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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Lee

South Arapaho Peak

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

August 15, 2023

South Arapaho Peak | 13,397 feet

8.6 miles; 3542 feet elevation gain

Total time: 4 hours 20 minutes


Fourth of July Trailhead is a very popular place, even during the week but if you get an early start you will enjoy this absolutely stunning area in solitude. There are heavy parking restrictions in this area and parking is only allowed in designated spots; it does fill up quickly. I started at 4:45am on a Tuesday and was the first car in the parking lot. The road to the parking lot is a 5 mile rough gravel road that is a bumpy ride but accessible in any vehicle.


The hike starts with a gradual incline through the trees with crossings over multiple creeks. This segment of the trail is very popular and well maintained. The wildflowers are still stunning right now in mid August. Around 2 miles you will split off the main trail onto Arapaho Glacier Trail which is less maintained but still a clear trail. There is a marshy area to cross before you begin climbing a series of switchbacks. When you reach the saddle between South Arapaho Peak and Old Baldy you are rewarded with incredible views. There is a picturesque bright blue glacial lake below you and vast views across the valley.


From here South Arapaho Peak looks very intimidating, I promise it is easier than it looks. After the saddle there is a trail on and off until the summit. This peak is labeled as a difficult class two but there are only a couple short sections where this applies. Route finding is relatively straight forward. You will want to stay just inside the ridgeline as much as possible, if you drop too low you will do more boulder hopping and more mileage. I struggled to find the cairns described in the route description but was able to navigate the route easily. There are segments of loose scree trail and segments of boulder hopping until you reach the summit. The summit has absolutely stunning 360 views and I had the summit to myself. You could also add on Old Baldy from the saddle for a longer day. This peak is very straightforward class two tundra terrain. I had previously done this peak so I headed down and didn't encounter another person until I was almost back to the split for the main trail.


My pace was relatively fast because I trail ran most of the descent. Once back on the main trail I encountered a lot of people and had to pull off frequently as the trail is very narrow. When I arrived back at the trailhead the only remaining parking would add quite a bit of distance to your hike. The views on this peak were absolutely stunning and so unlike other areas of Colorado. Given that it is such an easy drive from Denver, I highly recommend it as a weekday hike. It will definitely be one I repeat in the future!


Hike Details:

Trailhead: a rough gravel road but accessible in any car.

Camping: there is a small campground at the trailhead.

Fees & Reservations: none.

Bathrooms: bathrooms at the trailhead.

Trash: no garbage at the trailhead.

Dog-friendly: this route is dog friendly but does include some scrambling and difficult class two terrain.

Recent Conditions: see 14ers.com peak conditions.




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