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Columbine Lake Out-and-Back

  4.5 ( 6 ) Favorite


6.4 mile 10.3 kilometer loop


Ascent: 978' 298 m
Descent: -978' -298 m
High: 11,060' 3,371 m
Low: 10,088' 3,075 m


Avg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 23% (13°)


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Trail shared by Blake Calvert

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

Blake Calvert

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

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.


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.

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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…
Jul 16, 2019
Ken Gambon

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 6 votes


  4.5 from 6 votes
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in Colorado


419 Views Last Month
2,125 Since Oct 11, 2018



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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