Brainard Lake Rec Area – Mt Audubon Trail

Distance5.74 mi
Elevation Gain1654 feet
*I did not finish this hike
My Time3 hr 21 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownNederland
Food NearbyLeft Hand Stand

So many trail options at Brainard Lake so I thought I would try to climb one of the 13ers. Unfortunately I didn’t make it but it was still a healthy hike with nice views.

Trailhead

The Audubon trailhead is located in the Mitchell Lake parking lot. If you are lucky enough to get a spot there or you can always hike there from the day lot or overflow parking areas. The trailhead starts in the woods and is a nice walk with some good footing and plenty of shade. This lasts for nearly a mile until you find some sweeping switchbacks that begin your climb up to tree line. The views from the switchbacks are pretty nice.

The views of the Indian Peaks while ascending the switchbacks to get to the tree line.

Above the Trees

As you finish the large switchbacks you will find yourself above the treeline and into the tundra. The line of delineation seems to be a large rock field. At this field is also where the trail is really going to change from forest floor to a rock trail. The rocks are an assortment of loose and solid and all shapes and sizes.

The rockfield at the end of the forest that changes the hike from a forest to a rocky tundra.

Once you clear the rock field you will be exposed for the rest of the hike. There are plenty of large Cairns that show you the way but the trail is also pretty easy to follow. The trail is very rocky though from this point forward.

About a half mile on the trail from the top of the hill is a split off for the Beaver Creek Trail. If you stay on the Audubon trail you will have about 2 more miles from this point. From this stage of the hike you are surrounded by tremendous views.

The views looking back to the south from the Audubon trail.

I made it another mile on the trail and came within about a mile and 1000 feet of elevation to making the peak. Some weather moved in and I was really concerned about walking back over the rocks if they got wet. So this is as close I got to Mt. Audubon this trip.

Mt Audubon towers to the right of the photograph still about a mile away. some darker clouds have built up over the peak.

The Loop

While I didn’t finish this hike, there is a popular loop that takes you over the top of Mt. Audubon across the next saddle to Polute Peak and then down to upper Blue Lake and then following the Blue lake trail back down to the Mitchell trailhead. It seems like a really nice loop for those of you who able to take on that physical of a hike. Maybe next year for me.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 5.74 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1654 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 12,177 feet. I was also moving for a total of 3 hours and 21 minutes.

Effort

This one was rough. The rocky terrain made the going very slow and difficult. It was one of the few trails that took about the same amount of time going up as going down because of the loose rocks. Here is the step count from my fitbit.

The step count from today's hike.  17,586 steps according to my fitbit.

Terrain

Lots and lots of rocks. Most of the trail after the first mile is nothing but loose rocks to varying degrees. It took me a long time to navigate the footing and slipped around quite a bit. I would strongly suggest good hiking boots and poles.

Access

The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is located near Ward, Colorado on the Peak to Peak highway (Rte 72) and has several hiking trails, the Pawnee Campground, several lakes and is part of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and the Roosevelt National Forest. There is a $12 day pass rate to get a vehicle in and there are other prices for buses and some yearly passes available on their website. There is an OK amount of parking but it does fill up quick. There are restrooms (pit toilets) near the parking and some picnic area’s spread out as well. The Trailhead is in the Mitchell Lake parking area.

Wrap up

This was a really nice hike but it was a challenge for sure. While I said that I turned around because of weather, that is only half true. The other half is that I was pretty well spent physically. The hike up is a pretty constant upward angle without much flat ground to catch your breath.

I probably should have finished it while I was up there but with some of my other physical ailments I didn’t want to risk walking on wet rocks on the way down. Also, make sure you are ready for the elements when you get to the tundra level. The sun and wind are pretty relentless above you and can add a degree of difficulty to a challenging hike.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes on my interactive map you can find here. If you have comments or suggestions you can always email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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