Long Lake in Brainard Lake Recreation Area

On today’s hike I have the cutest little hiking buddy around. My 3-year-old daughter and I went on a .3-mile stroll to Long Lake which is located on the border of Brainard Lake Recreation Area entering into the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Where is brainard lake recreation area?

Estes Park to Brainard Lake
From Estes Park, take Highway 7 to Highway 72 and then turn onto Brainard Lake Road. The drive takes about 50 minutes.

Brainard Lake is also 50 minutes from Boulder and an hour and a half from Denver. Nearby towns include Nederland and Ward. It’s convenient location makes this a popular destination. Plan for long lines at the entrance and limited parking at trailheads, especially on weekends and holidays.

BRAINARD LAKE RECREATION AREA Entrance Fee

A day pass to Brainard Lake typically costs $12 per vehicle during the summer season which is July through mid-October. Brainard Lake Recreation Area is managed by the US Forest Service. You can find more information about fees and guidelines here. We use our annual America the Beautiful pass which includes entry into national forest areas as well as national parks.

When we arrived late in the afternoon, no one was stationed at the entrance booth, so visitors were expected to go to a self-pay kiosk.

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

parking at long lake trailhead

There are thirty parking spaces at Long Lake trailhead. We were lucky to get a parking spot on this trip. On previous occasions, we’ve parked in the larger parking lot near Brainard Lake and hiked up to the trail. Because of COVID-19, the parking is further restricted to 80% capacity. Once the lots are full, no vehicles are allowed into the park until the next scheduled timed entry. The timed entries are at 6:00 am, 10:30 am, Noon, and 1:30 pm. There is additional parking at the Gateway Trailhead which is located outside of the paying station. Walking trails lead into the main park.

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

high elevation trails

The elevation of Long Lake is 10,521 ft. There is typically snow until July. It’s unbelievably green and there is an abundance of wildflowers. This area is breathtaking!

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

dog friendly hiking trails

Dogs are allowed at Brainard Lake Recreation Area if they are on leash. We featured this area in our post, Dog Friendly Hikes near Estes Park, Colorado.

Indian Peaks Wilderness. Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. Long Lake trailhead. Hiking Colorado.

Moose in brainard lake recreation area

On our drive out of the park, we spotted moose near Brainard Lake. We were able to capture these pictures from our car. It’s important to give moose a lot of space because they are fast, large, powerful animals.

Moose at Brainard Lake in Colorado

trail maps for hikes in brainard lake recreation area and indian peaks wilderness

The short walk to Long Lake and back was perfect for my daughter. It was fun to see the little boost to her self-confidence from getting my full attention and slowing the hiking pace to her level. She wanted to look at every rock and step on every tree stump. I don’t have the patience to indulge in this level of curiosity on every hike we go on. It was a special treat for us and I’m thankful for the mini-adventure.

If you want to hike further, there are plenty of options. This map shows the trailheads within Brainard Lake Recreation Area. You can access the Jean Lunning Trail and the Pawnee Pass Trail from the Long Lake trailhead. These trails will take you towards Lake Isabelle. Additional hiking information and an Indian Peaks trail map can be found here.

more posts featuring brainard lake recreation area

Add This to Your Hiking Bucket List! Blue Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

2 Day Itinerary with Toddlers in Estes Park

Brainard Lakes Colorado, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Wildflowers in Bloom: A Family Hike to Mitchell Lake

Kruger Rock with Kids

Last year my husband wrote about his solo hike to Kruger Rock near Estes Park, Colorado. He enjoyed the trail so much that we decided to try hiking up to Kruger Rock as a family this year. I was blown away that my 5-year-old daughter hiked this on her own. My husband carried our younger daughter. We all enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the amazing views.

hermit park open space

Hermit Park Open Space is located Southeast of Estes Park, Colorado on highway 36. There is a daily entrance fee of $9 per vehicle. We went to Hermit Park to hike to Kruger Rock. Additional activities include camping, biking, and horseback riding.

Kruger ROck Trail

The hike to Kruger Rock is 1.7 miles each way. The starting elevation is 8,444 ft and gains 878 ft. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

This is a popular attraction, so plan to arrive early to get a parking spot. During our visit, we practiced social distancing by pulling on face masks when we were unable to keep 6 ft distance between us and other hikers (which was not often).

Kruger Rock in the distance

The hike begins through a meadow where we enjoyed seeing a variety of wildflowers. You can see Kruger Rock peeking above the trees in the distance.

views – Lake Estes and Estes Valley

We stopped several times on our hike for quick snack breaks.

I believe this purple flower is a pasqueflower. According to the national park’s website, it is one of the earliest flowers to bloom.

When I think of aspen trees I typically imagine the golden aspens of autumn, however the new green leaves in springtime are also stunning.

More views of Estes Valley

The hike uphill can get tiring, so we were thankful for the lookout points where we could stop to take in the expansive views of the Rocky Mountains. These spots are rewarding on their own for anyone who wants to cut the hike short.

The final ascent up Kruger Rock is a scramble. This was the first time our daughter attempted a summit like this, but we felt that the rock walls on both sides made this fairly safe from a serious fall. For extra caution, my husband walked behind her and guided her to the top.

I staid back with our 3-year-old (and snacks) then went up on my own once my husband and daughter came back down. At the top, I enjoyed the cute chipmunks and the surrounding mountain views.

360 views from Kruger Rock

This video shows the 360 degree views from the top of Kruger Rock. We really enjoyed this hike. I’m eager to head back to Hermit Park to explore more trails in this area.

Kid’s Review

I was reading what other hikers have said about Kruger Rock on AllTrails and someone pointed out that they passed kids around age 5 on the hike, but the kids were whining and parents had to help carry them. I was wondering, is she talking about us!? Haha, that would definitely be a good description of the reality of hiking with young children sometimes. So, I thought I’d ask my daughter her thoughts:

Did you like the hike? Yes!

Do you want to do it again? No.

Why? Because it’s really long.

Are you proud that you did it? Yes, because it was really hard.

Advice for other kids? You should keep on going until you reach the top!

I believe the comment I read suggesting that this hike might be better for older kids is valid. I’m also glad we pushed ourselves. I think the overall topic of when to turn around when kids are complaining on a hike vs. when to encourage them to keep going, is something we can continue to explore in future posts.

Helpful Links:

Hermit Park Open Space – Larimer County website

Kruger Rock – A Dog Friendly, Early Season Trail just outside Estes Park, Colorado – Eric’s post from last year

Wildflowers – Rocky Mountain National Park, National Park Service.

More Dog Friendly Hikes Near Estes Park, Colorado

More Early Season Hikes

Alltrails Reviews

Hike up Old Fall River Road to Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

We just got back from a wonderful trip to Estes Park, Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. The national park had been closed to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Even though the park is now open, operations will be different this year. One of the biggest differences is visitors must obtain a time-entry permit through Recreation.gov. We purchased a season pass to the national park, and will also pay $2.00/day as a reservation fee. Here is a link to Frequently Asked Questions about Rocky Mountain National Park’s new timed entry system which will start June 4, 2020.

Another change in the park is signage directing visitors to stay 6 feet apart from other groups. When distancing isn’t possible, wear a face covering. Taking a mask off and on was a little cumbersome on the trails, so I’m thinking about ordering us neck gaiters or buffs like this one. That way we can wear them around our necks, and just quickly pull them up when we pass by fellow hikers.

old fall river road

Old Fall River road is a gravel road that travels one-way up to the Alpine Visitor Center. Because of extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the road is typically only available to drive up from July through September (in 2019, the road opened July 12).

When the road is closed to vehicle traffic, visitors use the trail for walking, jogging, and biking. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails in RMNP, but since this is a road, it is one of the few places that dogs are welcome to go on a hike with you inside the national park.

Old Fall River Road begins near the Endovalley Picnic area. When we were visiting, this area was closed so we parked just past the Alluvial Fan. The road between the Alluvial Fan and Fall River Road is approximately 1 mile. We enjoyed the mountain views and towering aspen trees along the way.

Old Fall River Road is currently closed to traffic, but signage indicates that dogs are allowed on leash and two way biking is also permitted.

Did I mention that Old Fall River Road heads up to the alpine tundra? That means it’s basically straight uphill.

For your effort, you are rewarded with some great views.

You will also see several waterfalls on your way including under bridges you cross and flowing down the mountainside.

You will hear Chasm Falls before you see it. This is one of my favorite waterfalls in the whole park. We ended our hike by exploring the lower/middle area of the falls which was a mile from where the gravel road began. There is a viewing platform near the top of the falls which is located an extra quarter mile up the road. Our total hike was 4 miles long, which is right about our family’s limit when hiking with our girls (ages 3 and 5).

This was our first time hiking to Chasm Falls. In the past we stopped by for a quick photo while driving up to the Alpine Visitor Center. The extra effort and time gave us a new appreciation for Chasm Falls as a true destination in the park, and not just a stopping point along the way.

from below Chasm Falls
Chasm Falls
looking up Chasm Falls
Chasm Falls from viewing deck (taken on previous trip)

Helpful Links:

Old Fall River Road – National Park Service site

Best Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Road Status – National Park Service site

More Dog Friendly Hikes Near Estes Park, Colorado

Rent our Cabin

We haven’t been able to rent our cabin for the past few months to comply with accommodation orders in the state of Colorado. Starting this week, we are ready to rent! If you are looking for a relaxing place to stay in Estes Park this summer, we hope you consider booking at Solitude Cabins. Also consider following Solitude Cabins on facebook. The management team does a great job at sharing pictures and promotions.

If you are looking for a great place to stay on the West side of Rocky Mountain National Park, I’m happy to share recommendations. Thanks!

*this post contains affiliate links.

Thank you for following along on our adventures!

Puppy Picks – Products We Like for Our New Puppy

SKy’s Favorite things:

Raised dog bowls with mat under to catch spills

Strong dog leash. Our six month old pup has chewed her way through two leashes already, so for our third leash I wanted to get something stronger. I ordered a leash from BAAPET. I like the padded handle, even though she chewed some of it off already. I also like how thick the cord is. She doesn’t seem to want to chew on that as much. Fingers crossed this lasts. I have a good feeling about it!

ChuckIt! balls – We’ve also gone through our share of tennis balls. The ChuckIt balls seem to have a little more durability for our active puppy. We also ordered a launcher to help us throw the balls even further, but it hasn’t arrived yet in the mail. In the mean time, these balls have provided tons of fun with just good old fashion throwing.

Nylabone – This is a bacon flavored chew toy that looks like a little pig. It is supposed to help clean teeth. Sky doesn’t seem overly interested in it, but it has lasted several months.

Poop Scooper – I never thought I’d spend money on a poop scooper, but I have to say this scooper from Arm & Hammer makes the dirty chore a lot easier. I totally recommend getting one!

Raised Pet Bowl and silicone mat to protect our hardwood floors from water spills. At the time of purchase, I felt that a cute raised pet bowl was a bit of a splurge, but I’ve been very happy because we haven’t accidentally kicked over the bowls or stepped in the water (I’m not sure if I’m just clumsy, or if other people have this issue?). I’m really happy with this purchase.

Slicker brush – My dog runs away from me the moment I start walking towards her with this brush. I have a feeling that her behavior has nothing to do with the brush itself. The product is rated well on Amazon. I like that it is self cleaning. I’m going to keep trying before I make my final decision on this one.

Plush toy – This cute lady bug plush toy lasted much longer than I expected it to. I’m not a huge fan of the squeaky noise it makes, but our puppy sure is. The manufacturer is ZippyPaws and they have adorable dog toys. I’m wondering how Sky would like a hide and seek toy like this squirrel one.