This hike is ‘in the middle of nowhere’ according to my 5-year-old. In reality, Black Canyon trailhead is in the Lumpy Ridge area of Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive is less than 10 minutes from downtown Estes Park, Colorado.
Here is a map of the Lumpy Ridge trails. Lumpy Ridge trailhead begins at 7,840 ft of elevation, I believe that’s the lowest trailhead elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I agree with my daughter that it feels remote here. That is probably because we didn’t see many other hikers on the trail.
If I were going to buy land someday, my dream would be for it to have a similar landscape. I find the wide-open views and rugged rock formations uniquely inspiring. Drinking coffee and looking out at this view every morning… that’s worth dreaming about. Right!?
According to AllTrails.com, this hike is 15.5 miles out and back. The trail will take you all the way to Lawn Lake.
Fifteen miles is obviously longer than we would expect to hike with young kids, so we set out with the expectation to turn around when everyone was feeling tired. The girls both did great. At 3.7 miles roundtrip, we hiked substantially farther than our first hike here. We are making progress!
We spotted wild turkeys in the grass. Farther down the trail we saw a coyote or fox (we should have brought binoculars). Lucky for the turkeys, I don’t think their paths crossed.
Between spotting animals, climbing on rocks and trees, and taking in the mountain scenery, I could not have asked for a better morning in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’m thankful for time spent ‘in the middle of nowhere’ with my favorite people.
3-2-1, we are counting down the days until my daughter starts kindergarten next week. We’ve met the teacher and bought school supplies. I’m confident that she is ready to learn and make new friends.
But, am I ready? I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since she was born. Together we have gone on countless adventures to the library, coffee shops, gymnastics, berry picking, and the zoo. Her little sister and I will miss her very much when she is at school every day.
On the other hand, I’m mentally prepared for the possibility that her in-person classes might turn to virtual at any point during the first semester because of the pandemic. I dislike uncertainty, but mostly I’m scared that we might make the wrong decisions.
Finally, I’m thinking about what the future looks like for my career once the girls are both in school full-time. With this much uncertainty, can I even start to think about my own goals?
I was processing all of this on our hike to Bierstadt Lake. As I walked the switchbacks up towards the lake, I realized that COVID-19 has made it harder to do everything and somehow even simple tasks like going to the grocery store felt like too much. I resolved to take that errand back onto my plate and off my husband’s. This little momentum shift has created a snowball effect and I’m starting to feel empowered again.
Perhaps I was able to feel, think, and work through so many big thoughts and emotions because there is plenty of space for me to do that in the mountains.
And now for some pretty pictures and video from our hike!
If you want to go on this awesome hike to Bierstadt Lake, check out our past posts which go into more details about the hike’s distance, elevation change, and other key details. It’s one of our favorite family-friendly hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
Today I want to share a scouting report for a new (to us) trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. East Shore is located on the west side of the national park near the town of Grand Lake and Granby Colorado. The trail borders Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby as well as the Colorado River. We parked near Shadow Mountain Dam. Our girls found the dam fascinating. (Their excitement could be attributed to the movie Frozen 2 which features a dam breaking as a major plot point.)
The East Shore trailhead gives hikers access to RMNP as well as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. From Shadow Mountain Dam, we headed north for a half mile. The total distance of the East Shore trail is over 20 miles.
By the time we made it to East Shore, we had already hiked up on the alpine tundra and gone kayaking on Grand Lake. Given all the activities of the day, it’s not surprising that we only made it through a very small portion of the trail. We are excited to return when we have more energy and time to explore.
Trail Positives: Lake views, mountain views, wildflowers, dam.
Trail Negatives: Distance from our cabin in Estes Park.
Final Thoughts: This trail would be a good option for people visiting Grand Lake or Granby, Colorado. Remember that hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park requires a park pass and a timed-entry permit.