For stunning panoramic views within the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Pawnee Pass Trail is a woofderful option. It’s a heavily trafficked trail, and for good reason! This challenging trail will reward you in full with gorgeous views. At the top, you will even have the opportunity to stand with one foot on each side of the Continental Divide. It’s part of the Brainard Lake Recreational Area, only a 15 minute drive west of Ward. The trail is almost 10 miles round trip, so be prepared to spend most of your day in the wilderness.
To access the Pawnee Pass Trail, start at the Long Lake Trailhead. From Ward, take Brainard Lake Road west. After you hit the Brainard Lakes entrance portal, it’s another three miles to Long Lake Trailhead. There is a fee for the recreational area during the summer season, typically late June to mid-October. It’s $11 per vehicle for a three day pass, or $1 per person who walks or bikes in. At the trailhead you’ll find plenty of parking and restrooms.
Once you've started your journey, after about ¼ of a mile you will reach Long Lake. After taking in the views, follow the trail on the right side of the lake until you reach the Pawnee Pass Trail junction. Take the trail right, up to Pawnee Pass. From here you will continue two miles up to the lovely Lake Isabelle, and finally another 2.5 mile climb through lush forests, over creeks and through fields to the summit of Pawnee Pass. Here you will see a sign marking the Continental Divide. Make sure you catch the views on the east and west side! You’ll be able to enjoy dramatic mountain views, as well as a spectacular display of wildflowers in the early summer months.
This hike is fairly challenging and will take several hours, so be sure you and your pooch are up to the challenge. You need to keep your doggo leashed and on the trails at all times, so as to minimize your impact on the environment. Be sure to bring enough water, snacks and clean up bags for the journey.
Overall, the Pawnee Pass Trail is a terrific way to get out in the mountains, and enjoy a rewarding challenge with your canine companion.