Trail Length: 6.41 miles
Trailhead Elevation: 10,065’
Maximum Elevation: 10,379’
Elevation Change: +314′ net elevation
Trailhead Location: Take Highway 72 to the town of Ward. Just north of Ward turn west of Forest Service Road 102 (Brainard Lake Road) and drive 2.5 miles to the winter closure and parking lot.
Last Sunday I got out with some good friends for my first snowshoe trek of the season. The mountains have been getting plenty of snow already this year so I was excited to get out into the High Country. Brainard Lake is always a nice area and also off the beaten path avoiding the ski traffic into the mountains. The forecast was for some sun and some possible snow showers.
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 there 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 mile longer than taking the road but more scenic as it’s a single track trail through the woods. A view from the parking lot before we headed out.
Heading up through the woods on the trail.
Just a short distance up the trail we passed a small pond. Some views from the pond.
We saw some pretty cool looking ice crystals at the pond as well.
We continued on up the trail. An occasional peak through the trees at the peaks.
The trail continued 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. It was amazingly calm at the lake. This area is normally known to be quite blustery. We sat here and ate our lunch and took in the views. We had lost the little sun we had but still had a nice view of the peaks.
After our lunch, we decided to head back down. There several other trails that head off from Brainard Lake to Mitchell Lake, Blue Lake, Long Lake, and Lake Isabelle. We recently hiked all of those lakes this past summer. You can read about those hikes by clicking on the links on the lake names mentioned. You can also read about my snowshoe hike to Long Lake in 2013 by clicking here.
A comparison photo of Brainard Lake – one shot taken in June of 2016 and the other shot taken on today’s snowshoe trek. Quite a contrast in seasons!
We made a loop and headed back to the parking lot. A small bridge crossing along the way.
The map of our route for the day.
We headed back to Littleton and stopped off at the Morrison Inn in Morrison for some Mexican food before getting back home.