Wildflowers in Bloom: A Family Hike to Mitchell Lake

Recalculating. In a word that is how I can sum up what it’s like to hike with a growing family.

Earlier this year I wrote about one of our all-time favorite hikes to Blue Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. This summer, the 6.2 mile journey just wasn’t feasible with our 4.5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old. However, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to visit one of our favorite places in Colorado, so we drove to Brainard Lake Recreation Area which is about 50 minutes from where we stay in Estes Park.

We have an America The Beautiful Pass which covers entrance into federal recreation areas including Rocky Mountain National Park and the Brainard Lake Recreation Area which is run by the U.S. Forest Service. For our family, the inclusive pass is a good annual investment.

Typically, I recommend hiking early in the morning to avoid crowds, but we took a chance and arrived at the park around 3:30 on a Friday afternoon just after a rain shower had rolled through the area. We were lucky to get into the park quickly (expect long lines on weekends/holidays). We also grabbed a parking spot at the Mitchell Lake trailhead.

Mitchell Lake Hike in Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Indian Peaks Wilderness. Features forest, lake, wildflowers, mountain views. Round trip 2 miles. Short family-friendly, dog-friendly hike. Mitchell Lake Trailhead

This is the same path you go on to get to Blue Lake, but we decided to hike to Mitchell Lake which is only 1 mile each way. My preschooler can hike this distance on her own.

This heavily wooded trail leads to Mitchell Lake
Tall pine forest

Good news for families with furry children – dogs are allowed here, but must be kept on a leash.

Dogs are allowed at Brainard Lake Recreation Area

We crossed a bridge over Mitchell Creek before officially entering into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

A wooden bridge crosses over Mitchell Creek
Wooden bridge over Mitchell Creek

There is a lot of water along this trail which attracts mosquitoes. We regretted forgetting our bug spray as we were bombarded.

Mitchell Creek flows from Mitchell Lake
Mitchell Creek flows from Mitchell Lake

Most of the hike is heavily wooded, so views are limited until you arrive at Mitchell Lake which opens up to an impressive backdrop of Mount Audubon.

Mount Audubon

Even in early August, we found little patches of snow to play in.

Snow near Mitchell Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Just seeing the stunning array of wildflowers makes this hike worth the drive from Estes Park. When you add in the lush forest and mountain views, it’s a 2 mile hike that is tough to beat! (just remember the bug spray!)

Wildflowers bloom near Mitchell Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

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