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Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass

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  • Long Lake Trailhead. Be aware of wildlife in the area, which include moose, mountain lion, bear, and mule deer, among others.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • The trail enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness, one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Wildflowers are plentiful around streams and lakes. These are just east of Lake Isabelle.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Wildflowers are plentiful around streams and lakes.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Wildflowers along the creek feeding Lake Isabelle.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • The trail is rockier and steeper after Lake Isabelle.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Beautiful view of Navajo Peak, Navajo Glacier, Shoshoni Peak, and the tundra above the tree line.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Small alpine lake along the trail.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • The last stretch before Pawnee Pass.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • The ground above tree line offers unusual glimpses of beautiful flowers and an apparent micro-scale forest.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Panoramic view of Navajo Peak and Navajo Glacier, Shoshoni Peak, and the trail up to Pawnee Pass and Pawnee Peak.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Pawnee Pass (12,550 ft).- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Pawnee Peak on the right, Lake Granby in the distance.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • The trail continues from Pawnee Pass to Crater Lake and other locations, with Lake Granby in the distance.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • On the hike down from Pawnee Pass, a great view of Long Lake, Lefthand Reservoir, and Brainard Lake.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
  • Bird's-eye view of Long Lake (on the left) and a partially drained Lake Isabelle.- Long Lake, Lake Isabelle + Pawnee Pass
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful alpine scenery. Wildflowers.
Cons: 
Small parking lot at the trailhead. Lake Isabelle may not be full.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,032.00 ft (619.35 m)
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Summer
Total Distance: 
9.00 mi (14.48 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
10,518.00 ft (3,205.89 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

Along with several other wonderful trails, the hike to Long Lake, Lake Isabelle, and Pawnee Pass starts at Brainard Lake Recreation Area just an hour's drive from Boulder. At 9 miles round-trip with just over 2,000 feet in elevation gain, this is a moderate hike that passes through subalpine forests, alpine lakes, and offers fantastic views of the Indian Peaks and the tundra above the tree line.

Starting at Brainard Lake, there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, especially given the healthy population of moose in the area. While there is a parking lot at the Long Lake Trailhead, it is very small; it is best to arrive well before 7 a.m., especially on weekends. If this lot is full, there is usually plenty of space in the day use parking area at Brainard Lake, though that adds about a mile each way to the hike.

Long Lake is only a quarter of a mile away on an easy hike with little elevation gain. Once there, take a moment to enjoy the view from the bridge over the South Saint Vrain Creek on the east end of the lake. The trail continues through subalpine forest as it proceeds into the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Lake Isabelle is almost 2 miles ahead. Wildflowers around streams and around the lake add color to the beautiful views of the Indian Peaks in the background, most notably Navajo, Apache and Shoshoni Peaks, with Navajo Glacier being visible from the trail. Note that the lake is in the Boulder watershed, so it is often drained in late summer to feed Lefthand Reservoir.

After Lake Isabelle the trail is rockier and steeper, but the views make the hike well worth it. As the trail zigzags through the rocky outcrops it offers wonderful views of the lakes to the east and Indian Peaks to the west. Above the tree line, take time to look at the micro-scale forest on the tundra. 

Pawnee Pass, on the continental divide, is 12,550 feet above sea level and marks the border between the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. From that point you can see Lake Granby some 8 miles away, and you can continue the hike north to 12,943-foot Pawnee Peak or west to Crater Lake. 

Note that the gate at the fee station is generally open from Memorial Day until sometime in October, depending on weather conditions. If the gate is closed, it is possible to hike or bike 2.5 miles to Brainard Lake.

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