Pawnee Pass Trail


Photo of the Pawnee Pass Trail in August with a flowers and large rocks

The first quarter mile of the Pawnee Pass Trail to Long Lake is a very heavily used trail. The trail enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness shortly after leaving the trailhead, and continues along Long Lake as a wide and fairly flat trail. West of Long Lake, Jean Lunning Trail  intersects on the left, looping back toward the trailhead.

The Pawnee Pass Trail continues up the valley at a gentle grade through wooded terrain. It makes a short climb to Lake Isabelle, which sits just below tree line.

The Pawnee Pass Trail turns right (north) and climbs on a graded switchback trail. The trail first crosses a couple creeks and circles under a ridge above Lake Isabelle. It gains a wide bench above tree line by a series of short switchbacks. Another steep switchback pitch often holds snow late into the summer and leads to the top of Pawnee Pass (elevation 12,541').

The Cascade Creek Trail continues west from Pawnee Pass.

Click here for a trail description.

At a Glance

Fees Brainard Lake Recreation Area fees apply during the summer operating season (typically mid/late-June through late September).
Permit Info: This trail lies within the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area:
  • Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone from May 1 through November 30.
  • Organized groups are required to have a permit for both camping and day-hiking year round.
Usage: Heavy
Best Season: Best season for hiking is July - October. Special equipment may be needed during other months (e.g.
Restrictions: Indian Peak Wilderness restrictions apply:
  • Camping is prohibited on this trail from May 1 through Nov 30.
  • Motorized and mechanized vehicles are prohibited.
  • Pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times.
  • Campfires prohibited.
  • Campsites must be at least 100 feet away from water and trail.
  • Group size is limited to 12.
  • Packstock (horses, llamas etc.) are prohibited.
Fishing and hunting: permitted in accordance with regulations established by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife. 
Closest Towns: Ward, Colorado
Water: Lakes and streams; treat water for drinking.
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace principles
Operated By: U.S. Forest Service
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 entrance portal, and continue another three miles to Long Lake Trailhead.



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Day Hiking

This trail is within the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. It is one of the most popular trails on the Boulder Ranger District. It heads up the scenic South Saint Vrain Creek valley, framed by Niwot Ridge and Pawnee and Shoshone peaks of the Continental Divide. Destinations include Long Lake, Lake Isabelle and Pawnee Pass. This trail intersects Jean Lunning Trail and Isabelle Glacier Trail.
Fire InformationCampfires are prohibited year-round.
Elevation descThe first two miles are easy, gaining an average of 200 feet per mile. The last 2.6 miles are much steeper, gaining a total of 1,400 feet.
Difficulty Level: Easy to Difficult

Nature Viewing

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Areas & Activities

Campgrounds At-A-Glance


  Area/Length : 
Long Lake Trailhead to: Long Lake - 0.2 miles; Jean Lunning Trail - 1.2; Lake Isabelle - 2.1 miles;

  Elevation : 
10,500' - 12,541'