The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is uniquely set in a glacially carved valley offering visitors spectacular panoramic views of Brainard Lake, surrounding subalpine forest, and high peaks along the Continental Divide. This is arguably the most popular destination on the Boulder Ranger District.
The Area serves as a key gateway to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the most-accessible Wilderness area from the Denver metro area. Only two hours from Denver via I-70 and the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway, the trailheads for Wilderness camping or popular day hikes as well as fishing, camping, picnicking, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other dispersed recreation opportunities both in and outside the Indian Peaks Wilderness all begin in Brainard Lake Recreation Area.
This area uses a timed ticket reservation system to protect it from excessive human impacts, help meet local health department requirements, and facilitate a positive recreation experience.
In celebration of National Public Lands Day, we are waving the fee for Day use (ONLY).
This area uses the timed ticket reservation system to protect it from excessive human impacts, help meet local health department requirements, and facilitate a positive recreation experience.
Visitors arriving by vehicle, multi-passenger van, bus, or motorcycle must have a timed ticket. Tickets are sold online at Recreation.gov or via the mobile app and won’t be sold on-site.
Please arrive at the entry time shown on your timed ticket. You may not enter the area early. After entering, visitors can stay the entire day. Visitors parking overnight must leave by 11 a.m. MT / 1 p.m. ET
Visitors can purchase up to 2 timed tickets per day. One timed ticket per vehicle. Ticket holder must be in the vehicle at time of entry.
America the Beautiful pass holders are still required to purchase a timed ticket and select "Add a Pass" in the cart. The non-refundable $2.00 fee applies. See the full list of valid passes.
Visitors with a Pawnee Campground reservation do not need to purchase a timed ticket to enter, but must show proof of their campground reservation. Parking limited to Pawnee Campground for the duration of the reservation. A separate timed ticket is required to park at other lots in the fee area (including trailheads).
Please have a printed copy of your timed ticket or your confirmation email QR code on a cell phone device available to be scanned at the Welcome Station. All visitors should be prepared to show their photo ID and America the Beautiful pass card if used to obtain a pass discount.
The timed tickets purchased for the duration of the backpacking permit will be validated for the length of that permit upon presentation at the Welcome Station. The vehicle must arrive on the entry date, at the entry time, and be parked in the assigned lot in a parking space designated for overnight use. The timed ticket must be displayed in the vehicle windshield. You must exit the parking area by 11 a.m. MT / 1 p.m. ET on the last day of your permitted trip. Alternatively, IPW overnight permit reservation holders are encouraged to use the free parking at the Gateway Trailhead instead of reserving a timed ticket reservation.
Conditions can change quickly. Regardless of weather conditions at the start of your day, come prepared for: intense sunlight, cold temperatures, snow, hail, rain, extreme wind, and low oxygen levels.
Moose are frequently seen along roads and trails. Black bear and mountain lion also frequent the area. Keep a safe distance. Never block traffic with your car. Follow all CPW ethical viewing tips .
Vehicles parked in day use parking lots must display a valid timed ticket in the vehicle windshield. Park only in designated parking spaces. Visitors must abide by all regulations .
The Gateway Trailhead parking lot – located outside the fee area – allows for ridesharing into Brainard Lake Recreation Area. CAUTION: Please watch for pedestrians and bicycles on all roadways.
Visitors are encouraged to use hiking trails to access the area from the Gateway Trailhead. Cyclists: watch for pedestrian traffic on roads and trails that allow bicycles outside of Wilderness.
For additional information about Brainard Lake Recreation Area, please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/brainard
We will not be processing reservations, issuing refunds, or collecting fees for entry at Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Please have a printed copy of your timed ticket available to be checked at the Welcome Station or displayed in the windshield of your vehicle so that it can be validated. A digital version of your confirmation email with QR code will also be accepted for validation at the Welcome Station after 6:00am MT.
4382 Brainard Lake Road Ward CO 80481