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.
The Rocky Mountain National Park road crew was hard at work 2 weeks ago, and have been for the past month, in order to open Trail Ridge Road in time for Memorial Day.
The annual efforts to clean the mountain highway begin in April, where road crews start on the west side of Estes Park and the east side of Grand Lake, gradually working to meet in the middle at the Alpine Visitor Center. Certain snow drifts were reported at over 20 feet tall, but it should all be melted by mid-July.
(Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain National Park)
Elevations reach 12,183 feet, making Trail Ridge Road the highest continuous paved highway in the United States. Eleven miles of the road are above tree line, and offer mountains views to the visitors that travel it from around the world.
Plow operators use machinery to cut through the snow packs and repeat the process daily, as fresh snow continues to fall and wind blows drifts back over previously cleared sections from the day before...
“We have the storming coming in pretty regularly it seems on the weekends and filling those drifts back in, sometimes overnight,” said Chuck Stalker, the park’s roads and auto shop supervisor.
“Our snow plow operators are amazing folks,” said Rocky Mountain National Park Public Affairs Officer Kyle Patterson. “They know they are going to be plowing the same section over and over again. They know what it takes to open the road. They know what it means to the public to be able to access this road.”
For people who live in Grand Lake, Trail Ridge Road is essential; it is their only access to Estes Park.
Here are the conditions you can expect from opening day on Saturday, May 28th, 2016. If you're planning on making the drive, bring plenty of snacks, beverages and car-games ready - heavy traffic due to many other people making the trek could be a factor worth considering...
The National Park Service celebrates 100 years in 2016, resulting in lots of events that you can take part in!
There are over 400 national parks in the United States today, 127 of which usually charge some sort of entrance fee. Though the NPS typically offers free entrance for several special occasions throughout the year, this year provides more opportunity - During National Park Week, April 16-24th, the parks waive all entrance fees, so you can visit as many national parks as you want without having to pay anything at all!
Here's a complete list of national parks that you can visit for free. Please note - entrance fees are waived but camping site fees are not.
If you are unable to make it this month, don't worry! You’ll have some other chances later this year - August 25 - August 28 for the National Park Service Birthday; September 24th for National Public Lands Day and November 11th for Veterans Day.
“It’s about making great connections,” the parks service says on its website announcing the celebration, “exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations, and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks!”