Nederland & Brainard Lake Trip Details
Destination: Nederland + Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Closest Town: Nederland (Ned) or Boulder
About: Located just 17 miles west of Boulder, Nederland is an old trading and mining town. Ned, is the perfect jumping-off point to the Indian Peak Wilderness, Rosevelt National Forrest and James Peak Wilderness.
Route: US-36 W and CO-119/Boulder Canyon Dr
Distance: 45 Miles
Time: 1h 5m (Depending on Boulder traffic)
Trip Length: Day trip or overnight
Season: Summer, Fall, Winter
Sleeping: Dispersed Camping on County Road 132-W at designated campsites
Hike: Lake Isabelle via Pawnee Pass Trail
Length: 4.5 miles one way
Fee: 10$ per vehicle
Dogs: On leash
I was recommended the Lake Isabelle trail from a friend and after googling photos, we were dying to try it out. The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is located outside Boulder just north of Nederland. The area is very popular on the weekends, so it’s recommended to arrive bright and early to snag a parking spot in the park. We decided to beat the crowds and make it a weekend trip by camping in Nederland the night before our hike.
“Ned” is a solid 30 min drive from Boulder, down the windy, but beautiful Boulder Creek Drive. Founded in 1874 on the Barker Meadow Reservoir, the town is a perfect jumping-off point to some of the state’s best hiking. Despite being a fairly small town, Nederland has some top-notch restaurants that alone are worth the drive.
Camping – There are about 15 designated yet dispersed campsites just south of town past the Sun Lodge on CR 132-W. From Downtown Denver to Ned on a Friday afternoon took us just over an hour which gave us enough sunlight to set up camp. There is not much cover in the area so if your plan on hanging out there during the day will you want a pop-up. See my must-have camping gear here.
Dinner – Pizza of course! Crosscut Pizza & Taphouse serves some of the best pizza I have had in Colorado. Not only was the decor and vibe of the place great so was the service. Note that Crosscut does not have a full bar, but they do have a great selection of beers and a few house wines. We ordered the bacon-wrapped dates and NYC Pizza. The wood-fired pizza had the perfect amount of thickness and burntness to the crust. I only wish we could have ordered a cheese plate too!
Breakfast – We stopped into New Moon Baker for their specialty egg wraps to go. We ended up eating them parked in the car as they were not as hand-held and easy to eat while driving. But still a delicious concoction.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area – Indian Peaks Wilderness
Brainard Lake Recreation Area is about a 25 mins drive from downtown Ned. When we arrived the Long Lake Trailhead lot was full but we were lucky enough to snag a spot at Niwot. We thought the name of the trail was Lake Isabelle you want to follow Pawnee Pass Trail till it splits with the Isabelle Glacier Trail.
From the Niwot parking area, you will hike Niwot Cutoff to Long Lake here you can loop the lake left on Jean Lunning Trail or right on Pawnee Pass Trail. We went right. Once you reach the Lake Isabelle you can all the way around (if the water is down) or continue to a steep climb up to Isabelle Glacier. We walked about half way around before heading back.
One direction was clouds and snowcaps the other beautiful sunshine