The Brainard Lake Recreational Area is a gateway into the Indian Peaks Wilderness and during the winter offers a full day of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities for all ages. Since this area is closed to traffic in the winter months the snow-covered roads become deep snow trails to spend hours on. Since it is close to Boulder it's a quick and easy drive to get there.
However, it can be windy there as the wind can barrel down off The Indian Peaks and produce whiteout conditions. So be prepared for some bone-chilling wind from time to time. For me, the morning started out with near-whiteout conditions at the trailhead, but that quickly gave way to overcast skies and a light snow.
In the middle of the day the clouds broke, and a mix of light puffy clouds and blue sky made for a lot of fun on the various winter trails in this area. Towards the end of the day the clouds and wind returned. So, all in all a really nice day in The Brainard Lake Recreational Area. Their winter map doesn't look like much but it's deceptive, there is plenty to do all day there. Here is a link to the Brainard Lake Recreational Area Winter Map.
The original plan was to try and snowshoe to Blue Lake, but nobody had broken trail to Mitchell Lake, and I wasn't up for that amount of trail-blazing, so I turned back and towards Long Lake. That's when they sky cleared and the always impressive Indian Peaks Range became visible and the snow-capped mountains set against the blue sky were very dramatic. When it's clear the iconic tilted cone-shaped Navajo Peak gives this range its distinctive character.
If you get there early the wind from the previous night will have blown over the snowshoe and ski tracks from the previous day and will give you a sense that you're the first on the trail - and depending on where you are going that could be true. For me, this turned out to be 8.6 miles of snowshoeing, and there was plenty more to see and do. Well worth returning to again this winter. Check out my GPS tracks here.