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Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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Brainard Lake Recreation Area

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  • View of Apache and Shoshoni Peak from Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Colorado's Front Range from Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Colorado's Front Range from Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Day use picnic area on the east side of Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Day use picnic area on the east side of Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Niwat Picnic Area on Brainard Lake's southwestern shore.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Niwat Picnic Area on Brainard Lake's southwestern shore.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • View looking north from Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • View looking east from Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Moose (Alces alces) near Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Niwat Picnic Area on Brainard Lake's southwestern shore.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Parking area at Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • View of Apache Peak (13,441 ft) and Shoshoni Peak (12,967 ft) from Long Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Red Rock Lake, Brainard Lake Recreation Area.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Red Rock Lake, Brainard Lake Recreation Area.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Blue Lake and Mount Toll (12,979 ft).- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Pawnee Campground adjacent to Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Pawnee Campground adjacent to Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
  • Pawnee Campground adjacent to Brainard Lake.- Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Alpine lake wonderland. Camping. Extensive cross-country skiing trail system.
Cons: 
Short summer season due to snowpack.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

Nestled high in the sub-alpine forest next to the Continental Divide, Brainard Lakes Recreation Area offers a wealth of wonder that shifts with the seasons. Most visitors come in summer when wildflowers bloom to enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, picnicking, wildlife watching, and horseback riding. Temperatures are crisp during fall and spring when areas become open for hunting. Winter brings loads of snow, which is perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Roads close during winter, but the parking area at Brainard Gateway Trailhead remains accessible. It is 2 miles to Brainard Lake from there.

There are over 20 miles of trails crisscrossing throughout the recreation area. By heading west (see Mitchell Lake + Blue Lake or Pawnee Pass), you enter Indian Peaks Wilderness--a backpacking destination where challenging trails straddle the Continental Divide. When hiking in the recreation area or in the wilderness area, wildlife encounters are common. This area is known for its moose, which should be admired only from a safe distance.

Though named for the large Brainard Lake (technically a reservoir), the area actually boasts several lakes, all with their own unique character. These have been carved out within the glacier-swept valley. Talus fields surrounding the upper lakes testify to ongoing erosion. The dramatic backdrop of rugged ice and rock are 12,000 and 13,000-foot peaks, including the especially jagged Apache and Shoshoni Peaks.

Pawnee Campground is the developed camping area, and it is right on the shores of Brainard Lake. It has 40 sites open to tents or RVs and provides toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, water, and trash service. There are no RV hookups or dump stations. Sites are reservable by calling 1.877.444.6777.

Making reservations is not a bad idea, because this campground is in high demand during the short summer season. It is only guaranteed to be open July through Labor Day. Call the Boulder Ranger District office at 303.541.2500 for information.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(13 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(100 within a 30 mile radius)

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