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Arapaho Lakes is a winter destination that will appeal to everyone from newbies to cardio freaks to pow hounds.
The great thing about this outing in the winter is that everyone is invited. On skis or snowshoes, with or without your dogs. Thanks to gentle slopes and woods, out-and-back trails like Arapaho Lakes are quite safe. Also, it’s impossible to miss the trailhead. It’s literally at the end of the road. From Rollinsville, that small cluster of buildings along the Peak To Peak Highway just south of Nederland, follow the sign for Rollins Pass and turn west toward the continental divide along the train tracks. While four wheel drive and high clearance are not always necessary, they do make for good piece of mind on this unpaved road to the start of the route.
The Trailhead (coordinates: N39.903088, W105.644012). Once parked and geared up, you’ll find the trailhead at the west end of the parking lot. The first mile of trail takes you southwesterly and is practically level as it follows South Boulder Creek and goes through an even mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. At the second major drainage in a small mountain meadow turn right (north) and this is where the first substantial climb starts. Depending on how much snow has fallen, you might see the small wooden sign pointing towards Arapaho Lakes.
Trail Junction (coordinates: N39.893551, W105.660103). If you’re the first to get on this trail since a major snowfall, the first turn is essentially a wide switchback. From here, you’ll start to climb above and away from the lower track. Look for a level trail-width break in the trees and continue north-northeast for half a mile.
Arapaho Creek (coordinates: N39.901802, W105.656433). Again, depending on the amount of recent snow, you may have to cross some gaps in the snow where minor drainages cross the trail. No problem. At Arapaho Creek, turn left (uphill) and the climb eases some for the next 3/4 of a mile.
Meadow (coordinates N39.91066, W105.666046). This is the confluence of the Forest Lakes drainage and Arapaho Creek—though, you won’t necessarily be able to tell if it’s all covered in snow. Trust your GPS unit. From here, turn left again and get into the trees. This is a great place to grab a snack because the next major climb is about to begin and if you pop out of the trees, you may well meet the infamous winds of the Indian Peaks. While the wind can be fierce, it can also be dead calm. Once above the trees, you can find some spectacular glade skiing, depending on conditions.
Arapaho Lakes (coordinates N39.908221, W105.678616) Continue as high as you’re willing but don’t venture past the lakes unless you have extensive avalanche training, proper gear and have checked the latest avalanche reports. From here, you can strip off those skins, point the sticks downhill and let ‘em rip! (Or just start a snowshoe hike down). Bring a helmet for skiing through the trees as that’s where you’ll find some of the softest and deepest powder is deposited from the aforementioned wind.
To get this route and maps on your phone now, go to viewranger.com/gpsadventure Route code ELEV0001
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