Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
1,030.00 ft (313.94 m)
Trail type
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Towering at nearly 11,000 feet in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Lake Isabelle is one of the prettiest lakes in Colorado. While this might seem like a stretch, Lake Isabelle is surrounded by Apache Peak and several other peaks above 13,000 feet. Although this hike is a Gem in itself, for those who dare make the adventure, watching the sunrise at the banks of the lake is a one-of-a-kind experience. Hiking to the lake is not an easy task especially in the winter, but completely worth it especially for those searching for a magical sunrise. Before you begin the hike you need to make sure you have some essential gear: including proper footwear, preferably winter or hiking boots with wool socks, an insulated jacket, windbreaker, warm baselayer, crampons or microspikes, a map, and snowshoes depending on what part of winter you are hiking. 

While hiking in the winter be sure to bring the proper amount of food and water because it will be hard to find running streams or lakes due to the cold temperatures. Despite all of the precautions hiking in the winter is amazing and gives you the chance to experience trails in peace and quiet in a snowy wonderland. For the winter you will have to park at the lower lot outside of the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, from here you will walk on the road all the way to the beginning of the trailhead. 

Finally, when you have everything packed and ready, it is time to hit the trail. For the first two and a half miles, you have the option to either follow the road or the snowshoe trail to get to the trailhead. For those who are aiming to start early and catch the sunrise, I recommend that you follow the road you will find that it is much quicker because you do not have to worry about trudging through the snow. Whichever path you choose the views are amazing passing through forest and alpine lakes that are frozen for the winter. 

While on the road you will see both Red Rock Lake at the beginning of the trail and Brainard Lake about a mile in. After you get off the road and to the trailhead find a bench or place to sit and here is the best time to put on your microspikes or snowshoes. From here for the rest of the trail, everything should be covered in snow and the trail will be tough to follow in some spots so be sure to bring something to aid navigation. At the beginning of this part of the trail, you will walk along the bank of Long Lake for about half a mile then proceed to ascend up the mountain. At this point, you will most likely be unable to see the trail and have to follow footsteps from other hikers on the trail. If you do happen to find yourself venturing off the trail, or unable to find a trail, do not be afraid to make your own trail. With your map follow what you think is most likely the trail and keep Lake Isabell as an end goal in mind, so as long as you are making your way to the lake then do not worry. 

After you make it out of the lower valley and somewhat above the tree line it will become more apparent as to where the lake is. At this point, you will be able to walk in the frozen riverbed or on the side of the trail that follows along the banks of the lake. When you get to the top be sure to take your time and take in the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. Then once you get a chance take out your phone or camera and take some pictures of the surrounding peaks and lake as the sun rises above the horizon. Once you have regained your energy and got all the pictures that you want, you can proceed on the trail and attempt to summit up to Isabelle glacier that is about two miles further on the trail or get ready to head back down the mountain. 

On your way down be sure to take your time and watch your step so that you can avoid a fall that could result in an injury. Also while on your way down, there are several other lakes along the hike that offer the perfect destination for pictures and views of the surrounding mountains. While hiking back you will pass Long, Brainard, and Red Rock Lake that offer amazing views and picture opportunities. If you are not in the mood then you will be able to see these lakes from the road while you continue to make your way back to the lot. While on the trail be sure to practice leaving no trace, so make sure that you are not leaving your trash or harming the forest and animals. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Alpine Lake. Tall Mountains.


Route can be hard to find depending on the snowfall.

Trailhead Elevation

10,009.00 ft (3,050.74 m)

Highest point

10,968.00 ft (3,343.05 m)


Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Family friendly
Backcountry camping

Typically multi-day


Permit required




Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.