long lake in indian peaks wilderness colorado clouds and blue sky with jagged moutnains, evergreen trees and lake

Long Lake Loop in Indian Peaks

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Long Lake offers an easy 1.5 mile loop hike in Indian Peaks Wilderness. Located about 1 hour West of Boulder, Colorado, Long Lake is an easy-to-access alpine lake with stunning scenery. It's a popular spot, especially in the Summer months, so be sure to read the details on access fees and the notes below on the Long Lake Trailhead. Explore the full trail profile for trail maps, driving directions to Long Lake and more.
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Long Lake in Indian Peaks - Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for Long Lake Loop

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Note: This trailhead can only be reached by using Brainard Lake Road, which has seasonal closures. Because the Brainard Lake Recreation area is extremely popular, this entrance road experiences high amounts of traffic during weekends on the Summer. See the USFS page for details. For Brainard Lake Road closure status, see the Boulder Ranger District roads page.
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From Boulder, Colorado, head North on US36/28th Street. Take a left onto Lee Hill Road. Lee Hill Road will dead-end at an intersection with Left-Hand Canyon Road. Take a left onto Left-Hand Canyon Road heading West. Eventually, Left-Hand Canyon Road will turn into Indiana Gulch Road and will turn into Utica Road upon entering the town of Ward, Colorado. Utica turns into Nelson Road (lots of name changes on this trip) then ends at an intersection with 72/Peak to Peak Highway. Take a right onto 72, then the almost immediate next turn will be on your left for the Brainard Lake Road. Travel on Brainard Lake Road 2.2 miles to the entry station where you will need to pay the fee for the recreation area. As you approach the lake, bear right to continue on the Brainard Lake Road for another 1/2 mile, then turn right onto Mitchell lake Road. Go less than 1/10th of a mile, then turn left onto Long Lake Road. After about 1/3 of a mile, you will have arrived at the Long Lake Trailhead and parking area.

In the winter, the Brainard Lake Recreation area is a popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. However, all parking is at the Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead (near the access gate). It is approx. 4-miles one-way from the Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead to the Long-Lake Trailhead.

The Hike: Long Lake Loop Hike

From the Long Lake Trailhead, it's an easy and short 0.3-mile hike to Long Lake. Returning via this trail makes this a 0.6-mile out-and-back trip. However, to really take in the best of the Rocky Mountain Scenery, we recommend doing the full 1.5-mile loop.

Having reached the northeastern edge of Long Lake, head south over a footbridge and pick up the Jean Lunning Trail. The Jean Lunning trail travels alongside the southern perimeter of Long Lake and offers stunning views of the jagged mountain peaks surrounding the lake. Eventually, the Jean Lunning trail will intersect with the Pawnee Pass Trail. Take a right on the Pawnee Pass trail to head east and back to the short connector trail that leads back to the trailhead.

long lake brainard lake recreation area

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Long Lake

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Weather

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Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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rock formations and trees near on tundra near the summit of chief mountain colorado

Chief Mountain Hike

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Chief Mountain is a 1.5-mile hike in the mountains just one hour outside of Denver, Colorado. The Chief Mountain trail travels through alpine forest, then breaks out into high-country tundra, eventually gaining panoramic views of surrounding mountains. Chief Mountain gives hikers an incredible vantage point to survey the changing colors of Fall spread out in 360 degrees below. Explore the full Chief Mountain hike profileRead more


rolling grassland and gamble oaks in castle rock colorado

Ridgeline Open Space Hike

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Ridgeline Open Space is nestled in the Meadows residential area of Castle Rock. This network of over 13 miles of trails winds through elevated grasslands and gamble oak with a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks of the Front Range. Hike it or bike it for a quick escape from the work week. Explore the full Ridgeline Open Space hike profileRead more


St. Vrain Mountain Hike

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The St. Vrain Mountain trail is just a 3-mile hike into Indian Peaks Wilderness to stunning views of the rocky peaks of Wild Basin. Hike up and additional 1.5 miles from the RMNP boundary to the summit of St. Vrain mountain for 360-degree panoramic views of a wildflower-laden wilderness. Explore the full St. Vrain Mountain hike profileRead more


Golden Gate Canyon State Park Hiking Trails

6 Hikes in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Located less than an hour from Denver and Boulder, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a remarkable treasure. The park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails and some of the most accessible backcountry camping opportunities near Denver. Golden Gate is full of seasonal creeks and wildflowers, as well as promontories that open out to views of the snow-capped and lead-blue rock faces of the Rocky Mountains. The park is open year-round; however, during many years, snow may cover trails from as early as October through May. Explore this page to get familiar with several hike options and the camping facilities available in the Park.

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raccoon loop trail golden gate canyon state park
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Raccoon Loop Trail - Shaded and Family Friendly

Distance: 2.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Raccoon Loop Trail is an easy, 2.5-mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Because it's short and has a variety of scenery, the Racoon Loop makes for an enjoyable hike for families. Most hikes near Denver are quite exposed to the sun, but this hike offers a good deal of shade. The trail boasts panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, glades of aspen trees, wildflowers, and seasonal brooks.

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blue grouse trail golden gate canyon state park
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Blue Grouse Trail - A Short Adventure

Distance: 1.6 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Blue Grouse Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is another short hike of easy to moderate difficulty. If you are looking for a short adventure to gains views of green foothills and changing aspens, then this is for you. While not a spectacular hike, the Blue Grouse trail is easy to access and can be used as an access point to other trails and camping sites available in the park.

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Forgotten Valley Hike - Homestead Ruins

Distance: 3 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Moderate

A favorite destination hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, hikers can put together a segment of the Burro Trail and Mountain Lion trail to access this old homestead and pond situated in Forgotten Valley. Nearby are several reservable campsites and a backcountry shelter, making this area a perfect place to camp before exploring the many miles of trails in the park.
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Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow

Distance: 3.6 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Another trail to some of Golden Gate Canyon's camping areas, this out-and-back trail takes hikers through Greenfield Meadows and terminates at Frazer Meadow. Much of the trail follows alongside a seasonal creek that runs through the main valley. Aspen trees, meadows, wildflowers, and shaded trail segments are all highlights of this hike in the heart of the park.

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Beaver Loop Trail

Distance: 2.8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

The Beaver Loop trail can be picked up right from the visitor center at Golden Gate. It is a 2.8-mile loop with an out-and-back option of hiking over to Slough Pond. While it's a short hike, it requires about 1000' of elevation gain, making it a more demanding hike. Like so many of the hikes in Golden Gate, the Beaver Loop offers a beautiful panorama of distant, snow-capped mountains in the west.

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Windy Peak Trail - A Great Vantage Point

Distance: 6.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Another great destination hike, the way up to Windy Peak combines a few trails to create a loop hike with a spur trail leading to the top of Windy Peak. Windy Peak is an incredible vantage point for taking in the snow-capped Rockies and western skies. The eastern segment of this hike is replete with wildflowers during the summer.

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Camping in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon offers a variety of camping options, making the park a great place for those new to backpacking to test their equipment and to get a feel for what a longer trip into the mountains might require. Families looking to try out camping for the first time can car-camp or hike short distances to some of the backcountry sites. All sites require reservation and a Colorado State Parks Pass. There are less demanding options such as cabins and yurts available. All sites, cabins, and campsites can be booked at the Colorado State Park's reservation page. Here's a quick overview of the camping options at Golden Gate Canyon State Park:

  • 20 Backcountry Campsites: Brochure and Map of Backcountry Sites
  • 5 Cabins: Located at Reverend's Ridge, no hike in required, year-round, max occupancy of 6, heated, electricity, water and restrooms nearby, showers available in Summer season
  • 2 Yurts: Located at Reverend's Ridge, No hike-in required, year-round, max occupancy of 6, heated, electricity, water and restrooms nearby, showers available in Summer season
  • 97 Campsites at Reverend's Ridge: No hike-in or short walk required, accommodates campers, trailers, and some RV spaces, limited sites available during Winter months, max occupancy of 6 per site, water and restrooms nearby, showers available in Summer season
  • 35 Campsites at Aspen Meadows: Tent camping only, closed during Winter months, max occupancy of 6 per site, water pump and vault toilets
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      Map & Driving Directions


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snowcapped peaks in distance with green foothills in foreground

Beaver Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

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The Beaver Loop is a moderate 2.3-mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the West. Add a short segment to Slough Pond to make this a 3-mile hike. Explore the trail profile for a trail map, driving directions, and tips for this hike near Golden, CO
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Trail Snapshot: Beaver Loop in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Beaver Loop Hike

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From Denver, take US-6 West to Golden. Just outside Golden, US-6 will turn left (West) into Clear Creek Canyon; it's at this intersection that you'll continue North on 93. After 1.3 miles on 93, turn left onto Golden Gate Canyon Road. Now, prepare for the rest of your drive being pretty windy. After 12.7 miles on Golden Gate Canyon Road, it will intersect with Crawford Gulch Road on a wide curve. Turn right onto Crawford Gulch road and the visitor center for Golden Gate Canyon State Park will be on your immediate right. This is the best parking area for the Beaver Loop. However, the parking here fills up fast, especially on the weekends. Another option is to park at the Ralston Roost Trailhead, located about 0.2 mile further down the road (see the State Park Map Link above). A third option is to begin your hike at Slough Pond. This will add about 3/4 of a mile to your hike, making it closer to a 3-mile trip.
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The Beaver Loop Trailhead Across Golden Gate Canyon Road from the Visitor Center
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The Hike: The Beaver Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

The Visitor Center at Golden Gate is worth exploring. Kids will be fascinated by the trout in the man-made creek and small pond surrounding the building. The Beaver Trail can be picked up just South of the Visitor Center by taking one of the paths around the perimeter of the building. The trail begins under the powerlines on the opposite side of Golden Gate Canyon road. Exercise caution crossing the road as vehicles may be descending the hill and not be looking out for pedestrians. Be alert for cyclists, as they frequent the road and come down the hill at high speeds.

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First Trail Fork on the Beaver Loop
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At the first trail fork, hikers have the option of taking the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise. I hiked this clockwise, taking the trail towards the shelter. The clockwise route offers a more gentle ascent, but steep descent on the back side of the loop. Taking it counter-clockwise will mean a steeper ascent and a more gentle descent on the way back, which is probably easier on the knees, but a more demanding climb.

You'll notice that the State Park trail map rates this trail as "most difficult." It's important to note that these ratings are relative to the other trails in the park. I 've classified the Beaver Loop as medium/moderate because, while it does have over 1000' of elevation gain, it is only a 2.3-mile hike. Add about 3/4 of a mile if you make the out-and-back trip out to Slough Pond. See our Hikes by Difficulty page for more hikes and the basic criteria we use to classify hikes. It should be noted that difficulty will differ by persons, so be sure to review the details of a hike before attempting it.

beaver loop golden gate canyon yet another trail sign

Sign Indicating Spur Trail to Shelter
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At approximately 1 mile into the loop, hikers will encounter a sign (pictured above) pointing to a 0.5-mile spur trail leading to a backcountry shelter. A permit is required to camp here and can be purchased online at the Golden Gate Canyon fees page. Continuing on the loop, the trail will soon lead to an overlook of views to the West. During most of the year, snow-capped peaks appear above a verdant green valley in these western foothills.

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After the overlook, the trail begins a steep descent. I had brought my trekking poles (I always bring them), and was glad that I did. I would imagine that this trail gets slicked over with ice and hardened snow during the winter, making it really difficult to navigate. The trail then leads down to an intersection with the Slough Pond trail.

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Downhill Trail Segment on the Beaver Loop
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At this intersection at the bottom of the hill, you have the option of making the trip over to Slough Pond. The hike over to Slough Pond is pleasant and mostly flat. At the pond, a quaint creek flows out of the pond and under a footbridge. Slough Pond is a popular fishing spot and a great place for kids to learn to bait a hook. As mentioned above, adding this out-and-back segment to the hike, makes this closer to a 3 mile hike.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Beaver Loop Hike

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Weather

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Map & Driving Directions


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golden meadow with mountains in distance at Heil Valley Ranch Near Boulder Colorado

Heil Valley Ranch Ponderosa Loop Hike

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Heil Valley Ranch near Boulder offers this rewarding lollipop-loop hike which features views of distant snowcapped mountains and geological features unique to this section of Colorado. Nestled in the foothills between Boulder and Lyons this singletrack trail is a great destination for both hikers and mountain bikers. However, soil erosion has required occasional trail closures, so be sure to check out the Boulder County Open Space Twitter feed for trail conditions. Explore the full Heil Valley Ranch hike profileRead more


Carpenter Peak Hike in Roxborough State Park

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The hike up Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park is a strenuous 3.1 mile journey (one-way) to a foothill summit that overlooks the red rock formations of Fountain Valley. You'll also gain 360 degree panoramic views of Denver, east to the plains, and west to distant snow-capped peaks. In this Colorado trail profile, you'll find driving directions, trail map, and Read more


Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

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Our kids loved this 2.5 mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The trail sports lots of shade, panoramic views of snowcapped peaks, wildflowers, and trickling brooks. Be sure to see the details below regarding an annual raptor closure that detours one segment of this hike. Explore the full Raccoon Loop Hike profile for trail map, driving directionsRead more


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Lion Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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The Lion Lake #1 in Rocky Mountain National Park boasts a dramatic alpine landscape hidden away in the northwestern corner of the Wild Basin. The trail to this high-mountain lake passes several waterfalls and offers access to other lakes and surrounding peaks. Because the Lions lake is more remote, a trip to it may require an overnight stay at one of RMNP's backcountry camping sites. Explore the full Lion Lake #1 hike profileRead more