Rainbow Lake

July 11, 2020 · Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Rainbow Lake is in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness just north of Buena Vista. The trail to the lake is a spur along Pine Creek Trail. In a word, the trail was hot. It was a hot day all-around. The sky was picture-perfect deep blue without a cloud in the sky. However, a good portion of the trail is in the White River National Forest, so a fair amount of fire mitigation has been done - which is a good thing. However, as a result the tall stands of Pine are sparse and the groundcover has mostly been removed, and sunlight easily reaches the forest floor and trail.

The trailhead starts just outside of some private property and the Federal Government has an easement to cross the one-half mile of private property. Trails in the Federal Trail System often cross small portions of private property. The most common thing you see when this happens are posted signs from the property owner that you are crossing private property and to stay on the trail. Additionally, there is almost always a metal gate and fencing of some kind next to the trail to denote the easement boundary.

However, this private property crossing was a bit different. There was the typical sign and gate at the private property boundary, but this owner had decided to put a toll booth to collect one dollar for each person crossing their half-mile of private property. This was a bit odd, but rather than run the risk of an encounter with a crazed landowner, I paid the one-dollar toll; and video recorded me putting the dollar in their toll box. In a way, that added to setting the mood for this hike.

The Federal Forest boundary begins in an open area along a sand trail in field of Sage. It was warm here in the morning, on the return, in the afternoon, this area was a like a blast furnace, it was the hottest stretch of the trail. Documentation about the trails lists the trail as Difficult. To me a trail rating of difficult is steep and your knees are often lifted above your waist. That was not this trail. This trail is well groomed, and the trail itself is mostly sand-like not dirt, rocks, and tree roots.

To me this trail was more like a grind, it had a constant elevation gain, which is not that bad, but because the Pines are sparse and sunlight directly hits the trail, it heats up very quickly without any clouds passing by. The trail itself is in a steep walled valley and based on the debris in the river and along the valley wall sides, the Spring Runoff and mudslides must be huge, trees are uprooted and large boulders are freshly dislodged from the steep walls of the valley.

The spur to Rainbow Lake is at a pretty meadow with a large Beaver pond, it was genuinely nice here. This portion of the trail is steep, but well groomed, as such it moves fast, but this portion of the trail has direct sunlight on the trail as well and is hot. When I got to Rainbow Lake, there were two fishermen working the edges of the lake. The lake is pretty and is turning green from the algae, which is common this time of year.

Just beyond the lake is a ridge that connects with the Colorado Trail. I found a spot of shade along the edge of the lake. The hand-held anemometer I had with me showed the temperature to be 80 degrees at the lake and no breeze of any kind; that was at 11,700 feet. That is a hot day on the trail. I took a power nap in the shade by the lake. It was so peaceful, the fishermen were quite, there was no breeze and from time to time a bird would chirp, other than that it was completely silent, no distant traffic, no distant roar of jets passing overhead, just complete silence. It was very nice, but very warm.

Eating lunch along the trail was a different experience, I have Invisalign aligners, and will have them for the next eight months. So, eating on the trail now is different. I must take them out to eat and then floss. Yes, floss along the trail, it makes for a humorous visual, but it is a bit of work without a mirror.

When I started to head back, a few small high clouds began to form, but not enough to provide any shade along the trail. Because the trail is so well groomed, the trail moves extremely fast along the way back. So fast, that I finished about two hours earlier than I thought I would.

It was the hottest part of the day on the way back, and wherever the trees opened into a small meadow, the heat was like a blast furnace. This trek turned out to be moderately difficult 13.6 miles roundtrip. I'm glad I did this trail; I've had my eye on this trail for some time. I'm calling this trail the Sunburn Trail and calling it good.


SIMILAR TRAILS

Flattop Mountain

June 10, 2018 · The 2018 Hiking Season has officially begun! Hooray! Though, given what I saw on this first hike, it could have probably started a couple of weeks ago. They said they had a light winter in the mountains this year and they are right. I use Flattop Mountain in RMNP to restart the s...

Horn Fork Basin - Bear Lake

September 26, 2020 · The trek to Horn Fork Basin and Bear Lake is a particularly nice hike, most of the trek is in a wide U-shaped glacial valley. From the trailhead to the split to either the Horn Fork Basin or to Kroenke Lake is well shaded and a smooth glide. There are three 14er's accessible from...

Timber Lake

August 16, 2014 · Timber Lake is a beautiful lake and the hike to it is spectacular. Timber Lake has special meaning to me, the first time I was there it was overcast, but it was very peaceful. This time, the weather was perfect. There are a few challenging sections along the trail, especially whe...

AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness9
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness17
James Peak Wilderness1
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness1
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

TRAILS BY MONTH

January3
February2
March2
April3
May5
June16
July26
August26
September27
October5
November4
December3

SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...