hiking

views

nature trips

wild flowers

forest

walking

birding

wildlife

dog friendly

trail running

river

snowshoeing

mountain biking

waterfall

horseback riding

kid friendly

camping

skiing

off road driving

lake

snowboarding

rock climbing

backpacking

fly fishing

scenic driving

hiking
14 hours ago

hiking
18 hours ago

While the trail gets a definite 5 for beauty there are other unacceptable issues that bring this rating down to a 3, and that is the situation with the parking and road to the trailhead and the unfair way the hosting company (Am. Land and Leisure I thinik is still hosting here) has decided to deal with a parking shortage problem. I drove some friends to Brainard Lake area to hike the trail to Mitchell Lake with some of us continuing on to Blue Lake. Some were weak hikers so I confirmed in advance with the forest service that the road to the trailhead was open before driving there. We planned to drop the group off at the trailhead if the parking lot was full, then I would park lower down and catch up to the main group. When we got there the management staff refused to let anyone drive to the Mitchell Lake trailhead since the lot was full. They said if they let us drive to the trailhead, they would have to let everyone, and they might park illegally. Consequently we all had to walk from Brainard Lake parking lot, which made for problems for our group that could have been avoided I strongly object to their insistence on banning traffic to the trailhead if the lot is full. This puts an undue hardship on weaker hikers who would love to see that lake and can walk 2 miles but who aren't strong enough to walk nearly 4 miles. Instead of punishing weak hikers for rule breakers who might cause environmental damage by parking illegally, it seems like management could easily find a way that is more fair.

hiking
22 hours ago

hiking
22 hours ago

This was a moderately strenuous hike with a really good payoff if your destination is the lower lake (just over 3 miles), and an exceptional payoff if you're willing to endure a rather steep mile and a half after crossing a substantial creek (deeper and wider than the creek you'll encounter on your way up to the lower lake). This has become really popular, I suspect in part because the trailhead is fairly easy to access even for 2WD vehicles (the 9 mile drive in from Hwy 62 has amazing and unique views almost the entire time), and also because word has spread that the destination is remarkable. I arrived at 6am and unfortunately embarked just ahead of two really chatty hikers. After letting them pass and get ahead of me, I did not encounter anyone else until I arrived at the lower lake around 7:30am. There were several groups camping, so I went ahead and crossed the creek and headed up to the upper lakes, arriving at the second lake around 8:15, and was above the upper lake by 8:30. I found a spot off the trail and spent two hours admiring the splendor without encountering another person (hikers familiar with Kelvin Kent's "Ouray Hiking Guide" are encouraged to follow his suggestion for a secluded spot with a bonus view). I began the return hike around 10:30, encountering three groups before I crossed back over the creek just before the lower lake, and no less than two dozen groups on my way back down between the lower lake and the parking lot that was overflowing. Given this was a weekday with predicted rains, I can imagine it is chaotic on weekends. Crossing the first creek was definitely easier because I was wearing waterproof hiking boots, but people willing to take off their shoes and walk across the creek wouldn't really need boots if their destination is the lower lake e. I was *very* glad I had boots and a walking staff for the steep ascent to the upper lakes.

off road driving
1 day ago

hiking
2 days ago

off road driving
2 days ago

The views are terrific, but this hike is not for the faint of heart. It is VERY poorly marked. The first ascent from Ames to the cliff tops is well marked, and the path on the ridge is fine, but in between there is a dense woods and the trail completely vanishes. I got lost both on the way up and the way down and had to forage and follow deer paths for almost an hour each time. GPS would help.
For a day trip, park at the electric power plant in Ames (very historical) and follow the road up along the creek until you get to a foot bridge over the creek. The trail begins at an unmarked gate on the other side of the bridge.
Dense brush waist high that you have to push through, for most of the low-altitude trail.

off road driving
3 days ago

Snow blocked the last part of the trail, but great views to that point.