Brainard Lake Hike
The Brainard Lake Hike delivers panoramic views of Brainard Lake, Indian Peaks, the Continental Divide and surrounding alpine forests! This popular trail is spectacular in the summer but can be equally enjoyed in the winter as a snowshoeing trail in the off-season.
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- Map Data: ©OpenStreetMap
- Tiles: ©CyclOSM
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Route Description for Brainard Lake Hike
The Brainard Lake Hike in Indian Peaks Wilderness is a versatile adventure that hikers of all skill levels can enjoy year-round. It’s definitely a popular trail! Located just outside the Brainard Lake Recreational Area, the Brainard Lake Winter Lot is free to park, but spots are limited, especially during the summer months, and street parking is prohibited, making it essential to come early and beat the crowds. It’s also important to wear appropriate footwear for this trek—this trail can be muddy! Dogs are permitted between June-October but must remain on leash.
Surprisingly, this excursion delivers some of the area’s most incredible views of the Indian Peaks and Continental Divide without great elevation gain or effort, making it accessible and appealing to adventurers of all capabilities.
The trailhead for Brainard Lake Trail is located directly off the Brainard Lake Winter Carpark on Waldrop Trail. Begin your walk to Brainard Lake by heading north on the Waldrop Trail. About 0.1km in, you will encounter an intersection with the Sourdough Trail—continue straight on the Waldrop Trail. This part of the hike takes you through the dense pine forests, where moose are generally spotted, so be on the lookout!
Follow this trail west, passing over South St. Vrain Creek before arriving at a junction. Here, stay left on Waldrop Trail and continue following signs to Brainard Lake.
In less than a kilometer from the last intersection, turn left onto the Brainard Lake Cutoff Trail. Continue south along the trail as it opens up to Brainard Lake in the foreground of the famous Indian Peaks and the Continental Divide. This area can be super congested due to the awe-inspiring view of the ranges and the Brainard Lake Recreational Area.
Once at the end of Brainard Lake Cutoff Trail, you will arrive at the lake. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the alpine lake and the charming Colorado ranges.
At this point, you can turn left to head to the recreational area, which has camping and washroom facilities or continue your hike by turning right on Brainard Lake Road. This road will follow the curve of the gleaming lake as it guides you around to its south side.
Once on the south side of the lake, you will encounter a junction. Here, veer off Brainard Lake Road onto CMC South Trail, which will guide you back into the beautiful pine forest. This section of the hike is more rugged and muddy, so watch your step. Continue east on this trail until it leads you back to the Brainard Lake Winter Lot, where the hike began.
Located in the Indian Wilderness Peaks, the Brainard Lake and Recreational Area are frequented by locals and tourists alike year-round. But, the incredible views of the craggy mountains and alpine forests are not the only attraction in Brainard Lake;the area has activities to be enjoyed by all! An abundance of hiking and snowshoeing trails, fishing (assuming you have a licence), canoe rentals, swimming and campsites encourages adventurers of all interests to visit this area. The Brainard Lake Hike and recreational area are a must-see when visiting the Indian Wilderness Peaks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you swim in Brainard Lake?
Yes, you can swim in Brainard Lake, though it may be a bit chilly!
Is it free to visit Brainard Lake Recreational Area?
No, a day pass at Brainard Lake Recreational Area typically costs $14 per vehicle. Purchase a pass if you plan on parking in the Recreational Area for the day. A pass is not required for the Brainard Lake Hike as its trailhead is just outside of the Recreational Area.
Insider Hints for Brainard Lake Hike
- Bring a pair of gaiters to protect your hiking shoes from mud when hiking the Brainard Lake Hike.
- In the summer it can be buggy, so be sure to pack some bug spray!
Getting to the Brainard Lake Hike Trailhead
The Brainard Lake Hike begins from the Brainard Lake Winter Parking Lot.
Brainard Lake Hike Elevation Graph
Weather ForecastCheck Area Weather
Brainard Lake Hike Reviews
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