Sourdough Trail: Brainard Lake to Camp Dick, Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Sourdough Trail: Brainard Lake to Camp Dick - 13.3 miles

Brainard Lake Recreation Area

View of Niwot Ridge and the Indian Peaks from the Sourdough Trail

View of Niwot Ridge and the Indian Peaks from the Sourdough Trail

Round-Trip Length: 13.3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 10,048' - 8,675' (10,048' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -1,373' net elevation loss (+1,766' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Sourdough Trail: Brainard Lake to Camp Dick - 13.3 Miles Round-Trip

The Sourdough Trail stretches 12.5 miles from Rainbow Lakes Road to Camp Dick in the Roosevelt National Forest. This versatile trail runs S-N along the eastern edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area on grades ideal for hiking, running, skiing and snowshoeing.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

There are several access points along the way; the following describes the Sourdough Trail's northern half between Brainard Lake Road (s) and its terminus at Camp Dick (n). The Sourdough Trail is accessed from the new trailhead facility just outside the Brainard Lake Recreation fee station:

The Sourdough Trail drops gently in a subalpine forest to St Vrain Creek and the St Vrain Creek Trail split (1.15 miles : 9,732').

Note that some older map depictions of this junction are not to scale. Downhill grades moderate to the first of two Wapiti Trail access points, a winter use-only trail.

The Sourdough bends NE to a large meadow and pond with good views of Niwot Ridge and several iconic summits of the Indian Peaks Wilderness (2.0 miles : 9,712'). This boggy, aspen-ringed area is a good place to find wildlife. A steep grade resumes through lodgepole to a break with views of St Vrain Mountain and the Beaver Reservoir basin ( 2. 5 miles : 9,566').

A mild descent continues past the second Wapiti Trail split (2.9 miles : 9,456'), and uneventfully to a large clearing at CR 113 and the Beaver Bog Trailhead (3.85 miles : 9,195').

Note the contrast between the thick pine forest to the south, and sparsley treed hillside to the north. This area was taken by fire some years ago, but is recovering well as flowers, grasses and aspen have sprouted in replenished soils and newly opened space.

Head north from the Beaver Bog Trailhead into the burn-recovery area. The trail rises through sparse pine and young aspen to a crest with good views of St Vrain Mountain (12,162').

It levels across a dirt road (4.2 miles : 9,310') and drops to the Beaver Reservoir Trailhead on County Road 96 (4.9 miles : 9,176'). Follow trail marker #835 across the road and keep north.

The Sourdough Trail moderates to a long footbridge (5.35 miles : 9,122') and enters a notably tall and diverse swath of forest (5.5 miles). It reaches a split for Coney Flats Road (6.1 miles : 8,928'), and begins a mod-steep descent to a split for Buchannan Pass Trail and Camp Dick (6.5 miles : 8,698'). 

Follows signs for Camp Dick, where the trail ends near Campsite #35 (6.65 miles : 8,672').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 04.853 W105 32.088 — 0.0 miles : Sourdough Trailhead
  • N40 05.120 W105 32.048 — .5 miles : Moderate drop through subalpine forest
  • N40 05.451 W105 31.918 — 1.15 miles : Cross creek to Saint Vrain Creek Trail
  • N40 05.722 W105 31.987 — 1.65 miles : Wapiti Trail split #1
  • N40 05.816 W105 31.627 — 2.0 miles : Large meadow and pond
  • N40 06.184 W105 31.339 — 2.5 miles : Steep drop to clearing with northerly views
  • N40 06.388 W105 31.618 — 2.95 miles : Wapiti Trail split #2
  • N40 06.382 W105 31.030 — 3.5 miles : Moderate descent in mixed forest
  • N40 06.506 W105 30.943 — 3.85 miles : Beaver Bog Trailhead - keep straight
  • N40 06.727 W105 30.979 — 4.25 miles : Crest, flatten, and cross dirt road
  • N40 07.022 W105 30.828 — 4.9 miles : Beaver Reservoir Trailhead - keep straight
  • N40 07.324 W105 30.714 — 5.5 miles : Descent through notably tall forest
  • N40 07.511 W105 30.928 — 6.1 miles : Coney Flats Road split
  • N40 07.640 W105 31.003 — 6.5 miles : Bear right at sign for camp Dick
  • N40 07.693 W105 31.090 — 6.65 miles : Campsite #35 at Camp Dick

Worth Noting

  • The Sourdough Trail is variously referred to as Trail #835 on many maps and signs.

  • This is a muti-use trail that sees moderate use all times of year. Honor yield protocols for horses and skiers.

  • Though grades are moderate and trail conditions are good, there is significant climbing and distance on the return to Brainard Lake. Plan travel time and resources accordingly.

  • Moose are sometimes seen along the Sourdough Trail, especially in the fall during the rut. Moose can be aggressive during this time, and possess deceptive speed. Maintain a safe and respectful distance.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Sourdough Trail - Arapaho National Forest Information

  • Dispersed camping is permitted along the Sourdough Trail. No permits are required. There are no designated sites, however many are well established from regular use along the trail.
  • Group sizes are limited to 12 individuals. Permits are required for professionally guided groups or those of 12+ combined individuals and stock.
  • Fires are permitted unless otherwise indicated. Call in advance for status.
  • Camp at least 200' from the trailhead, trail and creeks.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area - Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Information

  • Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
  • Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15.
  • 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 packstock 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.
  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Backcountry Zones.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.
  • Stock 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.

  • Permits are required for professionally guided groups or those of 12+ combined individuals and stock.

  • Hiking is not permitted on designated snowshoe trails in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Directions to Trailhead

The Sourdough Trail is accessed from the Sourdough Trailhead in the Brainard Lake Recreation. The trailhead is located 2.65 miles west of CO 72 (Peak to Peak Highway) on Brainard Lake Road. Brainard Lake Road is located 13 miles north of Nederland, and .1 miles northwest of Ward.

The trailhead is located just before the pay station and winter gate on the right side of the road. This is a new facility with expanded parking, restrooms, and visitor information.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests
2150 Centre Ave., Building E
Fort Collins, CO 80526

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Thank you for mentioning yield protocols,specifically related to horses. Sometimes our four-legged trail users are not mentioned. I am looking forward to riding the Sour Dough trail this summer for the first time. "
kd  -   -  Date Posted: March 19, 2014


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