Brainard Lake Recreation Area


Photo showing plenty of snow at Brainard

The Brainard Lake Recreation Area (BLRA) is set in a glacially-carved valley. 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. The high peaks of the Indian Peaks Wilderness loom to the west. The Indian Peaks Wilderness is not part of the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Regulations differ between areas. 

PLEASE NOTE: Visitors that hike trails leading west from the Long Lake or Mitchell Lake Trailheads are responsible for following all Indian Peaks Wilderness regulations and permit requirements.

Developed camping is only allowed at Pawnee Campground (open July through early September).

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. To protect muddy and snowpacked trails, the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking areas do not open typically until late June. Check summer trail conditions (or winter trail conditions) before visiting.

Recreational shooting closures exist year round in this area. Hunting is allowed in accordance with regulations set by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

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 slightly 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.


At a Glance

Current Conditions: The Brainard Lake Road is closed at State Highway 72 from March 12 through June 28, 2018 to all uses 24-hours a day, seven days a week to allow for uninterrupted construction work and a safe work zone. For more information visit
Rentals & Guides: Colorado Mountain Club Brainard Cabin
Fees Brainard Lake Recreation Area CASH OR CHECK ONLY fees apply during the summer operating season (typically mid-June through mid-October):
  • Passenger Vehicles & RVs (per vehicle/3 days): $11
  • Vans (per vehicle/1 day): $27
  • Buses (per vehicle/1 day): $44
  • Motorcycles (per cycle/3 days): $6
  • Hiker/Biker/Walker (per person/3 days): $1
  • Short-term Bicyclist: 30 minute free pass
  • American Land & Leisure Season Pass (passenger vehicles): $60
  • American Land & Leisure Season Pass (hiker/biker/walker): $22
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).
Usage: Heavy
Best 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.
Closest Towns: Ward, Colorado
Water: Drinking Water
Restroom: Vault toilets
Operated By: Concessionaire: American Land & Leisure
Information Center: Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Ave, Boulder, CO 80301, Phone 303-541-2500, Fax 303-541-2515; Contact Us

General Information


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.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



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  Elevation : 
10,050' - 10,600'