trail arcs around the meadow, veers left at a re-vegetation sign (1.55 miles) and switchbacks up to the Caribou Pass - Columbine Lake split (1.95 miles: 10,570 ft.).

The Columbine Lake Trail twists up to another large meadow (2.4 miles) and levels to a smaller meadow framed by a steep rock wall (2.7 miles: 10,750 ft.). The trail has been improved over the past few years to prevent hiking through a wet bog below the steep rock wall. It turns right and crosses the meadow to join the creek, where it steepens on a shifty path through a high alpine forest to Columbine Lake (3.4 miles: 11,060 ft.).

History & Background

There are some old cabins and outhouses along the early portions of the trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

Blake Calvert

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 12 votes

#741

Overall
  4.6 from 12 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#144

in Colorado

#741

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Photos

Columbine Lake with crystal clear reflection
Oct 11, 2018 near Fraser, CO
Creek along the Columbine Lake Trail, July 29, 2019.
Jul 30, 2019 near Fraser, CO
Columbine Lake with Mt Neva in background
Oct 11, 2018 near Fraser, CO
Waterfall along the last climb to the lake.
Oct 11, 2018 near Fraser, CO
Trail along lower meadow as you enter Indian Peaks Wilderness
Oct 11, 2018 near Fraser, CO
Valley view as you approach the fork with the Caribou Trail.  Note old abandoned trail.
Oct 11, 2018 near Fraser, CO

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Check-Ins

Sep 11, 2021
kai bouwman
Sep 4, 2021
Wouter Reyniers
Aug 6, 2021
Brennan Ruth
6.4mi
Sep 13, 2020
Ray Watts
Much windfall, few parties get to lake. Trail crews are on fires for a while yet. 5mi — 4h 00m
Jul 12, 2020
Trevor Bolliger
Great hike, lots of bugs, got engaged. 7.4mi — 3h 18m
Jun 28, 2020
Jonathan Radin
Not sure why this is listed as 6 miles. Great hike just amazing. 7.5mi
Sep 13, 2019
Beth Walker Zingone
Jul 27, 2019
Jerry Duncan
Really beautiful trail with meadows, forests, and an alpine lake at the end. Chance of seeing moose. Camping permitted along trail. Fairly crowded…