Brainaird Lake Recreation Area is very popular in the area of Indian Peaks Wilderness. The trail to Lake Isabelle is officialy 4.2 miles one-way, although one can backpack beyond Isabelle Glacier into the wilderness area for some first-rate backcountry experience.
From the Long Lake Trailhead, a well-groomed path loosely follows the north shore of Long Lake beneath stately spruce to the first of two connections with the Jean Lunning Trail. The trail undulates mildly to the second Jean Lunning Trail connection, continuing with similar facility through a break in the forest with revealing views of the dramatic upper-valley ahead. It soon re-enters the timber and begins a more deliberate climb in a progressively thinning forest to Lake Isabelle’s lively outlet area.
The stream-crossed, flower-lined trail crests a small ridge and drops gently to Lake Isabelle and Pawnee Pass Trail junction. The lake vicinity is simply gorgeous, and worth exploring in full. The main trail continues on Isabelle’s north shore toward Isabelle Glacier with easy access to innumerable outcrops, viewpoints, and fishing locales. An unmaintained social path circles east and south across its outlet, where you’re likely find a bit more privacy and room to explore.
I did the trail in mid-June 2010 when it snowed two days before. The trail was snow-covered but still do-able, without special equipment if you don't mind getting wet waist-down. The fresh snow and still half-frozen lake added a particular charm to the loveliness of the landscape.
The Long Lake Trailhead is located within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area off of CO 72 (12 miles north of Nederland, just north of the town of Ward).
From Highway 72, turn west on Brainard Lake Road. In 2.6 miles you'll reach a pay station. Use the self-service pay station if no attendant is on duty. The fee is around $5 per vehicle per day. Continue another 3.2 miles on the paved road to the Long Lake Trailhead. This road may be closed at the halfway point from late October through late June or early July (depending on snow).
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