Summer in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is filled with a lot of hiking opportunities. Among them, is the trail to Mitchell Lake, which sits at the base of Mt. Audubon and has breathtaking views of Mt. Audubon, Paiute Peak, Mt. Toll and Pawnee Peak.
What Makes It Great
After you have gained access to the recreation area, you have a few options available, depending on when you arrive. During the Summer months, this area is very busy so it is recommended to arrive early if you wish to park at the trailhead. Otherwise, you will have to park at the Day-Use area located 2 miles west of the Entrance Station. Hiking to Mitchell Lake, if you park at the trailhead, is approximately 1.0 mile to the lake. If you have to park at the Day-Use parking area, that will add another 1.0 mile to your trek to Mitchell Lake. Round-trip distances as follows: Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking lot: 2.0 miles Brainard Lake Day-Use Parking lot: 4.0 miles Winter snow typically remains until late July, so be prepared to hike through puddles, muddy areas, across snow banks and cross streams flowing strong from snow melt. (Note: If you wish to hike to Blue Lake, beyond Mitchell Lake, you will encounter plenty of snow, strongly flowing streams (that could make crossing “Two-Log Bridge” difficult) and possibly a lot of “post-holing” through snow en route up to Blue Lake. Best recommended to wait until late July for hikes beyond Mitchell Lake). The Mitchell Lake Trail begins at 10,495ft and will climb up to approximately 10,700 feet at Mitchell Lake. Hydrating is very important at altitude, even when the sky is clouded over!
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers who enjoy a mellow day in the mountains with incredible views: this is your alpine lake! It's good for families, though it may be a little tough for smaller children. Pups love the area too, but please keep them on leash and make sure they will be good with the crowds. This is also a good snowshoe in the winter.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the Metro Denver area, there are a number of roads that will get you to the entrance of Brainard Lake Recreation Area. You can drive to Boulder and take CO Hwy 119 from Boulder up to Nederland, then follow CO Hwy 72 approximately 15 miles North to Ward and the entrance road. From Longmont, you can take CO Hwy 66 to Lyons, then take CO Hwy 7 up to the junction of CO Hwy 72 near Allen’s Park, heading South on CO Hwy 72 approximately 9 miles to the entrance road. Once at the entrance road, you will drive approximately 2.6 miles to the Entrance Station. There is a fee to enter the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, though you can use your National Parks Annual Pass for free entrance or you can pay the daily fee ($10 for most vehicles).