This is our first time to Pawnee CG, at Brainard Lake Recreational Area. The campground sits near Brainard Lake and the South St. Vrain River. Walking from the far side of the campground to the lake takes about 10–15 minutes, and is easier than finding a parking space. Take note that day visitors flood the Recreational area as soon as the gates open. It is hard to find a parking space at the trailheads before the afternoon. Do note that it costs $10 each car, even if you are paying for a campsite.
Sites 1–12 have are in a more open setting, while the rest of the campsite is nestled in pine trees. We stayed in the open area, which allowed us to have a spectacular views of the mountain range and plenty of solar power. Since there were a lot of blown over trees around our site we had both a nesting pair of Blue Birds and Flickers that we were able to watch throughout the day. The Dark-eyed Juncos and White-crowned Sparrows were also feeding their fledglings around the Airstream. There was even a Three-toed Woodpecker!
The sunsets and sunrises are spectacular at Brainard Lake! You can often spot Moose foraging in the willows. A lot of the campers gather around the lakeside to watch the sun go down behind the mountains.
We began from our site, and hiked up and around Long Lake. We located Nywot Cutoff Trail, to the Jean Lunning Trail, and then to the Pawnee Pass Trail. Luckily it was an overcast day, so walking the road all the way back to our site was not to hot. The wildflowers along the Jean Lunning Trail were stunning, and there where many people out admiring this stretch of the hike. Keep your eyes open (and dogs leashed!) for the Moose that are around the lakes. We came across a pair lounging next to the Pawnee Pass Trail. 🙂
We also hiked up to Mitchell Lake. It is an easy, and fast hike. The mosquitos were thick—make sure to bring plenty of potent bug spray.
There are many warning signs around the trail heads. Be aware of all the animals in the area, especially Moose, and remember to keep your dog on a leash. We were told that the Moose think of dogs as Wolves, and they will attack them.
I tried my hand at fly fishing in the lakes, and caught nothing! I’ll blame it on the incredible hatches that occur at sunset—the fish where to full to eat my fly. Ha! The streams, however, were a different story. We caught a total of 8 Brook Trout on a Royal Wolf or Parachute Adams. You can access the South St. Vrain at site #37 (next to the site pole number), or at the damn.
We finally spotted a bear in the campground! Our trail camera took a picture of a Black Bear cruising though the site at 2:49 a.m. He wasn’t a problem since we keep a clean site, and all of our food was put up for the night.
When: Summer, 2015
Altitude: 10,350 ft
Reservation: Pawnee Campground
Site: Level, water to fill containers, non-electric, no dump station