Brainard Gateway Trailhead


Image of the gateway parking lot for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area

The Brainard Gateway Trailhead is located two miles east of Brainard Lake and is the entry point for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. The trailhead area features a seasonal gate, large parking area, warming hut, bathrooms, fee station and self-service fee area. For road closures, check the Road Status Table. Check the current weather forecast before visiting.

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

Late-June through mid-October (summer operating season):

  • Summer Season Map
  • Motor vehicle access is available 24 hours a day
  • To protect muddy and snowpacked trails, the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking areas do not open typically until late June
  • A fee applies. A self-service fee station is located beyond the entry booth
  • Expect 1-2 hour traffic delays on weekends (there is no bypass route for campers with reservations)
  • Camping is allowed at Pawnee Campground (open July through early September).
  • Check summer trail conditions before your visit
  • See "Restrictions" below for additional regulations

Mid-October through late June (winter season):

  • Winter Season Map
  • The gate is closed and the area free of charge for winter recreationists
  • Park at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead for snowshoe and ski access
  • Between November 15 and April 30, dogs are only allowed on the Brainard Lake and Lefthand Park Reservoir Roads
  • Check winter trail conditions before your visit
  • See "Restrictions" below for additional regulations

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. 

At a Glance

Operational Hours:
  • Summer Operating Season: The seasonal gate, located at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead, is open from approximately late June through mid-October. Once conditions permit, the gate is open 24 hours/day. When the fee booth is not staffed, visitors are expected to use the self-service fee station on the north side of the entry portal.
  • Winter Operating Season: Fees are not charged during the winter operating season. Winter recreationists can park at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead to access area cross country ski and snowshoe trails. Never block any gate with your vehicle, whether open or closed.
Fees Parking at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead is free year round. For those traveling further west during the summer operating season (typically late June through mid-October) Brainard Lake Recreation Area CASH OR CHECK ONLY fees apply. No fee is charged when the seasonal gate is closed (winter season).
Usage: Heavy
  • 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.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Fishing and Hunting: Permitted in accordance with regulations established by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
Closest Towns: Ward, Colorado
Water: No drinking water
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace principles
Operated By: Concessionaire: American Land & Leisure
Information Center: Boulder Ranger District; 303-541-2500; Contact Us

General Information

Directions: From Colorado Highway 72 at Ward, turn west onto the Brainard Lake Road. Travel 2.5 miles to the entrance portal.



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