Due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions, U.S. Forest Service-Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland is temporarily closing all National Forest land in Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder, and Larimer counties. The decision to be re-evaluated daily. SEE CLOSURE ORDER

Caribou Creek

Nederland, Colorado (Boulder County)

Last Updated: 10/20/2020
4.4 / 5 ( 9 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Temporary Closure
Typically Open: 06/15 - 11/20
Length: 2.8 miles
Highest Elevation: 10200 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Nederland
Nearest Town w/ Services: Nederland
Official Road Name: 505
Management Agency: Roosevelt National Forest
District: Boulder Ranger District
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Caribou Creek
Known as "The place where winds were born", Caribou was the site of Colorado's first major silver rush. In the 1870's miners from all over the world flocked here and developed the town of Caribou. An estimated eight million dollars worth of silver was extracted from these hills before the mine closed in 1884. Caribou suffered two major fires - in September, 1879 from which it rebuilt, and again in 1899, when most of the downtown area was destroyed. It was not rebuilt the second time. By 1880 the population dwindled to 549, by 1900 only 44 remained. Under good conditions, this off-road trail is an easy, scenic drive with some water crossings and a little bit of mud. It ends at the Historic Caribou Townsite that only has a few building foundations remaining. Under wet conditions, this trail can easily become an impassable swath of relentless mud. Stock vehicles are not recommended during extremely wet weather.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Caribou Creek

Route Information

Technical Rating:
(MODERATE - DIFFICULT)

Read more about our rating system

Waypoints

1. North Trailhead (0 mi)
The northern trailhead is well marked off of County Road 116. 30 yards into the trail you can find a 3 piece kiosk with a lot of good information about the area, including bear information.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 40.006050, -105.561380

Starting Point: Boulder

Take Canyon Boulevard, also known as highway 119, from Boulder west to Nederland. As you enter town you come to a roundabout. Take the first exit in the roundabout, which is Highway 72, north about 7 miles. Turn left on C.R. 116. Less than 1 mile ahead, stay left and follow signs towards Rainbow Lakes Campground. The trail will be on your left marked as FS 505, 4.3 miles from highway 72.

Camping

Designated

Land Use Issues

Trail is only open June 15th through November 30 weather permitting.

Trail Reviews (17)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Due to dangerous fire conditions, Arapahoe National Forest has closed the forest to all visitors. This decision will be re-evaluated daily as conditions change. See the order here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/arp/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD831612

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Awesome day out in this area! We got some typical Colorado fall weather (sunny morning, snowy afternoon). There is a mudhole between WP 2 and 3 which is the hardest obstacle on the trail (this trail was mapped long ago, and there is no mention of it). That being said, I would not run this trail alone and/or without some sort of recovery gear. It is in the trees and has the tendency to be very muddy with a steep approach/exit. A stock vehicle with road tires would have quite a bit of trouble completing this trail at this point, so come prepared. For reference, the JL is 4" lift on 37s, the Tacoma is 3" lift on 33s.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran this trail today in some light snow, great time of year to be up high. The mud bog section on the north end of the trail was definitely a challenge for my Tacoma, used my locker for the last mud hole. It was slick and muddy, but no deep standing water this late in the season. Fun trail, highly recommend for a quick trip close to the front range.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran Caribou creek with another member, looks like all the deep water has dried up and the stuck truck has been moved however there are a few obstacles that you may bottom out on, go slow and all should be good.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Went from what was the town site of Caribou to the Rainbow Lakes campground road. The trail is easy except for the 4 or so mud holes, which were still present when we went. These mud holes alone, I would rate as difficult. 11 inch clearance and still scrapped the skid guards. Very beautiful scenery but nothing dramatic.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran Caribou yesterday afternoon and encountered a disabled Dodge Ram just after the first deep mud hole from the north end of the trail. Gentlemen backed up and off the trail in an effort to allow someone to pass and wound up bending his steering linkage - needed another winch and more man-power to get him out so they planned to return this afternoon to recover it. Also put him in touch with 4x4 rescue and recovery so hopefully the trail will be cleared again soon - still passable just very tight between the two deepest ruts. Good luck driver! Awesome trail for us, will be back again soon for the mud! Also saw a large black bear at the northern trailhead about 200yds from the dispersed campers along the road leading to Rainbow Lakes campground. Be safe out there, the bears are for real and they’re close.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Fun trail, not all that technical. there were a few water holes that initially caused me concern but they weren't very deep and seemed to consistently have a sand bottom rather than mud. I ended up turning back between points two and three (I ran the trail backwards) because of a large mud hole that I didn't want to attempt while my winch was down. not much scenery but it does open up in a few places. The large ruts that were mentioned by someone previously have been filled in and it is now passable.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Just did this in my stock 5th Gen TRD-ORP 4Runner. Mostly easy with one glaring exception. There is a big hole right as you descend out of the woods (I ran in the opposite direction, downhill from Caribou townsite) but before you go through the boggy area and arrive at the stream crossing. I ran into a guy who spotted for me which was confidence-inspiring. I dropped into 4 Lo and engaged the locker. 4 Lo was probably mandatory, not sure about the locker. The angles were really pushing the limits of the stock 4runner because after a steep downclimb into a muddy hole, you almost immediately begin a steep climb out of it before then descending again. Fortunately, there is no rock; it's all soil. I definitely scraped the engine skid a bit and the hitch receiver dragged a bit as well. Shorter vehicles or lifted vehicles probably would have no trouble. FWIW, The mud in that hole was slick AF, and my stock tires were unresponsive to steering adjustments once in the hole. If I had somehow managed to screw up once in the hole, I'm not sure how things would have turned out. I imagine having real AT tires would have made a big difference here - alas I'm pretty committed to getting my money's worth out of the stock tires.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
trail was in good condition. No super deep ruts, but there is a few sections where the water is deep and is very muddy. Super fun trail! I did it in a 5th Gen 4runner with a 3in lift, and it was no problem. I would say if you have an off-road worthy 4x4 the trail the trail conditions would be marked easy to moderate.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Open as of July 20, according to an email from the caretaker listed in the next review. Haven't run it yet, just posting that info. Ruts were graded.

Author:
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Caribou Creek is temporarily closed due to damage in the muddy area that makes driving hazardous. 3 ft to 4 ft ruts are present and make the route impassible. Section is property of Boulder Watershed and they are trying to get it open. Contact NORAC4X4 at norac303@gmail.com for updates.

Author:
Status: Seasonal Closure
Offroaded on:
Review of this trail last weekend shows there is still a lot of snow. The group that adopts this trail hopes to get it open in 4 weeks.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail was a lot of fun. Took my buddies fairly stock jeep and we had a great time. Would definitely recommend to any beginner to intermediate off roader.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:

We had not been up to Caribou Creek in a few years, so Calvary 4-Wheelers headed that way on Saturday, August 4, 2018. We had three rigs along for the run: me in my lifted XJ, Karen in her stock JK and Rich and Jon in their lifted XJ. We started from the Rainbow Lakes end and bumped our way down to cross Caribou Creek. The muddy section just south of the creek was not too bad and we all made it through with no trouble. Some of the perpetual puddles have started eroding into small mud pits but all were passable.

Just passed the muddy section we met a Subaru coming down from Caribou. He asked if this was the way to Rainbow Lakes. We told him yes, but do you know what you are getting into? He didn’t and, after a little description, he decided it would be a good time to turn around.

We took a little side trip up Pomeroy Mountain (505.2A) to the Pandora Mine and found a very scenic overlook and some interesting old mining equipment. I found it amusing that the miners apparently shopped at Harbor Freight as the old compressor had “Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company” forged on its side.

After our detour, we continued up to Caribou for lunch and to check out the old ruins. When we had finished lunch, we continued onto the Eldorado Mountain section of the trail and took it over to Eldora. We had one somewhat close call on our way down to Eldora. In the middle of the narrow shelf road an overly aggressive dirt bike came flying around a blind corner at about 20 mph. Fortunately, it was at one of the few wider sections and he had just enough room to skirt by me on the drop-off side. If I had been another 100 feet down the trail he probably would have been a hood ornament or gone off the side.

The weather was beautiful with sunshine to partly cloudy in the morning and temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. It clouded up after lunch and we got a few light sprinkles off and on but no heavy rain.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran from south to north in a stock 3rd gen Tacoma. Little hairy in a few muddy spots but got through without any damage.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran Caribou on 8/26/17. 2 stock 3rd gen 4Runners (one with a locker, one without). 3-5 rating is pretty accurate due to inclines getting muddy and the very narrow section in Eldora. A couple spots offered some nice 3 wheel action and 1 - 1.5 feet water. Scenery is gorgeous! There was some disagreement as to which end to start at as we ran in to 1 vehicle starting from Eldora (he had to reverse dow to let 5 down). The narrow section down into Eldora has NOWHERE to turn around or back up if you are going down hill. It would be nice to have a sign to tell people where to start. We ran from Nederland to Eldora and it was awesome until the traffic jam. Camping: there are designated, dispersed camping spots (beautiful ones).

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
A great trail for fall colors. It was a pretty easy ride for the most part on an ATV, but we haven’t been back since 2015 because we felt like there were a lot of fist-sized rocks that kinda jumbled and beat us up with the constant bumble once we dropped into the trees on the other side.

Questions & Answers (0)

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Hi, I'm Ryan! I am a Colorado native and I've been wheeling since I was 16 years old. I grew up with a relentless passion for all things Jeep and off road related, and that passion has never died out. I am a member of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Patrol 16 Sasquatch Jeepers and currently own an '06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (LJ) nicknamed "Minion". I am a huge supporter of Stay the Trail and Tread Lightly, and have participated and even been in charge of many trail restoration projects. I have been a trail leader several times for events such as All-4-Fun, ColoradoFest, Set Them Free, 14er Fest, and other. I am also the creator of the Unlimited LJ Adventure. My rig is built for extreme offroading, but I love to get my tires dirty on any kind of trail whether it's rock crawling or just scenic high Alpine drives. I've wheeled all over the country including Colorado, Utah, Kansas, the Carolinas, AZ, and California. I love a great adventure, and love even more to share those adventures with others. If you see the "minion" out on the trail, make sure to stop and say hello.
For individual use only, not to be shared.