The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is the most popular destination on the Boulder Ranger District. Because of the area's high elevation, the best time to visit is after the snow melts in July and August. For road status, check the Road Status Table.
PLEASE NOTE: Visitors that hike trails leading west from the Long Lake or Mitchell Lake Trailheads are responsible for following all Indian Peaks Wilderness permit requirements and regulations including group size, camping and campfire restrictions.
Late June through mid-October (summer operating season):
Summer Season Map Motor vehicle access is available 24 hours a day To protect muddy and snowpacked trails, the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking areas do not open typically until late June A fee applies. A self-service fee station is located beyond the entry booth Expect 1-2 hour traffic delays on weekends (there is no bypass route for campers with reservations) Camping is allowed at Pawnee Campground (open July through early September). Check summer trail conditions before your visit See "Restrictions" below for additional regulations Mid-October through late June (winter season):
Winter Season Map The gate is closed and the area free of charge for winter recreationists Park at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead Between November 15 and April 30, dogs are only allowed on the Brainard Lake and Lefthand Park Reservoir Roads Check winter trail conditions before your visit See "Restrictions" below for additional regulations Recreational shooting closures exist year round in this area. Hunting is allowed in accordance with regulations set by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Moose are present in the area. Be considerate of all wildlife. Approaching closely can be threatening to the wildlife and their reactions are dangerously unpredictable.
Absolutely gorgeous campsite up Boulder Canyon. The atmosphere was serene, the weather was gorgeous (early July), and the campsites were well-maintained. Picnic tables and fire rings included. Some reservable sites have electric hook ups. Phenomenal camping experience all around.
Although not part of the National Park, this beautiful Rec Area shares a large border with one and your Parks Pass will grant your admission. Once inside the park, there are several parking lots and established picnic areas where one can take in the view and perhaps glimpse some elusive wildlife, including Colorado moose.
Trails from the upper parking areas run deep into the park and even have access to the south side of RMNP. There are no 14er's here, but some trails will take you atop 12 and 13 thousand foot peaks. Others follow the glacial streams and lakes uphill to their sources at the foot of the continental divide.
Pawnee campground is first come first serve, but this is also a great day trip spot, as it is closer to Boulder and Denver than Rocky Mountain. Best to get there early: upper lots fill up around 7 a.m. on the weekends and thunderstorms frequently roll in early in the summer afternoons.
This is one of my favorite spots. There are lots of trails nearby, beautiful views everywhere, lots of moose and wildlife in general, and huge pine trees. The road is closed for a good chunk of the year so make sure you check their website for closures!
Beautiful, quiet and lots of wildlife.