Hike Location: Roosevelt National Forest, Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Geographic Location: northwest of Boulder, CO (40.08095, -105.53491)
Length: 6.2 miles
Difficulty: 7/10 (Moderate/Difficult)
Last Hiked: July 2020
Overview: The back road to Brainard Lake.
Area Information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recarea/?recid=28182
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=823099
Summary Video: (coming August 14)
Directions to the trailhead: From Boulder, take SR 119 west 16.5 miles to the town of Nederland. At the center of Nederland, take the second exit from the traffic circle to begin heading north on SR 72. Drive SR 72 north 11.5 miles to the signed entrance road for Brainard Lake, which is located on the left just past the town of Ward. Turn left and drive the paved Brainard Lake entrance road 2.5 miles to the signed Gateway Trailhead parking area on the right. Park here.
The hike: Established in 1902, Roosevelt National Forest comprises 813,799 mountainous acres east of the Continental Divide in northern Colorado's Front Range. The forest was originally part of the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve that today comprises large sections of southeastern Wyoming, but it was renamed Colorado National Forest in 1910 and renamed again in 1932 to honor President Theodore Roosevelt, an early leader in conservation. In some sense the forest forms a shield for adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park, but it has some interesting and scenic destinations in its own right.
One of the forest's most popular and scenic areas is Brainard Lake. The charming sub-alpine lake sits at the base of the Continental Divide, yet it is only 45 minutes from downtown Boulder. Visitors can drive to Brainard Lake, but that option requires a large entrance fee, plus the lake's popularity means that the parking lots around the lake fill up quickly. Thus, a better way to get to Brainard Lake is to hike the 6.2 mile out-and-back described here. This hike has the additional advantage of letting you see some classic high-elevation Colorado pine forest up close and personal.
|Brainard Gateway Trailhead|
|Hiking through the pines|
|Rough section of trail|
|Mount Audubon across the meadow|
|South St. Vrain Creek|
|Starting the final leg|