Pawnee Pass hike

Indian Peaks
View Photos

Pawnee Pass hike

Distance: 10.0mi
Elevation: 1,736ft
Time: 5-6.5h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
10 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

This is a burly hike that can be done as either a long day-hike, or it can be stretched out into a multi-day backcountry camping trip, with access to the Continental Divide. There’s lots of elevation to be gained, so be prepared.

Pawnee Pass hike Map

Getting there

From Boulder, drive to and through the town of Ward. Turn right onto CO-72 then quickly turn left onto Brainard Lake Rd. Go through the pay gate heading to Long Lake Trailhead.

I’ve done this 4 people have done this
I want to do this 18 want to do this route

About

When to do

Early June to Late September

Backcountry Campsites

Yes at Pawnee Campground

Toilets

Yes

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Out and back


Pawnee Pass
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Pawnee Pass hike

Pawnee Pass Trail starts from the Long Lake Trailhead. From the trailhead, you will gradually ascend through the forest until you reach Long Lake. At Long Lake the views open up and you should be able to see Isabelle Glacier and the surrounding Indian Peaks.

You will understand why it is called Long Lake as you continue to hike along the shore further back into the mountains. Past Long Lake, the trail gains elevation, and slowly ascends above the tree line.

It is at the junction for Isabelle Glacier and Pawnee Pass when the trail turns uphill. A steep switchback section rises high above Lake Isabelle. This section is challenging, but the views make it totally worth the effort.

Once above the tree line, you will find yourself on a flat alpine meadow with a breathtaking view of the Front Range. Catching your breath on this flat section, you are faced with the next challenge, the rocky switchbacks over the Continental Divide.

Closer to the top of the Pass, the trail will level off until you reach the top of Pawnee Pass. A wooden sign and a windbreak shelter designate the dividing line of the Continental Divide at an elevation of 12550ft. This is also the turnaround point for the day hike.

It is worth the few hundred feet to peak over the edge to the other side. Looking down you’ll see the Pawnee Pass trail continue on to the West side of the divide. The path back is the same one you came in on.

Insider Hints

  • An annual National Park Pass is accepted at the gate, otherwise Brainard Lake Recreation Area is Cash Only ($11 per Passenger Vehicle).

  • Gate Fees and more information can be found here.

  • Set out on this hike early to avoid the chance of getting caught in an afternoon or evening storm.

Comments

To add rating to your comment you need to log In or sign up.

Lisa B 2 months ago

I really enjoyed turning Pawnee Pass into a backcountry trip and taking more time to enjoy the beauty of the park!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
1 Comment

Similar hikes to the Pawnee Pass hike

Lake Isabelle Trail

Difficulty:
9.4mi
1161ft
4-6h

This hike needs to be done in the morning because being one of the best trails in the Indian Peaks…

Lake Dorothy

Difficulty:
7.5mi
1949ft
4-6h

This hike through the Indian Peaks has an awesome reward: Lake Dorothy. Lake Dorothy is a beautiful alpine lake at…

Arapaho Glacier Trail

Difficulty:
13mi
2792ft
5-7h

The hike on this high alpine trail leads you to an overlook of Arapaho Glacier and one of the best…