Snowshoeing to Rainbow Lakes Trailhead

Not really snowshoeing actually, I carried the snowshoes on my back the entire way.

My original plan was to try and hike the Arapaho Glacier Trail. It would have been 12 miles round trip. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to drive to the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead as I expected. The roads were closed just beyond the Sourdough Trailhead Parking area, about 5 miles from the Rainbow Lakes Campground and the trailhead for both Rainbow Lakes Trail and Arapaho Glacier Trail. Rather than give up, I decided I’d try to at least hike the rest of the closed road and then attempt the Rainbow Lakes trail as there wouldn’t be time to do the 12 mile (round-trip) Arapaho Lakes trail past the 5 miles of closed road.

The hike was a mix of bare ground and easy walking with very few views to reward the effort. In some spots drifts on the road were a few feet deep, but never for long enough to justify putting on the snowshoes. I made it to the Rainbow Lakes camping area and walked around it several times but was never able to find the Rainbow Lakes Trailhead, only the Arapaho Glacier Trailhead. The area was definitely not walked very much and without a GPS or a map I decided not to risk wandering into the woods in the direction I thought the trail should be.

If there had been recent snow, cross country skis would have made the trip quite fast. Given the way the campground looked I don’t know that I’d want to be around in prime season in the summer as I expect it’s probably quite crowded. As I was leaving at the end of the hike,  I talked to some people coming out of Sourdough trail. They said that it was well packed and the way they described it I expect I wouldn’t need snowshoes for that one either. Lots of people were cross country skiing the trail and there were quite a few off leash dogs that I saw during the time I was in the parking lot. I probably won’t head back here unless I hear there’s good fishing, but given the proximity of the lakes to the campground, I doubt that’s the case.

Map of the Rainbow Lakes area


Closed road
The closed road. 5 miles from where I’d hoped to be


The only trailhead I could find. It would have been tough following the trail


Bare road
The road was also bare enough in many spots that you’d have to take off skis/snowshoes


Snowy road
The drifts were fairly deep in some stretches