Located off the iconic Peak to Peak Highway (Colorado Highway 72), north of the funky town of Nederland, the U.S. Forest Service's Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a popular destination for hikers, anglers, cyclists, climbers, campers and picnicking families. There are a number of lakes and reservoirs in the area including Mitchell and Blue Lakes, the hike to which is likely the most scenic.
An easy/moderate hike of under 6 miles round trip, the views of Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake — with a few small unnamed lakes along the way — are beautiful and offer great photo opportunities. During hike there earlier this week, I even encountered an adult and juvenile moose, just feet from the trail. (Never fear...we stayed a respectful distance away, took a bunch of pictures and they eventually crossed the trail and continued on their way.)
How to get there:
There are a few ways to get to the Peak-to-Peak Highway from Colorado Springs, so consult your favorite navigation app. Brainard Lake Road is about 9 miles north of Nederland, just outside the town of Ward. Take Brainard Lake Road as far west as you can go, following the signs for Mitchell Lake. The parking lot there is fairly large, but this trail is popular and the lot can fill up on weekends. Entrance fees do apply in the recreation area during most of the year, but holders of Interagency Annual, Military, Senior or Access passes, Golden Age and Golden Access passes do not have to pay additional entry fees. Dogs must be leashed on all trails.
Outdoors and trail news
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 26 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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