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Hiking in Frisco: Rainbow Lake Trail #9001

Rainbow lake, the goal of this hike
Rainbow lake, the goal of this hike
Deb Stanley

Rainbow Lake. Doesn’t that sound pleasant?

Rainbow Lake, Frisco
Rainbow Lake, Frisco
Deb Stanley

After seeing the name of this lake on a "hiking trails in Frisco" list and reading that it was only one mile each way, I thought this would be a nice hike for after dinner. After reviewing several online articles and the bike trail map, I decided to park at the Frisco Library (directions below).

From the library, I took the paved path on the left side of the building, walked across Country Road 1004 and over to the paved bike path. A small, brown sign on the left said Miner’s Creek 4WD Road and Rainbow Lake so I turned left on this path. I was surprised to see the next sign – Caution Recpath shares roadway. And yes, there was some traffic. It’s about a 0.2 mile walk from the library to a parking lot so you can cut the roundtrip hike by 0.4 miles by parking in that lot.

At the parking lot, the road is blocked off. A sign here says this is Miners Creek Road #1000. The sign says it's open to licensed motorcycles and off-road vehicles, but I’m not sure how you would open the gate. Since I was hiking, it didn’t matter. I walked around the gate and continued on the paved road. About another 0.2 miles, I came to the main county bike path.

A sign said it was 8.1 miles to Copper Mountain (if you turned right) and 7.8 miles to Breckenridge (if you turned left). I didn’t want either. However, behind the sign was a big open area and another fence. I walked over there and found a sign that said Rainbow LakeTrail 9001. Good news!

The Rainbow Lake Trail is a dirt trail. It starts in a beautiful, open meadow surrounded by aspen trees. A short distance into the meadows, I came to a trail split. A trail went to the right and another to the left, but there was no sign. Fortunately, my GPS map showed Rainbow Lake to my right, so I went right.

The trail became single-track, wide enough for one person to walk at a time, and went into the forest. There were several downed trees here in June 2014, but most you could crawl over or under.

About two-thirds of a mile from the library parking lot, the trail came to Willow Creek. Turn left and follow the trail up the hill a short distance to another trail split. Here the one fork of the trail turns left, the other goes straight ahead and down to the creek. Again, the GPS said the lake was to my right, so I took the path down to the creek.

Here’s where the hike got interesting. The trail ends at the creek and you can see the rest of the trail on the other side. There are lots of downed trees here, creating a make-shift bridge. During high runoff season, this can be a dangerous place to cross. Even with poles, the fasting-moving water could easily sweep you downstream. I highly recommend finding another path if you want to hike here in late spring.

If the water level is low enough, cross the creek, turn left and hike up the hill. At the top, the trail wraps around the hill and arrives at a pond. This is not Rainbow Lake. Just hike a few more steps along the trail and you’ll soon find yourself on the shore of Rainbow Lake. This is a very pleasant place in the evening to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. While you’re less than one mile from the very busy Highway 9, this place is very serene.

You can walk around the lake or just sit and relax. There’s a bench another tenth of a mile along the shoreline trail (and across another creek/outflow).

When you’re ready, return the way you came. However, when I got back to the spot where I planned to turn away from Willow Creek and head back to the first meadow, I saw several trees across the path, as if to block it. I decided to continue downhill on the path I was on.

That path went into the forest, went to a meadow and came out of the main, paved bike path about 70 steps west of where I initially turned off for the Rainbow Lake Trail.

Details: The hike to Rainbow Lake and back, from the library parking lot is 1.9 miles with 200 feet of elevation gain. If you park at the parking lot near the gate, the hike is about 1.5 miles roundtrip.

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Directions: From I-70, take the Highway 9 south toward Breckenridge. Drive south about 2.3 miles to the stop light at Country Road 1004 and turn right. Take the first left turn to get to the library parking lot.