The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is set in a glacially-carved valley and the high peaks of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area 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.
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.
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.
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 trail conditions improve. "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):
American Land & Leisure Season Pass (passenger vehicles): $55
American Land & Leisure Season Pass (hiker/biker/walker): $20
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).
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.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a good side-trip for road cyclists. It is approximately five miles west from Colorado Highway 72 at Ward to reach Brainard Lake. A scenic overlook at the east end of Brainard Lake offers a spectacular view of the lake, surrounding forest, and peaks of the Continental Divide. A $1 per person fee applies to those riding bicycles into the recreation area during the summer operating season. Restrooms, drinking water and trash services are provided at Brainard Lake.
Mountain biking is allowed on certain trails within and adjacent to Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Bikes are permitted on the CMC, Waldrop, South Saint Vrain and Sourdough Trails, Left Hand Park Reservoir Road and all paved roads. Trails leading west from Brainard Lake Recreation Area enter the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, where all mechanized recreation is prohibited.
Easy to Intermediate
Camping & Cabins
Recreation areas with activity Campground Camping:
Pawnee Campground provides camping opportunities at Brainard Lake Recreation Area.
River and Stream Fishing
Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:
Brainard Lake is surrounded by subalpine forest set in a glacially-carved valley. The craggy peaks of the continental divide provide a spectacular backdrop for visitors to enjoy. With a wide variety of year-round outdoor recreation opportunities available, Brainard Lake Recreation Area is the most popular destination on the Boulder Ranger District.
Unless seasonal restrictions are in effect, campfires must be attended at all times and cold to the touch with the bare hand before being abandoned. Collection of dead and down wood is allowed; do not break branches from standing trees for firewood.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area is among the premier destinations for non-motorized winter recreation along the Front Range. The Brainard Gateway Trailhead is located 2.5 miles west of Colorado Highway 72, at the seasonal closure gate on Brainard Lake Road. From here, the Waldrop Trail, Sourdough Trail, South Saint Vrain Trail and Left Hand Park Reservoir Road are accessible to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Snowshoe trail is not restricted to snowshoers only, however it is not well-designed for skiing. The CMC Trail and Little Raven Trail are restricted to skiers only. Dogs are prohibited on all single track trails in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area except for Sourdough Trail from November 15 - April 30.