Mt Audubon, Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado
Mt Audubon - 7.9 miles
Brainard Lake Recreation Area
|Round-Trip Length:||7.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,508' - 13,223' (13,223' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,715' net elevation gain (+2,789' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Mt Audubon - 7.9 Miles Round-Trip
Mt Audubon is located 3.95 miles from Mitchell Lake Trailhead in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. It's the 6th tallest peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and highest with a maintained trail up to the summit. Visitors will enjoy miles of open tundra with big views across the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park.
65% of this trail runs above treeline. Anticipate variable weather conditions, and get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms:
The trail begins on a mild grade that banks sharply left at .25 miles (an important mark when snow covered) up to a break in the forest against the steep south flank of Mt Audubon (.72 miles : 10,856').
The trail turns right on steep switchbacks with expanding views of Mitchell Lake, Little Pawnee Peak (12,466') and Mt Toll (12,979'). Tall spruce give way to krummholz, willow, forbs and sedges on the rapid transition through treeline (1.4 miles : 11,238').
Anticipate rocky conditions much of the way, and lingering snow through mid-summer. The next two miles lead through steep, open tundra on a rather direct, cairn-marked route to the summit.
The trail bears left at the Beaver Creek Trail split (1.7 miles : 11,375') with a good look at Longs Peak (14,259') and Mt Meeker (13,911') to the north.
Travel briefly moderates across a wide flat (2.05 miles : 11,650') with partial views of Mt Toll, Navajo Peak, Apache Peak, Shoshoni Peak, and Pawnee Peak. It pushes through a few steep switchbacks (2.5 - 2.75 miles : 11,977' - 12,144') to a saddle with social routes branching off to two unnamed peaks to the north.
These peaks (12,706' and 12,114') are good x-country alternatives to the busy Audubon summit, offering solitude and views across Coney Flats and Rocky Mountain's Wild Basin Area.
The main trail curls north of the summit and levels on a saddle directly beneath it (3.5 miles : 12,700'), positioning you for the final .45 mile - 523' climb through a rugged talus field. A large cairn and rock barrier span the trail, a signal for you to turn left into the talus.
It's possible to overshoot this demarcation, but you'll quickly find yourself staring down a perilous drop to Upper Coney Lake (10,940').
Identify cairns before heading into the talus. The path is vague at best - even with cairns' guidance - and it's likely you'll discover several alternative routes along the way.
Proceed cautiously and follow the most direct path to the summit (3.95 miles : 13,223'). Enjoy wide ranging panoramas, an up-close look at neighboring Paiute Peak (13,088') and 8 rock wind shelters on Mt Audubon.
- N40 05.024 W105 34.873 — 0.0 miles : Beaver Creek Trail - Mt Audubon Trailhead
- N40 05.190 W105 34.951 — .25 miles : Trail bends left
- N40 05.278 W105 35.109 — .5 mile mark
- N40 05.428 W105 35.231 — .72 miles : Turn right up switchbacks
- N40 05.469 W105 35.207 — 1.0 mile mark
- N40 05.734 W105 35.071 — 1.4 miles : Clear treeline
- N40 05.915 W105 35.184 — 1.7 miles : Mt Audubon - Beaver Creek Trail split
- N40 06.017 W105 35.528 — 2.0 mile mark
- N40 06.166 W105 35.921 — 2.5 miles : Begin minor switchbacks
- N40 06.212 W105 36.017 — 2.75 miles : End minor switchbacks
- N40 06.128 W105 36.515 — 3.2 mile mark
- N40 06.200 W105 36.789 — 3.5 miles : Turn left at cairn up talus field to summit
- N40 06.150 W105 36.787 — Summit approach mark #1
- N40 06.140 W105 36.825 — Summit approach mark #2
- N40 06.105 W105 36.864 — Summit approach mark #3
- N40 06.038 W105 36.928 — Summit approach mark #4
- N40 05.954 W105 36.976 — 3.95 miles : Mt Audubon Summit (13,223')
- The alpine tundra is a fragile ecosystem with growing seasons as short as 12 weeks. Elk migrate here to give birth and escape summer heat, joining year-round residents such as marmot, ptarmigan, and mountain goat. Bighorn sheep may also be seen early spring - late fall.
- This is a heavily used trailhead with limited parking. Arrive early to secure space and avoid crowds.
- Call ahead for trail conditions and trailhead access (the winter gate at the pay station can remain closed through mid-July, depending on snow).
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15. Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
- Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs.
- Group size is limited to 12 people or people and stock combined.
- Campfires are prohibited east side of the Continental Divide, as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.
- Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.
- Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Backcountry Zones.
- Where there are no designated sites, dispersed camping rules apply. Camp at least 100' away from lakes, streams and trails. Camp in previously used sites whenever possible to minimize impact.
- Packstock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.
Rules and Regulations
- There's an $11 fee to enter the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Use the self-service pay station if no attendant is on duty. Fees, Parking, Pet, Camping and Trespassing regulations are strictly enforced.
- Dogs must be leashed at all times on trails within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.
Directions to Trailhead
Mt Audubon is accessed from the Beaver Creek Trailhead, located on the north end of the Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking lot within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area (located off of CO 72, 13 miles north of Nederland, just northwest of the town of Ward).
From Highway 72, turn west on Brainard Lake Road. In 2.7 miles you'll reach a pay station. Use the self-service pay station if no attendant is on duty. Continue another 3.1 miles on the paved road to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking lot. This road is closed at the halfway point from late October through late June or early July (depending on snow).
Boulder Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301