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Blue Lake and Little Blue Lake via Mitchell Lake Trail [CLOSED]

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Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Blue Lake and Little Blue Lake via Mitchell Lake Trail [CLOSED] is a 6.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Ward, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length6.2 miElevation gain1410 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashHikingForestLakeRiverViewsWildflowersWildlifeBugsMuddyRockyClosedFee
Description
Waypoints (8)
Facilities
Tips
Getting There

Currently closed due to wildfire. Note: To access this route you must pass through the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. As of September 2020, there is a scheduled entry time system that does not take reservations. Expect a 1-2 hour wait on busy weekends. Please check here for more information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recarea/?recid=28182 From mid-October to mid-June, the road to this trailhead is closed. Visitors may park at the Gateway Trailhead, just outside of the closed gate. However, this adds 5 miles to the trail roundtrip. Parking at the Gateway Trailhead is free. Although this trail is mostly in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (Roosevelt National Forest), it starts in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. There is an $12 fee (cash only) to enter this area. This a fabulous hike in which you will encounter two major lakes (Mitchell and Blue) and several other streams and small ponds. There is abundant wildlife and flowers that offer some of the best photographs. The view of the Continental Divide is also magnificent the closer you get to it. This is listed as a half day hike, but you could do it in 3 hours fairly easily.

Limited parking near trailhead Added distance and elevation if parking at Brainard Lake

Since Blue Lake is above the timber line you will want to dress accordingly. Wind could also be a concern as this trail is within a natural valley coming off the Continental Divide. There is a fee to enter the park. The trailhead is about 13 miles north of Nederland on CO 72 just past the town of Ward. Once you read Ward, take CO 102 West to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Watch for signs directing you to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead.

Located in Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (872)
Photos (1946)
Recordings (473)
Completed (2290)
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Meredith Groom
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 2, 2020
HikingClosed

Sure it would’ve been great, but I came up the road leading to the TH only to see that they’ve closed the entire forest because of the wildfires. Hopefully it reopens soon!

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Kristen Kibby
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 20, 2020
Hiking

(Hiked on 10/10) Had to park 3.5 miles away and hike to the trailhead, added extra mileage but this is one of my favorite hikes! Ended up being ~13 miles total. Gorgeous paths through the pine trees, beautiful mountain lake at the top

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Laurel Johnson
Yellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 19, 2020
HikingClosedIcy

the road to the trail head is now closed for season so expect to add 3 more miles onto your path.

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Alyssa Sue
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 17, 2020
HikingIcyMuddySnow

10/13:. Arrived at 8:15am. Sign said lots full but station wasn't manned. Drove on through and lots were basically empty. Trail was snowy and icy in the trees. Muddy when in the sun. Very few people, all were very friendly and masks were worn. Was a very pretty hike with all the snow.

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Ling TeBockhorst
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*LOST DOG* If you’re planning to hit this trail in the coming days (weeks) please keep an eye out for a dog that got separated from his people while scrambling just past blue lake. Medium mixed breed, blond with some orange. Golden retriever mix. About 42 lbs. goes by Sander. Green collar with id tag. Please contact Brandy with Boulder Animal Control (303) 859-2543 if you come across him. Or if you manage to get him call number on tag. Thank you!

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Tori Berels
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HikingFeeGreat!

This is my favorite hike I’ve done so far in Colorado. Views are absolutely stunning and more than worth any effort to enjoy them. Would highly recommend, particularly given it doesn’t require a permit/reservation.

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Irene Aguilar
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HikingGreat!

Mostly smooth, some rocky areas. Tree Shade for first 2 miles, then open. Saw a giant bull moose!

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Kendra Annette
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 7, 2020
Hiking

Got there at 930 am Tuesday morning, plenty of spots ( no spots by the time we finished at 1145) All the people we passed saw moose we didn’t. So just missed that, gotta go early to see them. Super windy at blue lake but beautiful so be prepared for that cold high wind at the end of the trail.

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Danielle Lewis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 6, 2020
HikingFeeGreat!

We got to the gate at 6:20am on Sunday, 10/4, and one of the parking lot areas was already full. We were going to the Mitchell Lake trailhead, which was still open. I would say this hike is definitely on the easier side of moderate. A few steepish inclines but nothing too hard and no scrambling. The wind at the big lake was awful but didn’t take away from the beauty of the lake. Our dog did have to take a nap on our way back out, but he gets tired easily. Overall, this hike was worth getting up at 4am for!

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Kat Edwards
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HikingGreat!
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Bill Kruger
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Hiking

Blue, smoke free, sky. Rushing streams and meadows with ponds.I am 68, easy hike. Saw Bull and cow moose in meadow below Blue lake and a group of 4 or 5 moose near the trail near Mitchell lake. Blue lake was beautiful complete with a waterfall into lake. Doesn’t get any better for a day hike.

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Alexi Y
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 30, 2020

A really nice quick hike! We went close to sundown last night and didn’t hike all the way to little blue lake, but it took just over 2 hrs RT - we were moving quick to avoid sundown. We didn’t see much wildlife this time around, but we saw a few moose on this trail exactly a year ago! Beautiful fall colors

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Taylor Derrick
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HikingFeeGreat!Rocky

I loved this hike! Gorgeous scenery, lots of variety in the terrain, and a good workout too. It did get a bit steep toward the middle of the way up but the views were well worth it.

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brooke sunday
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 26, 2020
Scenic drivingBugsIcyMuddyRockyScramble

the first hike I did after moving to Colorado and what a treat it was! we went during the week and hardly came across a person. If you do this hike, expect miraculous views. Bring binoculars to search for caverns amongst the higher up mtns.

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Mervi Hjelmroos-koski
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We arrived early and the trail was not crowded at all. Even though the weather was warm at the trailhead, the wind was very cold at the destination. Both Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake had white caps. Fantastic autumn colors and 6 moose!

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Chris Rom
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HikingFeeGreat!

Did this on 20 Sep with kiddos age 1-12y. Arrived about 8:30, Mitchell Lake parking full and Brainard nearly full but Blue Lake Trail not too crowded. Such a great hike, lots of variety, beautiful streams, lakes and tarns and views. Not too steep, 3yo did just fine. Everything autumn colored. Saw 5 moose, two right on the trail knocking antlers, mama and calf down in the valley by the tarns and a massive bull sitting against the bottom of the huge scree field wall. Windy at Blue Lake, but gorgeous, and fun to walk around to the waterfalls and Little Blue Lake. Such a great hike!

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Amy Jacobtran
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 23, 2020
HikingGreat!Rocky

One of my favorite trails to ever go on. The scenery was beautiful! Loved it so much, we went back for a second hike

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