Custer County, Colorado
San Isabel National Forest
San Carlos Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Road: 198
Trail Type: Out and Back
Nearby Towns: Westcliffe
Nearby Trails: Hayden Pass, Hermit Pass
Trail Length: 8.1 miles
Elevation: 8,373 to 11,509 feet
The beginning section of this trail goes through the Duckett Fire burn area. This large fire happened in early August of 2011. Watch for mud slides and downed, dead trees.
Though this trail was built to provide access to the Cloverdale Mine you cannot drive up to the mine itself. However, there are many interesting sights along the way.
It starts next to the Rainbow Trail Camp and the Lake Creek Campground at a seasonal gate. It's bumpy from the start, with small, loose rocks on the trail. It is a steady climb with many switchbacks at first and there is usually enough room to pass another vehicle.
You will pass by the popular Rainbow Trail, a popular hiking trail. Watch for hikers.
On the way up you can't see Balman Reservoir until you've passed it. There is a spur off of the main trail that continues up and to your left. This takes you to the reservoir, a beautiful area. It's a short trip and it's definitely worth a stop.
After the reservoir the trail gets a little more narrow in spots. Be sure to remember the last wide spot you passed just in case you have to back up for oncoming traffic. Passing can be challenging in spots from here to the end of the trail.
You will come to a spot with lots of camp fire rings and the North Lake Creek running through it. If you turn here and go through the camp sites you can get access to Rainbow Lake, a beautiful alpine lake near timberline. This would be an amazing place to camp.
After the lake the trail gets a bit tougher and rockier in spots. When you pass by an old cabin the trail climbs through a few switchbacks and the trail can be very narrow in some sections. Take care to stay away from the loose rocks at the shelf road edges.
There is also a large section of scree, or talus. The trail crosses through this jumble of rocks and it's a very scenic experience.
You're working your way through rocks and small obstacles when suddenly the trail flattens for a bit and you are surrounded by cabins. This is where the miners used to live and it is very well maintained. The buildings are all private so stay out of them. The flat area is a nice place for a break, though. You can see the Cloverdale Mine on the hill across the valley, and this is the best view you'll get of it.
Once you pass the camp of cabins you will see where the road to the mine goes. It is gated and private property, so please stay off of this side road.
Continue on and the trail eventually ends at a turn-around spot. There are trails here to Silver Lake as well as some excellent camping spots. Turn around here and head back down the way you came in.
Information last updated on August 31st, 2011.
From Westcliffe, take highway 69 north for 12.5 miles to county road 198. From Canon City, take highway 50 west 26 miles and then highway 69 south for 11.3 miles to county road 198. Follow signs to the Rainbow Trail Camp.
Meet at the Westcliffe Patroleum gas station in Westcliffe.