The mountains residing within the legal boundarys Colorado's spectacular Indian Peak Wilderness is home to many of the best hiking and climbing routes in the state. Only two hours from Denver, Colorado they are a popular destination for the novice day hiker, so start early and you can get some solitude.
Apache Peak is the king of the entire Brainard Lake area. This massive 13,441-ft. mountain is exceeded by only North Arapaho for total elevation in the Indian Peak Wilderness. It is a complex mountain with steep slopes surrounding it. Apache Peak is home to the San Isabelle Glacier, a permanent snowfield that offers the Queens Way route. In addition, the 1,400-ft. north-facing Fair Glacier is considered the premere snow-climb in the entire wilderness area. I will describe the standard late summer East Ledges Route, which is a class 2+ route with a minor class 3 move or two. This route is steep and loose and some might consider it to be a major slog. I thought it to be very tiring and uneventful. What makes the route worthwhile is fun scrambling on the grass-covered ledges, and fantastic views of the Lone Eagle Cirque from the summit. This is not the route to take if there is any snow on Apache's east ledge system; a slip from an icy ledge could be your last. There is also plenty of water flowing over these ledges from the melting snowfield above, so only attempt this route in mid to late summer when the temperature stays above freezing overnight.
This is a view of the Apache Massif from the west. Apache on the right, Iroquois Peak is the high point in the center with the Lost Tribes Lake Basin below Iroquois.
To reach the Brainard Lake Road from the north follow Colorado 72 or the Peak to Peak Highway, south for 10.2 miles from the junction with highway 7. For the southern approach, go north 12 miles from Colorado 72 in Nederland to the town of Ward, the Brainard Lake Road is just north of here. Turn west on Brainard Lake Road and go 5 miles on paved road to Brainard Lake. Follow the Long Lake Trailhead signs another .5 mile to a large parking area. There is a $9.00 (2009) fee to enter this recreation area.
A $9.00 fee to enter the Brainard Lake area. The area is closed from October to early June. You can buy a season parking pass.
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The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is closed from mid October to mid June every season. It is approximatly a 5 mile drive from the gate closure to the trailheads during this stretch of closure. Usually by early April the snow has melted off the paved road leading to the trailheads. You can easily ride a bike to the TH, many people do.
A permit is required for an overnight stay. Permits can be obtained by contacting: Boulder Ranger District. 303-444-6600 or Estes Park Office:970-586-3440 There are many other restrictions, so please contact either listing to get the correct info. There are places along the Peak to Peak Highway you can pull off to the side and car camp.