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Boulder, CO: Blue Lake

Sampling the best of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, this 5-milers traverses alpine meadows up to a sparkling lake perched below the Continental Divide.

Trip Tools

From the Mitchell Lake Trailhead in Brainard Lake Recreation Area, this route climbs steadily toward Mitchell Lake (0.8 mile from the trailhead), and Blue Lake, another 1.7 miles up the trail. Several ponds and stream crossings pepper the route, and the trail crosses two impressive bridges along the way: one 15 feet above a fast-moving drainage, and the second, a picturesque double-log bridge atop a wide, tumbling cascade.
At mile 1, the climb intensifies up a series of increasingly narrow and rugged steps. Notice the changing vegetation and twisted, wind-blown trees as you pass several unnamed ponds and approach the towering mountains above Blue Lake. With the Continental Divide peaks (Pawnee, Mt. Toll and Paiute, all above 12,900 feet) and Mt. Audubon’s talus slope towering overhead, it’s difficult to focus on the trail, but be sure to watch your footing: the rocky path is an ankle-twister and it is easy to lose track of it under just a few inches of snow. At Blue Lake, large, scattered rocks offer shore-side picnic seating and user-created trails along the lake’s north shore offer a peek at the lake’s west end waterfall and additional exploration opportunities upstream.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland and Steve Johnson

To Trailhead

From Broadway St. and Canyon Blvd. in Boulder, CO, head west on Canyon Blvd./CO 119 for 17 miles to Nederland. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto CO 72/Peak to Peak Hwy. In 11.8 miles, turn left onto NF 112/Brainard Lake Rd. (closed seasonally), and head into Brainard Lake Recreation Area (day-use fee applicable). In 4.7 miles, turn right onto Brainard Lake Rd. In .5 mile, turn right to stay on Brainard Lake Rd. Follow .4 mile to small parking area.

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