“A beautiful day hike up to stunning alpine lake below the Continental Divide.”
— Blake Calvert
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
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.
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.
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.