Winter Activities at Brainard Lake

View from below Lefthand Reservoir

Brainard Lake Recreation Area is one of the most beautiful spots in the Front Range. Nestled between Nederland and Ward, Brainard Lake is just 45 minutes up the mountains from Boulder. To complement summer hiking, fishing, backpacking, and cycling, this area offers incredible winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and picnicking. 

From about November to May, the Brainard Lake Road is closed beyond the entrance station. This road turns into an excellent start for any skiing, snowshoeing, or picnic adventure. From the entrance station, you have three route options: stay on the road, veer left onto Lefthand Park Reservoir Road, or turn right onto the Sourdough Trail. 

Heading straight on Brainard Lake Road offers adventurers a relatively flat path, perfect for learning to cross country ski or snowshoe. Red Rock Lake is the first destination on this path, just ½ mile beyond the entrance station. From here, users can follow the road another 1.5 miles to Brainard Lake.

Those looking for some elevation gain may opt to follow Lefthand Park Reservoir Road to Lefthand Park Reservoir for beautiful views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This winter trail climbs 600 feet over the course of 1.8 miles to the reservoir.

For people who enjoy the solitude of snowy singletrack, Sourdough Trail offers miles and miles of pristine winter wilderness. This trail connects to South Saint Vrain and Waldrop trails for a long, scenic route to Brainard Lake.



Despite the six feet of snow that some areas of the mountains received late this month, 4 out of 5 campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park are open and ready! The ever-changing weather is something we love about our state; one day we're buried in snow, the next it's melted and made way for sunshine and warmth..

Because these campgrounds are inside the park itself, the sites are reserved well in advance. Get a jump on it and line everything up for the beginning of summer!

Aspenglen Campground - 54 sites total - 12 tent only - 5 walk to

With equal amounts of shade and sunshine, this campground is popular for family tent camping and RVs alike. There are also several sites that you must walk to which provide a more secluded and serene experience for those looking to get away from the hustle. Seasonal inclusions/services: Firewood and ice for sale, food storage lockers, trash & recycling collection, amphitheater use, staff or volunteer host on site, potable water, and flush toilets. There are no showers at this campground.

Glacier Basin Campground - 147 sites total - 73 tent only - 13 group sites

Enjoy lots of grass, shrubbery and season wildflowers that sprout in nearby meadows. Certain loops have lost nearly all of their trees due to Pine Beetle damage, so be mindful of that when reserving a site in Loops C & D. Group sites are available as well, so you can bring the whole crew! Seasonal inclusions/services include: Dump station, firewood and ice for sale, food storage locker, trash/recycling collection, potable water, staff or volunteer on site, amphitheater use.

Moraine Park Campground 247 sites total - 101 tent only - 49 walk to 

Located near the Beaver Meadows entrance on Highway 36, Moraine Park Campground offers gorgeous views of the park and surrounding mountains and hillsides. If you're looking to explore nearby civilization as well, there are free shuttles that connect the campground to Bear Lake trailheads and Estes Park restaurants and shops. Seasonal services/inclusions include: Dump station, firewood and ice for sale, amphitheater, staff or volunteer on site, potable water, flush toilets, and vault toilets.

Timber Creek Campground 98 sites total

Timber Creek is the only campground on the west side of the park, and is about 8 miles north of the Grand Lake entrance, right along the Colorado River. All sites are first-come, first-served; reservations won't help you here! Due to a Pine Beetle infestation, all the trees were removed from the campground so no shade can be found. Seasonal services/inclusions include: Dump station, firewood for sale, trash/recycling collection, amphitheater, staff or volunteer on site, potable water, and flush toilets. 

Successful Camping with Kids

Successful Camping with Kids

If you're the type of parent that naturally longs for your children to wander out in the woods, sleep under the stars and find joy in catching bugs of all sorts, you've likely found a method to camping with children that best works for your family. But if you've never embarked on that journey - or even scoff at the idea - why would it be of any huge importance to get the kiddos out and into the wild?

Disconnecting from the norm helps children grow - it's as simple as that, and it's true. Taking a break from the adult monotony of laundry, cleaning, and paying bills helps us appreciate the beauty of everything around us! And hitting the pause button on the Nintendo DS gives both adults and children the chance to better connect with one another. Watching kids use their imaginations for an entire weekend camping trip creates fantastic memories that simply cannot be rivaled by trips to the movies or buying that new video game.

Okay, we're in! What now?

There are some camping basics that you'll want to check off your list first and foremost. Once you've got everything on the checklist handled, go back and revisit a few important areas..

Clothing - Kids, when camping, will find even more dirt than they typically do at home. Make sure to pack extra outfits; 2 complete outfits per kid, per day, to be exact. It's even better if they are older clothes or hand-me-downs! Going hand in hand with the additional dirt and mess, make sure you bring extra wet wipes or towels for cleaning up.

In addition to having extra clothing for messy fun, be sure you have plenty of layers! There's nothing worse than being completely unprepared for adverse weather conditions while shivering in a tent. If an adult grimaces at the thought, imagine how a child would react if actually in that situation... It wouldn't be fun for anyone! Camping in the Rocky Mountain National Park always comes with a chance of rain, so bring jackets and boots.

What about meals? My kids live on mac n' cheese at home...

Everyone recommends pre-prepping and cooking as much food as possible. Easy breakfast items include quick breads or loaves, such as zucchini or banana bread, so that when kids wake up chilly and starving you have a quick solution. Chop up snack items such as veggies and fruits before leaving the house, and keep granola bars handy for mid-afternoon munchies.

There are a TON of aluminum foil dinner recipes that you can pre-wrap at home and cook over the fire - and they're delicious, too! If you don't have much time to prep, don't make the mistake of underestimating a hot dog cooked over the campfire or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Last but not least, do not - I repeat, DO NOT - forget the hot cocoa and s'more supplies!

Will the kids have fun? What sorts of things will they want to do?

Their options are basically endless when they're in the great outdoors! Some of the things you can pack up and bring with include bikes, nets and bug catchers, shovels for digging in the dirt, magnifying glasses... Rain is always a possibility in Rocky Mountain National Park, so make sure you bring a couple books, art supplies and maybe some family games in case the weather doesn't cooperate.

If you're near a visitor station in the park, pick up a Junior Ranger activity booklet so the kids can work towards earning their Junior Ranger badge! Books come in correlation with age - 5 and under, 6-8 years and 9+. If you'd rather they spend the whole day exploring, the Junior Ranger Headquarters is the place to be. It's located at Hidden Valley along the Trail Ridge Road during the summer, and is a ranger-led program. In the summer of 2016 it is open until August 21st, and participation is free.

Above all else, enjoy your trip! Take advantage of the opportunity to spend quality time with your children and as a family - as we all know, they grow up way too fast.

5 Hidden Gems for RMNP Lovers

5 Hidden Gems for RMNP Lovers

Rocky Mountain National Park is fondly regarded, both near and far, as one of the American West's must-see places in the United States. Some will believe that by simply driving the Trail Ridge Road, they've have seen the most that the park has to offer - but it simply isn't true! Taking in those sights is in fact fantastic, but it's merely a scratch on the surface of everything else that's hidden deeper in the parks.

With 355 miles of hiking trails, 150 mountain lakes, and 60 peaks higher over 12,000 feet, there are many overlooked, underrated and solitary places for the outdoor-lover to explore. Though some of them may be more difficult to reach than others, we've compiled a list of 5 hidden gems within Rocky Mountain National Park to check off your list this summer....

Lake Verna

Imagine being surrounded by forest that is also surrounded by distant granite walls, standing at the edge of a jewel-like lake - alone. This is the sort of experience that Lake Verna offers. You can reach it by heading 7 miles up the East Inlet Trail Head from Adam Falls, headed to Lake Verna and Spirit Lake. It is a strenuous hike (and a MAJOR calf-burning workout) at 7 miles one-way and roughly 2,000 feet in elevation gain. But the sights you'll be greeted with make it well worth the effort! There are several back country campsites you can stay at, making it the perfect base camp for additional day hikes, fishing or spending the weekend.

(Photo Credit: Ian Glass)

Coyote Valley Trail

This particular spot is best enjoyed during the sunset hours, well after the swarms of day-trippers have come and gone. In the summer months during the twilight hours, the birds, moose and elk are most active, which can make for great viewing - if you're relatively still and quiet! It is an easy hike that's just short of a mile, with very minimal gain in elevation.

(Photo Credit: Grand Lake Chamber)

Timber Lake

Timber Lake is mostly free of obstacles and provides beautiful scenery and the opportunity to spot wildlife. The trailhead is located further up Trail Ridge Road and is just short of the first hairpin curve. If visitors continue to climb steadily through the forest, the trail will lead you to an open alpine basin underneath Mount Ida. Many backcountry camping sites area available for campers, making it a great getaway spot to view the starry skies - and maybe even catch a meteor shower! You're likely to be greeted by wildflowers along Timber Lake's banks the next morning.

Lion Lakes via Wild Basin Trailhead

Lion Lake #1 and Lion Lake #2 are truly hidden gems. Following the path, you'll continue along the North St. Vrain Creek for much of the way as it winds through deep forest and past several waterfalls and cascades. It doesn't take long before you find yourself in open meadows with views of the jagged peaks belonging to Mount Alice. You can expect exceptional alpine landscapes if you journey to either of the Lion Lakes.

Lake Nanita

If escaping the crowds is your main priority, Lake Nanita via the North Inlet Trail Head may be just the thing for you. This is not an easy hike - at 21.6 miles round trip, it does take a certain level of commitment and time to complete. The nearest campsite from the lake is almost 3 miles down the trail, and therefor it does not get many visitors. As a result, the area is pristine and kept in it's beautiful, natural condition. Both Ptarmigan Mountain and Andrews Peak are visible lake-side, painting a mountain scene that simply cannot be rivaled.