Lake Dorothy | Indian Peaks Wilderness
Nederland, CO | 09/29/19 | 7.64 miles | 1,976′ gain
Winter has arrived in Colorado after what I imagine was the shortest summer in history. A multi-day winter storm has kept me indoors, but I guess that just gives me a chance to reminisce about warmer days and finish up my last few fall blog posts.
I can’t think of any hike I’ve done that I didn’t like, but of course some stand out as better than others. Lake Dorothy was one of those hikes – the best of the best. This hike has been on my list for a long time, so long that I don’t even remember how I first heard about it. But it was worth the wait, and both Tori and I were super happy that we decided to do this hike.
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is extraordinarily busy so we planned an early start, securing one of the last spots at the Fourth of July Trailhead. Thankful we didn’t have to park down the road, we started up the well marked trail. The elevation gain is nicely spread out, and most of the trail is a gradual incline – my favorite! A short length of boardwalk excited us for what we might find along the rest of the trail. Boardwalks are fun!
We slowly climbed higher, the trail crossing a steep hillside and breaking out of the forest. We crossed a small stream and admired the cascades on the slope above the trail. We were also treated to amazing views, which just got better and better as we climbed higher.
The terrain seemed to change with every step. Forest, meadow, wetland, tundra. We enjoyed it all.
A little over 2 miles in, we came upon the Fourth of July Mine ruins, which we spent a few minutes exploring. There wasn’t much left, but we tried (and failed) to figure out what the rusty equipment was once used for.
There weren’t any aspen along the trail, so we assumed we’d miss the iconic Colorado yellow fall colors, but looking down the valley, we could actually see patches of aspen in the distance. This area is truly beautiful!
Up until this point, we were mostly in the forest or right around treeline. We couldn’t really see where we were heading, but once above treeline, we traversed a rocky slope, heading towards Arapaho Pass. The trail was well built, wide, and stable. Us scaredy cats have nothing to worry about on this trail.
From Arapaho Pass, we’d head left on an unmarked trail into the basin holding Lake Dorothy. I could tell where the lake was from afar, and pointed it out to Tori. Not too far to go now!
Dozens of people were congregating at the pass, maybe deciding which way to go as the trail forks here. We headed left, but not before oohing and ahhing over our surroundings.
From here, the trail isn’t well marked and actually passes right by Lake Dorothy without affording a view! So we cut off the main trail and followed numerous social trails to get to the lake. The weather was mild so far, but the wind picked up at the lake, so we bundled up and had our snack behind a big boulder. Somehow we had the lake to ourselves for a while, and we enjoyed our snippet of solitude before some other hikers snapped us back to reality.
Lake Dorothy is really a special place that seems to be only seldom visited, even though it’s just off a very busy trail. What a perfect fall day.