Brainard Lake is surrounded by subalpine forest set in a glacially-carved valley. The peaks of the Continental Divide loom to the west. With a wide variety of year-round outdoor recreation opportunities available, Brainard Lake Recreation Area (BLRA) is the most popular destination on the Boulder Ranger District. Developed camping allowed at Pawnee Campground.
Hiking trails to the west of the BLRA enter into the Indian Peaks Wilderness and trails can be snow packed until early or mid July. Check trail conditions before visiting. Visitors that hike trails leading west from the Long Lake or Mitchell Lake Trailhead, are responsible for following all Indian Peaks Wilderness Regulations and permit requirements.
Recreational shooting closures exist in this area. Hunting is allowed in accordance with regulations set by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Click here for more information.
Because of the area's high elevation, motor vehicle access to Brainard Lake is not available year round. Opening and closing dates vary each year (approximately mid-June through mid-October.) When the gate is closed, park at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead. For current information on road openings and closures, check the Road Status Table.
Moose may be present in the area. Be considerate of all wildlife. Approaching closely can be threatening to the wildlife and their reactions are dangerously unpredictable.
At a Glance
||The Brainard Lake Road is open to the main parking area just east of Brainard Lake. Due to adverse trail conditions, trailhead lots typically remain closed until the end of June. "Summer Regulations" apply.
|Rentals & Guides:
||Colorado Mountain Club Brainard Cabin
||Brainard Lake Recreation Area fees apply during the summer operating season (typically mid-June through mid-October):
Interagency Annual, Military, Senior or Access passes, Golden Age and Golden Access passes are accepted. No fee is charged when the seasonal gate is closed (winter season).
- Passenger Vehicles & RVs (per vehicle/3 days): $10
- Vans (per vehicle/1 day): $25
- Buses (per vehicle/1 day): $40
- Motorcycles (per cycle/3 days): $5
- Hiker/Biker/Walker (per person/3 days): $1
- Short-term Bicyclist: 30 minute free pass
- American Land & Leisure Season Pass (passenger vehicles): $55
- American Land & Leisure Season Pass (hiker/biker/walker): $20
||Mid July through August
- Prohibited: Pack animals (horses/llamas); recreational shooting (except for legal hunting) and being on trails posted as closed.
- Brainard Lake Recreation Area Summer Season (May 1 - Nov 14): Dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times; when open, developed camping is only allowed at Pawnee Campground (no camping in closed campgrounds); dispersed camping is only allowed north of the South St Vrain Creek.
- Brainard Lake Recreation Area Winter Season (Nov 15 - Apr 30): Motorized vehicles are prohibited; dogs allowed only on the Brainard Lake and Lefthand Park Reservoir Roads; camping is prohibited within 1/4 mile of developed recreation sites except Red Rock Lake; skis only on Little Raven and CMC Ski Trail.
- Fishing and Hunting: Permitted in accordance with regulations established by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
||Concessionaire: American Land & Leisure
||Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Ave, Boulder, CO 80301, Phone 303-541-2500, Fax 303-541-2515; Contact Us
From Colorado Highway 72 at Ward, turn west onto the Brainard Lake Road. Travel 2.5 miles to the Brainard Gateway Trailhead, and continue another two miles to Brainard Lake. The entrance station is open seasonally.