Indian Peaks Wilderness – Snowshoeing to Brainard Lake and Long Lake

Snowshoeing to Brainard Lake and Long Lake

Back in mid-March my husband and I did a 6.7-mile snowshoe trek in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area to take some photos of the snowy mountains before the melt. We had been to Brainard Lake before and wanted to see a bit more of the area. Long Lake is only an extra mile in one direction, for a total of 2 miles added to the trip, so we decided to check it out as well.

The Hike

Brainard Lake Road

Because we had been down the Brainard Snowshoe Trail before, and because our trip would be slightly shorter if we took Brainard Lake Road, we decided to snowshoe along the latter. Having never been on such a long snowshoe trip before, and knowing that you burn a lot of calories snowshoeing (more than 1000 calories per hour), we wanted to keep our trek on the shorter side.

Here is a winter season map from the Forest Service of the trails in the area, so you can get a better idea of where I’m talking about.

This part of our trail, which is a paved road in the summer, is relatively flat and a popular route for both snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

Brainard Lake Road

A view a bit further down the road with a cross-country skier so you can see the scale of the beautiful nature out there –

Brainard Lake Road

Brainard Lake

2.3 miles in, we reached the edge of Brainard Lake. The sweeping view of the Indian Peaks mountains covered with snow from Brainard Lake is excellent. We were snap-happy, taking a bunch of pictures.

Brainard Lake

I was able to take this panorama of the Indian Peaks mountains –

Brainard Lake Panorama

I also took close-up photos of the mountains with my telephoto lens –

Indian Peaks Mountains

Indian Peaks Mountains

Indian Peaks Mountains

Long Lake

We hugged the north side of Brainard Lake to continue on to Long Lake, adding another mile to our trek. The first part was a bit steep to climb, and we were huffing and puffing a bit. The trails in this area are not as well-traversed as those going to Brainard Lake, so we were alone on our journey the entire time.

The view at Long Lake was also beautiful –

Long Lake Panorama

Some closeups of the mountains taken with my telephoto lens –

Indian Peaks Mountains

Indian Peaks Mountains

Gray Jay

At both Long Lake and Brainard Lake we spotted these fluffy gray and white birds. At each location this bird would sit on a nearby tree watching us as we took pictures and ate snacks.

Gray Jay

The Gray Jay, Canada Jay, Camp Robber, or Perisoreus canadensis, lives in mixed evergreen-deciduous forest across the boreal forest of the United States and Canada. For the most part, they live in Canada, but you can see the distribution of their range here. I was most surprised to learn that these cute fluffy jays are omnivorous (eating both plants and meat), including nestling birds and eggs. Not so cute. The reason they also have the name “Camp Robber” is because they like to hang around and pilfer human food when they get a chance. That’s probably why they were hanging around us.

The Trek Back

It was getting late, and after about a half our of taking photos at Long Lake, it was time to head back. As is usually the case, the trek back was more downhill than uphill, and it went quickly.

We had been snowshoeing for several hours by now, so we took a break at Brainard Lake. We sat on the wall of a bridge and snacked, all the while a Gray Jay was watching us from a tree.


Recommended as a Snowshoe Trek

Generally, because snowshoeing is more energy-intense than regular hiking, we tend to keep our snowshoe adventures to about 5 miles long. However, the 6.7-mile snowshoe trek back and forth to Long Lake, passing by Brainard Lake, is also doable, especially if you give yourself ample time for rest and snack breaks along the way.

I would definitely recommend this snowshoe trek to anyone who wants to go a bit further than Brainard Lake. You can see one more gorgeous alpine lake and get even more great exercise.


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