The Brainard Lake Trails are easily some of our favorite winter trails in Colorado. Here’s more info to help you on your journey.
Trailhead: Brainard Gateway Trailhead
Parking at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead is free year round. For those traveling further west during the summer operating season (typically mid June through late October) Brainard Lake Recreation Area fees apply.
Activities: Hiking, Snowshoeing, X-Country Skiing
Closest City / Town: Nederland, Colorado (Closest town is Ward)
- From Colorado Highway 72 just north of Ward, turn west onto the Brainard Lake Road.
- Travel 2.5 miles to the entrance portal. The Brainard Gateway Trailhead parking area will be on your right-hand side.
Hiking Distance: 5.3 miles (roundtrip)
Brainard Lake Rec Area is one of our favorite Colorado winter trail spots because there are so many loops and hiking options. If you enjoy a relatively rolling hiking experience, then you should definitely tackle the 5.3-mile loop that incorporates the Sourdough, South St. Vrain, and Waldrop Trails.
From the trailhead, head north on the Sourdough Trail for 1.2 miles. Take a left (heading west) on the South St. Vrain Trail. After 2.1 miles, head left (south) toward the Waldrop Trail. Follow Waldrop just over 2 miles until you reach the Brainard Gateway TH.
The Brainard Gateway Trailhead is the entry point to Brainard Lake Recreation Area and Brainard Lake Trails system. Located two miles east of Brainard Lake, the Brainard Gateway Trailhead area features a seasonal gate, large parking area, warming hut, and bathrooms.
During the winter season, the seasonal gate is closed. Park here for snowshoe and ski access to the Sourdough, South Saint Vrain, Waldrop, CMC, Snowshoe and Little Raven trails. It is approximately two miles from this parking area to Brainard Lake. Dogs are only allowed on the Sourdough Trail, Brainard Lake Road, and Lefthand Park Reservoir Road.
Hiking trails to the west of the Rec Area enter into the Indian Peaks Wilderness. 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.
Contact Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Ave, Boulder, CO 80301, Phone 303-541-2500, for more info.