Trail Length: 8.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation: 10,080’
Maximum Elevation: 10,674’
Elevation Change: +594′ net elevation
Trailhead Location: Take Highway 72 to the town of Ward. Just north of Ward turn west on Forest Service Road 102 (Brainard Lake Road) and drive 2.5 miles to the winter closure and parking lot.
We’ve done quite a bit of hiking this winter season at the lower elevations but haven’t been up to the High Country for any snowshoeing so I was itching to get up into the higher elevation for something different. I called a good friend of mine to see if he was up for a snowshoe trek this past Sunday. He was game so we decided to head up to the Indian Peak Wilderness near Ward, Colorado. The Brainard Lake area is a beautiful area and offers many trails.
We headed out of Littleton around 8:30am and headed up towards Nederland and Ward. The forecast called for some light snow and wind. The Brainard Lake area is known for its windy conditions. We arrived at the trailhead a little after 10:00am and headed out on the trail around 10:20am. In the summer you can drive up to Brainard Lake and start off from their on one of the many trails into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. However, in the winter the road is closed 2.5 miles from the lake and you must park and walk/snowshoe the additional distance to get to Brainard. You can opt to snowshoe the road or take the Colorado Mountain Club Snowshoe Trail through the woods. We opted for the snowshoe trail. The trail is 0.75 miles longer than taking the road but more scenic as it’s a single track trail through the woods. The start of the trail.
Just a short distance up the trail we passed a small pond and then came to Red Rocks Lake. We cut across the corner of the lake and continued up the snowshoeing trail.
The trail continues on up for 1.5 miles, crossed the road, and continued on up another 1 mile to the east shore of Brainard Lake at 10,360’. We arrived at the lake around 11:35am. We had been protected from the wind in the trees, but once we got to the lake, it was quite blustery.
After a short break at Brainard Lake, we decided to continue up the road on the north side of the lake and head up to the Long Lake Trailhead. After hiking another 0.5 miles, we arrived at the Long Lake Trailhead (3.0 miles total from the parking lot). The trailhead sits at 10,515’. The signs always give you a good perspective of just how deep the snow really is.
A view of Little Pawnee Peak from the trailhead.
From the trailhead, it’s only 0.25 miles to the east shore of Long Lake. Heading on up the trail to Long Lake.
It only took us about 9 minutes to get to the lake. We reached the boundary of the Indian Peaks Wilderness right before the lake.
From here you make take the Jean Lunning Trail around the south side of the lake or continue to the right on the north shore of the lake.
We continue to the north and soon came to the east inlet of the lake.
A couple of shots looking west across the lake.
The sun was trying briefly to peak through the clouds. You can see a bright spot hitting the side of the mountain.
We decided to continue up along the lake. It was easier to snowshoe along the lake itself than to try to find the trail. There was no one else up this far. In fact, we had only seen a couple of other people on the lower section of the trail between the parking lot and Brainard Lake. We saw no fresh tracks after having left Brainard Lake. We arrived at the west shore of Long Lake and contemplated continuing on up to Lake Isabelle. It was around 1:00pm and we figured we probably had another 1.25 miles to get to Lake Isabelle and it was quite windy and blustery so we decided to loop around to the south shore of Long Lake and head back. A shot looking back east across Long Lake.
My friend, John, crossing heading back along the lake. It looks quite desolate out on lake!
The winds were gusting and at times it was practically white-out conditions.
We arrived back at the east inlet. Here’s a picture of a small footbridge that crosses the inlet. The bridge is pretty much filled in with snow.
The snow was starting to pick up some.
Another shot near the inlet.
Here’s another perspective of how deep the snow was.
We stopped at a picnic table at the Long Lake Trailhead to eat our lunch and then headed back down to Brainard Lake and on back to the parking lot, arriving around 3:15pm.
We headed back down into the small mountain town of Nederland and stopped at the Wild Mountain Smoke House and Brewery for a couple of beers and some BBQ chicken, beef, and pulled pork sliders before heading back to Littleton!