Lake Dorothy, Fourth of July Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado
Lake Dorothy - 7.3 miles
Fourth of July Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||7.3 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,172' - 12,061' (12,094' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,889' net elevation gain (+2,053' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Lake Dorothy - 7.3 Miles Round-Trip
Lake Dorothy (12,061') is located 3.65 miles from Fourth of July Trailhead in a deep cirque between Mount Neva and Arapaho Pass on the Continental Divide. It's the highest named lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and known to hold very large but elusive cutthroat trout. Visitors will enjoy remarkable views and miles of open tundra on the hike to Lake Dorothy:
The trail rises steadily past the Indian Peaks Wilderness Backcountry board (.4 miles : 10,385') to a series of pitched switchbacks (.55 miles : 10,461'). In .8 miles (10,595') the trail levels across steep, open slopes with views of Mount Neva (12,814') and its distinguished east ridge. Wildflowers are particularly varied and abundant on this stretch.
The trail narrows across the midsection of a steep waterfall (1 mile : 10,650') to the Diamond Lake - Arapaho Pass Trail split (1.15 miles : 10,752').
The Arapaho Pass Trail continues west on a methodical climb up the north valley wall. The valley below is noteworthy, highlighted by a network of glacier-fed streams and ponds.
The trail moderates through a broad krummholz flat (1.65 miles : 11,110') to the Arapaho Glacier Trail split (2.05 miles : 11,236'), and continues past the historic Fourth of July Mine into open tundra. The trail is well-defined but markedly rugged once above treeline.
In 3 miles the ramp-like trail curls toward the valley-center and Caribou Pass - Arapaho Pass Trail split on a saddle atop the Continental Divide (3.15 miles : 11,906'). Enjoy commanding views over Caribou Lake before turning left on the Caribou Pass Trail.
The trail bends SW and levels in open tundra to the second of two unmarked spurs for Lake Dorothy (3.5 miles : 12,094'). The spurs are equidistant, but the second offers a more favorable approach. The intuitively followed path threads talus to the northeast shore of Lake Dorothy (3.65 miles : 12,061').
The shoreline is flat, spongy and easy to explore. Scale two hogback-like knolls east of the lake for great perspective on the lake and neighboring peaks. The Caribou Pass Trail continues northwest over the Divide to its intersection with the High Lonesome Trail and Junco Lake Trailhead.
- N39 59.714 W105 38.052 — 0.0 miles : Fourth of July Trailhead
- N40 00.036 W105 38.346 — .55 miles : Begin switchbacks
- N40 00.197 W105 38.616 — 1.0 miles : Cross mid-section of steep falls
- N40 00.252 W105 38.785 — 1.15 miles : Arapaho Pass Trail junction
- N40 00.426 W105 39.122 — 1.5 mile mark
- N40 00.626 W105 39.512 — 2.05 miles : Arapaho Glacier Trail junction
- N40 00.752 W105 39.779 — 2.25 mile mark
- N40 00.845 W105 40.073 — 2.55 mile mark
- N40 00.897 W105 40.516 — 3.0 mile mark
- N40 00.864 W105 40.685 — 3.2 miles : Caribou Pass Trail-Arapaho Pass Trail split
- N40 00.842 W105 40.979 — 3.5 miles : Cairn-marked spur to Lake Dorothy
- N40 00.775 W105 41.027 — 3.65 miles : Lake Dorothy
- Lake Dorothy is approximately 100' deep and known for good-sized cutthroat trout. A majority of its shoreline is accessible for fishing.
- Be mindful of changing weather patterns and get below treeline before storms develop. Carry versatile layers, sun and wind protection. Snow may linger on the trail through July.
- Lake Dorothy is accessed by a heavily used trail artery. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
- Binoculars are particular useful on this trail. Look for elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat in the open tundra during peak summer months.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15.
- Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs.
- Group size is limited to 12 people or people and packstock combined.
- Campfires are prohibited east side of the Continental Divide, as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.
- Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.
- Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Backcountry Zones.
- Camping is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Backcountry Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.
- Packstock are prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.
Directions to Trailhead
Lake Dorothy is accessed from the Fourth of July Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, Colorado.
From downtown Nederland, go south on Highway 72 for .5 miles to County Road 130 and make a right. You will see a sign for Eldora Ski Resort at this junction. Continue on Highway 130 through the town of Eldora, just past which it becomes a dirt road (4 miles).
Continue on the dirt road (past the Hessie Trailhead) another 4.8 miles and take the right fork at the Buckingham Campground up into the designated parking area. Though suitable for most 2WD cars in good condition, the road between the Hessie turnoff and Fourth of July Trailhead can be rough. High clearance vehicles are recommended.
Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301