Rainbow Lakes is a series of lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness about 45 minutes from Boulder between Nederland and Ward. The trailhead is five miles up a fairly rough dirt road off Highway 72 and sits at around 10,000 feet elevation. There is a very popular campground, a short two mile trail to the lakes, and a much longer trail to Arapaho Glacier higher in the Indian Peaks mountains.
We visited Rainbow Lakes Trail on a recent Sunday morning in early July. Driving up the dirt road we passed at least a dozen groups camping just off the road. Didn’t seem ideal but it was popular. We arrived at the trailhead around 10am and got one of the last parking spots. It was quite windy and a bit chilly (10,000 feet remember?). Dogs are allowed on the trail, so Scooter was very happy to join us. Even though the lot was full, the trail wasn’t very crowded at all when we began. By the end, however, it was quite crowded.
The trail itself is a gradual incline and winds through pretty, but typical, alpine forest. Even though you’re going up, it isn’t that noticeable (may not be true for sea-level folks ;). The lakes are small alpine lakes set in a gorgeous setting just off the trail. I tried my hand fishing with your everyday spoon and rooster tails with no luck. The peaks in the background are worth the blank fishing slate.