Pawnee Pass Trail

HARD 102 reviews
#12 of 109 trails in

Pawnee Pass Trail is a 8.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and fly fishing and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
8.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,103 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

snow

Although this trail is almost entirely in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (Roosevelt National Forest), it starts in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. There is a $11 fee (cash only) to enter this area. From mid-October to mid-June, the road into Brainard Lake Recreation Area is closed. Visitors may hike at the Gateway Trailhead, at the closed gate. However, this will add 5 miles round-trip to this hike. Parking at the Gateway Trailhead does not require a fee, as you are parking outside of the park. This hike starts at the Long Lake Trailhead.

hiking
2 months ago

Really gorgeous hike. The last mile up there is already a decent amount of snow and at the top, close to 6 inches. Definitely wear waterproof hiking boots.

hiking
3 months ago

I bet there aren’t a half dozen hikes this visually
stunning in all of Colorado.

For a Saturday in the summer, the trail didn’t feel crowded at all above Lake Isabel. We arrived at 630 am and Long Lake TH had one final parking spot.

Gaining 2100 or so over 4.5 miles sounds more like a moderate hike, rather than hard. But then you do it. Because so much of the vertical is in that last 1.5 miles to the pass, it’s a lung buster to the finish. The terrain is rocky but completely non-technical or more complicated than a few talus crossings. That being said, I was glad to have trekking poles for the descent.

hiking
3 months ago

More like 12 miles including (pleasant) hike from day use area. You should just plan on that and count yourself lucky if you get a spot at Long Lake trailhead. We arrived 830 on Saturday, but suspect a lot are gone to overnighters.

Busy trail but we'll worth it. Please think about taking leash reactive dogs to other trails! This one is popular and narrow in places. It must be exhausting to have to so actively manage their behavior every few minutes.

Never seen Lake Isabelle so dry! First pond was empty in late August. Main part still had water and was as beautiful as always. Trail past the lake gets significantly tougher both up and down, so allow time.

4 months ago

I parked at Long TH at 10ish on a Tuesday. Someone was leaving. Decided I also wanted to hike up to Isabell Glacier. I think it added 3 ish miles to the trip. But finding snow for the pup to play in was worth it. Plus it was gorgeous. The hike up to the Continental divide was more difficult. The trail isn’t hard until the split from Isabell Glacier. They are doing a lot of work on the trail which is awesome. The scenery is prettier from below. Typical rocky above the tree line hike for the last 2 miles. If you are going to do it. Must make it to the sign!

hiking
4 months ago

Such amazing views!!! Go all the way up to the peak, don’t stop at the sign. Saw many people do this! 360 panoramic views at the top, breathtaking.

hiking
4 months ago

Nice, rigorous hike with plenty of terrain changes as you go. Started from Long Lake. Trail is undergoing maintenance with various crews at this time. Tread is rocky in many areas making passage more awkward and slow. Recommend an early start for parking and weather considerations. Traffic along the trail is heavy with lots of dogs accompanying their hikers. Even saw one hiker carrying two bearded dragons. Worth the effort for the beautiful views.

4 months ago

My wife and I did this recently and were amazed at all the wildflowers. Awesome views of surrounding mountains and Isabelle glacier. Did not go all the way to the pass. Had lunch at the flat tundra area and watched some marmots.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful trail with a lot of variety. Love the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Long Lake parking lot was full by the time we arrived at 7:30am on a Friday, but you can park and walk from Mitchell Lake TH or Niwot Picnic Area (which fill up less quickly) pretty easily; just adds a mile or less each way. Niwot Picnic Area actually has a trail directly from the road that links up to the Mitchel Lake trails. There's bathrooms at most (all?) of these parking areas/trailheads. You'll pass by Lake Isabelle (a worthy destination in itself if weather strikes or you're feeling tired) on your way up the pass. Once you've reached the continental divide sign, Pawnee Peak is a worthwhile detour, up to your right.

hiking
4 months ago

I had done this many years ago, but I forgot how pretty it is. Beautiful wildflowers, especially once you’re above Lake Isabelle. Just about peak time for wildflowers right now. Good trail, great hike. Only downside was parking; Long Lake lot filled at 6:30 today, a weekday! Luckily, I got a spot (at 7:15) that someone had just vacated.

hiking
4 months ago

Very scenic hike. The trail gradually becomes more difficult. I think the length of the trail is what makes this hike a 4. It’s just to long for me. The end result was not as scenic as I would like. There are other trails and lakes that could be enjoyed with out such a long trail. It was neat to be at the sign for the continental divide. Bring snacks and lunch to get the most out of this hike.

hiking
5 months ago

8/10 would do again. 10/10 must do at least once. Road is open again! Waterfalls, lakes, cliffs, flowers and marmots! Loved this hike. Did it with my 8 month old puppy. Wouldn’t recommend taking your dog if they are not trail friendly for people or other dogs. It’s really busy on the way to and from the lake. It spaces out a little as you go to the Pass. Plan on getting there EARLY. Parking fills up at the TH and I walked an extra 2 miles to the main parking lot. Took about 3.5 hours to summit, but we took our time.

hiking
5 months ago

I live in Boulder and this trek is by FAR my favorite day hike coming from the front range! You hit multiple lakes, waterfalls/streams, and gorgeous wildflowers - and you experience drastic landscape shifts leading up to the divide. Be sure to get to the trailhead as early as you can (it’s difficult to get into the parking lot after 8am). Though there’s always a bit of a crowd from the entrance to Lake Isabella, it tends to peter out quite a bit once you pass the lake and head towards the divide. 100% worth the trip.

hiking
5 months ago

What a beautiful hike! I was a little hesitant to do this since it read heavily trafficked, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t do this one. It’s a gem. It’s a pretty easy hike on the way up. Wild flowers are out of control. The pass was windy, but beautiful regardless. Lots of people in the hike before the lake and minimal on the trail past the lake. No need for micro spikes. There’s a small patch of snow the trail goes through, but it’s quick and towards the top. Road to Brainard is rebuilt, open, and nice. They did cut a lot of the trees down however. Enjoy!

hiking
5 months ago

ok I've tried to post this 3 times. long story short get there EARLY! Park In Long lake parking lot. wildfowlers are in abundance. the trail is longer than 9miles according to mapmyhike and my Samsung wristband. I did nine miles today and was close so I think it's closer to 10. the road opened at 9am and trail conditions we dry except some snow up on the trail leaving the tundra to the boulder field. it's my favorite place in all of Colorado. I'll get to the pass and check it out ans the glacier next time. today I was worn out it because it was longer than expected and sad because there was a haze and smell from the wild fires. if you haven't gone please do. Its amazing

5 months ago

helpful and everything you need to know about the trails great app

backpacking
6 months ago

Brainard Lake Rd is closed until June, no access to trailhead
SPRING & SUMMER 2018 – FULL CLOSURE (24/7) – March 12 through June 28, 2018

backpacking
11 months ago

We hiked this as part of a three-day trip with Buchanan Pass in late August. it was awesome, but get an early start. Cliuds roll in and you will wouldn't want to he is there in the rain.

hiking
Sunday, October 08, 2017

Snow and ice are starting to accumulate out there. Be careful and don't forget your Microspikes or Yaktrax.

hiking
Sunday, September 24, 2017

great hike with great views. got to parking lot at 7 so i could park in long lake parking lot. a little disappointed that it was hazy towards lake granbybut still great views!

hiking
Sunday, September 10, 2017

wonderful experience...awesome hike..perfect views.

hiking
Saturday, September 09, 2017

Beautiful trail from beginning to end. Wild flowers dress the trail along the way. You will pass babbling brooks on and off too. You will pass the beautiful Lake Isabelle, this alone is worth every step. Once you are above the tree line there are mountain tops adorning the path to the Continental Divide. I loved this hike.

hiking
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Great weather and great hike!

hiking
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Perfect day hike for us flatlanders from Missouri. Quick and continuous stunning views, just enough incline to get our hearts pumping, but very doable for our group of various paces. Camped outside of Nederland so we were able to get an early start, and at 5:30 am were among the first to the TH and later Lake Isabelle. Would agree with other reviewers on the importance of arriving early, but keep in mind that the majority of the crowds were there for Lake Isabelle- the hike up to Pawnee Pass was much less popular.

hiking
Monday, August 28, 2017

One of the best hikes I have ever done in terms of scenery and challenge - the views were unbelievable and rivaled those from any 14er or 13er without all of the people. At 7:45 a.m., we found plenty of parking at the Brainard Lake day use lot, which is around 10,100 ft elevation. Starting there adds more elevation gain and well over a mile more distance-wise, so that elevation gain is more like 2,500 ft and distance over 11 miles. Yet the hardest part was the 2.6 miles up above Lake Isabelle to the pass. It was cold and windy on the Pass, but being at the Continental Divide at 12,550 ft and seeing amazing vistas including Lake Gramby made for a breathtaking reward. It took me 3 hours to hike to the top; I spent about 30 minutes exploring the top; then it took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get back down.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

One of the most beautiful places I've ever hiked

hiking
Saturday, August 19, 2017

One of the most scenic hikes in Colorado. Be prepared by bringing either $11 in cash or check. Had to park at the day use parking lot which added approx .75miles each way to the overall hike. Lots of gusty winds at the top so bring your jacket and gloves. Very nice hike

hiking
Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nice trial, maintained well, windy as s**t on top.

hiking
Monday, August 14, 2017

It's the most beautiful hike I've done in 3 yrs, but I didn't consider it "hard", just moderate. Planning on doing it again soon.

hiking
Sunday, August 13, 2017

great hike for elevation gainers. Close to the top there were 2 big patches of snow to walk through. A bit slippery so had to watch your footing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Planned to take an easy day and hike the trail to lake Isabella. Decided to check out Pawnee pass. Lots of switchbacks

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