Backpack to Slide Lake in Mt. Zirkel Wilderness

Rate this Adventure Colorado Rainbow Lake Trailhead 1126

Added by Jarad Switzer

A giant secluded rock slide waterfall and magnificent views of Mount Ethel against a spectacular alpine lake with great fishing.

Start at the Rainbow Lake Trailhead 1126 in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness which is 19 miles south west of Walden, Colorado off Country Road 22A.

The 6.4 mile out and back to Slide lake starts out at an elevation of 8750 and gives you a total elevation gain of 1777 feet at the end at Slide Lake. You will arrive at Rainbow Lake after about 3.5 miles. This is the busier lake of the bunch due to the proximity to the trailhead. Great spot to eat a snack or have lunch.

Continue on the trail around Rainbow Lake. This can be where the trail get's a little challenging and you will have to due a few water crossings. There are some fallen trees used to help with those crossings but some are flimsy at best and depending on water level and integrity of logs, you may have to wade across. Find a spot to cross and continue on the trail and it will start to rise at a good clip with the stream/waterfall on your left which is beautiful in and of itself.

You will pass through some beautiful meadows with opportunity for good wild life sightings so keep your eyes peeled. At mile 6 or so, you will eventually reach the stream that comes from Slide Lake on your right. It is perpendicular to the trail. The stream runs along a giant rock slide with water running down parts of it as you get closer to the lake. There is no known trail up to slide lake but if you follow along the stream along the rock slide up you will eventually get to the lake after about a 10 min hike up.

Camp at Slide Lake on the South West or East side of the lake depending on snow pack. In a good snow year, don't be surprised to see drifts as high as 8-10 feet even during the summer at certain parts of the lake.

You can use this lake as your base camp for exploring Upper Slide Lake during the day which requires going back down to the main trail along the rock slide. There is great fishing at both lakes and a small waterfall at the North West end of the lake which is gorgeous.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Stove and cooking utensils
  • Water Filter
  • Food and snacks
  • Clothing and rainwear
  • Sturdy boots
  • Fishing pole and bait
  • Camera
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



6.4 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1777 Feet



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Added by Jarad Switzer

Colorado Native. Outdoor Enthusiast. Beer Love. 
 Self-taught photographer who loves playing outside as much as possible. 

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