Columbine Lake hike is a true Winter Park favorite, and once you get up there yourself, it is easy to see why. The deep blue lake is surrounded by the jagged Indian Peaks of the Continental Divide and wildflowers abound in the many sub-alpine meadows on the way.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy beautiful cascades, a couple of easy stream crossings and some wetland crossings as well. Be prepared to get your boots muddy or wet in these marshy areas. The end of the trail is somewhat strenuous, with a section of easy to moderate bouldering, but if you’re in good physical condition and acclimatized to high altitude it’s no problem. Be sure to bring plenty snacks, water and sunscreen.
To reach the trailhead, head west on Hwy 40 through the town of Fraser. Take a right on County Road 83 before the town of Tabernash, which is the same turnoff for Devil’s Thumb Ranch. At the fork (.25 miles), take a left onto CR 84, which becomes Forest Road 129, and follow for 10.5 miles to Meadow Creek Reservoir. The road becomes pretty rough after 8 miles or so, so it is best to have a higher clearance vehicle.
At Meadow Creek Reservoir, go left and follow the road towards the Junco Lake Trailhead; the turn-off is about 2 miles down, but keep your eyes peeled because the sign is not very prominent. After starting on the trail toward Columbine Lake, you’ll also see the turn-off for the Caribou Pass trail about 1.5 miles down, which is about the same distance but overlooks the valley and the lakes below.