For many, the winter lot at Brainard Lake is the base camp for a number of winter and spring objectives into the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
This approach heads from the winter lot to Brainard Lake on the Brainard Lake Road, which is inaccessible by car until around Memorial Day (this can change year to year, call (303) 541-2500 to check road closure updates). This out-and-back to Brainard Lake is a great option in and of itself for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even a leisurely skin (with our four-legged friends, too!).
From the lake, the approach continues onto Long Lake Road and more or less follows the Pawnee Pass Trail
Near the intersection with the Jean Lunning Trail
, this ascent heads north/northeast into the trees up the nose of a couple fun, south/southeast facing bowls. This ascent was very much a "choose your own adventure" route, as there wasn't an obvious route to head up. With that in mind, the trees are spaced well to pick a skin track through, and the slope isn't bad.
From the end of the ascent, see the South Saint Vrain Creek
line which we used and briefly traversed east to continue the descent through the trees back to the approach, which we retraced back to the winter lot.