Filterable water available.
I don't get to the mountains as often as I would like, so when I do I hate to get stuck in a commercial campground with a zillion other people.
I was looking for something with some scenery and solitude, but without the hike to get there being more strenuous than my wife would appreciate! (She doesn't have the same level of love for the outdoors I do!)
The Rainbow Lakes Wilderness area is part of the Roosevelt National Forest. The lakes consist of a series of half a dozen small lakes fed by a glacier. The trail up to the lakes is pretty easy, with very little elevation rise.
The first lakes are small and not as scenic, but the last two are in a nice setting.
About three miles in, you'll cross a small creek running down to the south into the lakes. There are a couple of campsites along this creek upstream a few hundred feet. We stayed in this area overnight.
When you get to the end of what seems to be the end of the main trail, not far from that creek, you'll be able to go to the left and up rocks. There is an interesting field of boulders that almost seems to be a spill way. Just west of the field of boulders are the last two lakes. Pick your way west between the two and you'll come to the other camp areas. There are a few fire rings setup around the lakes. I wish we had found these the night before; waking up to the view of the sun on the water would have been fabulous!
We saw just a few other hikers on the trails up and back and no other campers, but we were there Thursday/ Friday. I loved the solitude!
My understanding is that you can continue west on the trail from that point and climb up to the glacier that feeds the lakes. I'm sure the views up there are gorgeous. And being National Forest, you can camp anywhere with a few restrictions.
A couple of final comments;
- you need to get a permit to camp at the hardware store in Nederland.
-Don't try to drive into the area from the south in anything other than a tall 4X4. Coming in from the north was rough but doable in a sedan.
-Although people have made fire rings, fires aren't permited in this part of the national forest.
- Last, please be respectful of the wilderness and practice the Leave No Trace Ethics! These areas deserve to be enjoyed by generations to come!