Hike the Arapaho Traverse

Rate this Adventure Colorado Fourth of July Trailhead

Added by Ian Glass

Classic scenic scramble that isn't in a high traffic area that allows you to push your limits in a comfortable way. This traverse is a class 3-4 scramble from South Arapaho Peak to North Arapaho Peak and offers spectacular views of Arapahoe Glacier.

Begin at the Fourth of July Trailhead.  Day parking is free and overnight parking is $5.  Fourth of July is a popular trailhead and to ensure parking, you should arrive early in the morning (6am-ish... cause, I mean, you gotta 7 hour day in front of you). 

Follow the Fourth of July trail from the parking lot to the Fourth of July Mine ruins (11,250'), double back to the northeast on the Arapaho Glacier Trail, which is signed and well-beaten. After another 1.5 miles and 1500 feet of climbing, you will reach a saddle.  Hang left (west) at the saddle and continue towards the summit of South Arapaho. 

From the saddle leave the Arapaho Glacier Trail and scramble the remaining 700' over class 2 boulders up the southeast slopes of South Arapaho Peak.  At the summit, grab some water, take in the views, check out traverse you're about to do (to the west), and snap a few frames. From the summit, follow the obvious connecting ridge to North Arapaho Peak. 

Start northwest from South Arapaho and descend slightly. The early going on this stretch of the ridge is straightforward. Please choose your route carefully. If something looks sketchy or dangerous, there will be a easier path.  You just need to look around you and find it. You will see small trails, cairns, and some painted marks pointing your way. (*It should be noted that the painted markers are often faded AND the same orange color as the rock's moss... so keep a weathered eye).  The easiest route along the ridge sometimes takes you off the crest of the ridge, over rotten rock with considerable exposure. Watch your footing, always use the "3 Points of Contact" Rule (i.e. always make sure two hands and a foot OR two foot and a hand are on the surface you're scrambling over), and enjoy yourself :) 

Continue north, staying on the ridge's west side. The exposure off the ridge's east side increases rapidly in this stretch. The "crux" of the scramble is a sloped 10ft slab with one or two tricky moves about 3/4 of the way to North Arapaho Peak.  There are small but good handholds, trust your feet on small cracks, and cruise of the slab. You'll see an orange arrow spray painted onto the rock to aid your route-finding abilities. In some people's opinion, this short pitch makes the traverse a class 4 or maybe 5 climb. It is very short, and you even a fall would end up on a ledge.  But you're not going to fall.  Trust yourself, have your buddy (which you should have on this scramble) spot you, and continue on.

Once you are past the crux, continue west up the ridge. At points you may be as much as 100 feet below the ridge, but seldom more than that. The remainder of the scramble is class 3, just follow the ridge. The last true section of scrambling before the summit requires you to go through a loose mini-gully.  Be mindful of your feet and dismantling loose rocks.  For your safety and the safety of those in your party, move through the mini-gully one at a time.  Once you're out of the scramble, follow a class 2 scramble to the summit!  North Arapaho Peak has a huge cairn on its summit. The views are truly amazing!

Return the same way as you came in. 

Pack List

  • Daypack
  • Layers (warm layer and waterproof layer)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Handlamp
  • 2-3 liters of water
  • Snacks
  • Lunch
  • 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

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Activities:

Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

8.3 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3500 Feet

Features:

Forest
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Ian Glass

Videographer/Photographer based in Boulder, CO with a penchant for the outdoors // @ianvaso

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