Explore the most popular hiking trails near Ward with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Hiked on 10/26. I had been there almost 20 years ago with my kids aged 1, 3, and 4 (a good fraction on my back as you can imagine). This was during the summer and we had a great time. This is why I wanted to take the opportunity of my visit in Boulder to return.
Some snow on the path, but not too much. The lowest part of the trail is somewhat icy, and some may want to use spikes (I did not). After the tree line, the snow is soft, so that the spikes are not useful. Today was very windy but clear. I left the winter parking lot at 7AM and was back at 1PM. There is no need for snow shoes, but good hiking shoes and protection (to avoid the snow to get in) are needed

hiking
27 days ago

Hiked on 10/20. As others have said, the road into Brainard Lake is closed for the season, so you park in the lot before the fee station. I tracked the whole hike on my fitbit, and it's 2 miles to Brainard Lake, and another mile to the trailhead. All we wore were Yaktraks over our hiking shoes. It would have been nice to have snow boots or gaiters on, as you fall through the snow a LOT. Our feet were soaked for most of the hike.

Took us 7 hours, and we took a wrong turn on the way to the trailhead that added a mile. 14 miles round trip. There was no wind at all until the top, and even then it wasn't too bad. The snow made this hike TOUGH and made it take a lot longer than it should have for us, but the views are some of the most incredible I've seen. We only saw a few other people all day. Highly recommend if you love a challenging hike--though I wouldn't do it again in the snow.

Loved it! Got to parking lot at Gateway at 6 am and biked the 2 plus miles to trailhead. The trail starts in trees and snow was packed on the trail with scattered ice. I wore micro spikes and knee gaiters—both were needed. Parts of the trail were nearly dry on a ridge about 3/4 of a mile up and before tree line. After tree line it’s consistently snowy. The trail above tree line is marked by rock piles and was easy to follow until a quarter mile from the summit. Lots of packed snow and many post holes from recent hikers breaking through the crust. The wind above tree line today was fierce. Three other hikers and I were all amazed at the wind speed, likely a constant 25 mph + with stronger gust? ( I had no gauge so let’s just say it was plenty strong and slowed my forward progress to a crawl at times.) But glorious views at the top! Well worth the effort. I hike about ten miles a week at elevation but I’m a slow hiker and took my time, stopped often and ate lunch near the summit. Got back to the Gateway parking lot at 4:45 even using a mountain bike. Highly recommend this trail, but with more snow I will pass on going again till summer. Snow shoes would have done no good today, if you’re going soon use knee gaiters and spikes.

Did this on 10/20/18. THE GATES ARE CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. You must park at Gateway Trailhead and walk the 2-2.5ish miles to the Beaver Creek Trailhead- or anywhere else you want to go around Brainard. If you are at all worried about time or icy trails, just walk the road. Yak traks are necessary if you do not take the road but everything else is doable without them. Highly recommend tall snow boots and gaiters as you will spend a lot of time stepping in the snow to your knees... which I'm sure will only get more significant very soon. You should also allow more time than you think with the snow... it took me 6.5 hours having to walk from Gateway and I am an experienced hiker. BUT the hike is amazing, the snow capped mountains are gorgeous and you should do this hike!!

No dogs

One of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on! Must do!!

I did this 13er with my wife when we were visiting from KY. It is very manageable, and has some great views.

It was overcast with snow flurries so we were basically the only ones on the trail. Beautiful and solitary.

This was our first every high altitude hike and we loved it. We started around 9ish and took 3 hours to get all the way up. Weather was pretty crazy today with winds at 20 mph but the gusts felt to be even higher once we hit the plateau before the finial ascent to the summit. Once you make it to the finial bolder field to the summit the trail was hard to find and we ended up scrambling to find our way. All in all great hike and we are so glad we did it. Total time was 5.5 hours.

Fall colors galore! Not many aspens to speak of, but the ground shrubs are all colors of yellow, orange, and red. Excellent, well-maintained trail. We arrived at 8:15am on a Tuesday morning and there were only about 10 cars in the lot. When we finished at 12:15, cars were circling looking for spaces. We heard from some others they spotted a young moose at the trailhead, but we didn't get to see him. Too windy for us to head up to Little Blue Lake, but we did see some brave souls heading further up.

We didn't have the $11 cash to enter the park so we parked at the Lake Brainard trailhead. Hiked Waldrup Trail to Lake Brainard cut off trail to Lake Brainard. It was absolutely gorgeous but heavily populated with loud mouthed hikers. We then hiked to Mitchell Lake, hoping to see moose, no luck. We made our way up to Blue Lake. The trail was slightly difficult in areas, heavily trafficked, but beautiful. The last stretch up to Blue Lake is pretty rocky with many tourists and hikers who don't care about hiking etiquette. Blue Lake is pristine and ice cold. Worth every blister on my feet. I recorded 14.5 miles round trip.

Was planning on doing the Blue Lakes trail but didn't realize you had to pay $11 entry fee cash only. So since I didn't have any cash on me, I just decided to park in the free parking lot and see where the trails would lead. The couple of bridges and waterfalls were a nice surprise and it was so peaceful with some fall colors. Only saw 2 other people on the trail on a Saturday afternoon.

Great hike - many rocks to traverse over. Parked in the Brainard Lake parking area (past the pay area) but not the lot next to the trailhead. Total mileage on here is misleading; from where I parked to Blue Lake, it’s actually closer to 8 miles out and back.

backpacking
2 months ago

Completed with two friends over 4 days/3 nights, Sept. 8-11.

First day hiked 8.5 miles from Mitchell Lake Trailhead to Red Deer Lake. Several other campers there. Gorgeous lake with a glacier across the water.

Second day hiked out from Red Deer, then slow ascent to Buchanan Pass. Tough climb, but gorgeous view of both sides from the top. VERY windy. Descended from Buchanan, big abuse on knees and feet, then down past Cascade Trail Junction to camp at creek/meadow area a couple miles past four 10.2 miles on the day.

Third day was magical. Short hike to Pawnee Lake brought endless waterfalls and gorgeous view of Cherokee Peak on the way. Then continued on to literally the best campsite I've ever witnessed. Overlooking Pawnee Lake, just before it gets rocky on the ascent to Pawnee Pass is a meadow and perfect place to camp. We had to carry water from Pawnee Lake, but it was well worth it. Actual heaven on earth at "Jamestic Meadows." Played frisbee, napped in hammock, enjoyed the best view imaginable. Very little wind in our meadow camp. Can't recommend this enough. Short 5.3 mile hike (all uphill) made this a Magic Day.

Fourth day, left out at just before 6 with headlamps and climbed to Mordor, a.k.a. Pawnee Pass. Extremely rocky and pretty technical, this part of the trail is pretty intense. All rock, all ascent. Saw across to Buchanan as the sun rose. Perfection. Hiked past Pawnee down to the end of the trail. Traditional Rocky Mountain scenery with meadows, lakes and streams. Really nice way to end. Got off trail and had to hike another mile to get back to our parking lot, so that was a drag at the end.

Overall: Not for beginners by any stretch, but absolutely incredible and I would happily do it again, if for no other reason than one night at Jamestic Meadows.

the first half of the trail is a really Rocky Jeep Road. Fairly hard on the knees and ankles. The second half is in the woods send on a much softer trail. The Coney Lake is beautiful and the surrounding mountains are classic Rocky Mountains. The few hikers make this a perfect lake for a picnic and some quality time in the mountains.

hiking
2 months ago

There are some reviews that are a bit misleading here, so I want to clarify: The Brainard Lake Recreational area is *extremely* popular and is a toll and permit camping area. DO NOT TRY TO SHOW UP AFTER 8AM AND EXPECT A PARKING SPOT. The upper lot fills by 8AM nearly the entire season it is open.

The hike for Mt Toll largely consists of the hikes for Blue and Little Blue lakes - both incredibly beautiful, but also highly trafficked. The Mt Toll 'trail' continues past both - and it becomes a talus and boulder field with some class 2 scrambling to gain the ridgeline and summit. This section is very lonely, and moderately technical - but very worth the additional distance for its isolation, prominence, and 360 views. You should be comfortable trail-finding and hiking off-trail for this section as realistically there isn't more than a loose 'route'. The map here even reflects this, suggesting two different paths to ascend and descend. I would recommend coming and going from the route that travels to the north closer to Little Blue lake rather than trying to bushwhack between the two lakes lower. Do your best to hike on durable surfaces to practice LNT.

Even cloudy, great views!

Manageable 13er with motivating views as early as a mile in. Flowing switchbacks keep this hike in the moderate/moderate+ category until around mile 3, the only truly difficult section is the last half mile push to the summit. A “good to know” is, you are VERY exposed for slightly more than half of the trek up to the summit, so that’s when/if the wind will pick up (or sun on a mild/hot day). I did not have any wind at the summit but be aware temps can drop on you. The whole Brainard Lake Rec Area is amazing, this 13er certainly fits the mold!

Great hike for our dog. Like everyone says there are a lot of dogs on this hike. Highlight of the hike is seeing five moose around mile two.

As others note, arrive early especially on weekends. Pleasant, easier hike with several lakes and great opportunities to see moose along the way. We saw 4 moose near Brainard Lake, two of which were sparring and were showing the wounds on their antlers. I would do this again in a heartbeat!

We got there around 7:30am and had to park in the lower lot which added at least another 2 miles to the hike. Very rocky on the trail and lots and lots of people and dogs. It was very windy at blue lake so take layers. Saw two bull moose.

The perfect hike! Get there early, they enforce parking lot capacity; we got there at 11 and had to wait 40 mins to get in.

Awesome hike from brainard lake! Did not notice any mosquitos.

8/26/18

Don't really know about the trail as we followed the getting there link. They say go to lost lake trail head. This does not exist in the area. I am told this trail head is far away. Find beaver creek trail head.

2 months ago

8/26/18 - Incredible trek. Trail is pretty well marked for about 3 miles. Last mile is rock scramble up. I don’t no where to begin, or how to described this amazing hike. Words cannot describe it. My fav trek to date. Wind is strong and chilly be prepared.

Start early. Very windy st the top

The photo used in this post is of Upper Coney Lake which this trail does not visit.

hiking
3 months ago

Left the TH @ 7am and was able to summit at about 8:50. Incredibly windy, foggy and chilly at the summit for mid August but that made it a gorgeous hike in its own sense. Brought my pup, he did well for the last .5-1mi being mostly class 2 scrambling on boulders.

8/18/18 hiked today (Saturday) - arrived at the parking lot around 8:20 and there was plenty of parking available (maybe because it was a little cloudy). Hike was lovely, really windy near the top approaching blue lake, but some incredible views of the mountains and lots of streams and ponds along the way. Saw people fishing in Mitchell lake, lots of hikers with dogs and kids, and a few trail runners. Overall great hike!!

Did Audubon today with the 6 kids ages 7 to 16. everyone loved it. That final push is tough but worth it. The views are outstanding. The marmots are entertaining. Views down to upper Coney lake are mind blowing and that drop is humbling.

Beautiful trail. The hike to Coney Lake was pleasant and never too steep, saw a mama and baby moose near the 4WD trailhead. Lots of used toilet paper at the trailhead too, so please try to be a decent human if you're going to visit these places and PACK IT OUT.
One thing to note. Getting to upper Coney Lake was a nightmare because I followed internet advice which told me to try to follow the inlet stream. Do not do this. The willows are terrible. If you want to go to upper Coney Lake (and you should - it's beautiful!) stick to the talus on your left and you can rock hop all the way there and back without too much willow bashing.

This was a great hike, but difficult due to length. If your car can get up the road it will cut the hike in half. It was awesome being up on top of sawtooth mountain- a mountain that you can clearly see if you are traveling 36 westbound into Boulder. It was a gradual incline that got more difficult as you head up Buchanan pass. Great views of all the mountains, you feel like you are right in the middle! Definitely recommend!

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