Tanya and I went on the best hike today. We met up at the Westminster PNR by 7:20am and drove 1.5 hours to the 4th of July Trailhead located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The parking lot was full, so we turned around and parked on the side of the dirt road with many other cars. I think the latest hikers may arrive with a chance of snagging a parking spot is 8:30am on the weekend.
With all the cars, we expected the trail to be very busy. While we certainly passed plenty of people, it wasn’t as crowded as we thought it would be. Perhaps this is because the trail branches off to Diamond Lake, Arapaho Glacier, Arapaho Pass, Caribou Lake and Dorothy Lake.
Today, we planned a 7.3 mile hike to Dorothy Lake. We began at just over 10,000 feet under clear blue skies. Donned in shorts and a T-shirt, we climbed the trail along switch backs that passed by many small water falls and one large falls. As such, the trail was somewhat wet and muddy to start.
After gaining 1,000 feet, we left the forest and entered the tundra. To the right, is the historic Fourth of July Mine. After inspecting some of the remaining mining equipment, we carried on while enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
For the next half-mile or so we slid across intermittent snow pack until the trail began to ascend toward the pass. We methodically climbed the rocky path as we admired the valley below which is filled with glacier-fed ponds.
The head wind which cooled as we labored toward the Continental Divide froze us as we reached the top of the pass! It was so hot in Denver, we debated shoving our puffies in our packs. I’m so glad I did. After snapping a few photos with our hair going wild and almost losing our phones in the 50 mph wind, we ducked behind a wind break and added multiple layers of clothes, gloves, and a wool hat!
With no storm in the forecast and bluebird skies, we were surprised with the strength of the gales. While passes tend to be windy, this was extraordinary for a perfect summer day.
Now donned in puffies and shells, we stood awestruck at the spectacular, panoramic scenery before contining to the left on an unmarked trail to Lake Dorothy which is tucked between Mount Neva and Arapaho Pass. The lake at 12,000+ feet was still mostly frozen and quite beautiful. After devouring our lunch, we headed back down the mountain.
It didn’t take long before we were stripping back down to our T-shirts. By the time we reached the bottom, we shared the trail with many in summer heat. I think we experienced at least three seasons on this four hour hike.
We were both pleasantly surprised by the splendid scenery so close to Denver. This hike beat our expectations and both of us would highly recommend it. Perhaps, for less crowds, visiting on a weekday would be better, but regardless, hiking to Lake Dorothy was worth the traffic and the crazy winds. ETB
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