Mount Audubon, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Mount Audubon
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Roosevelt National Forest

by Lloyd Garrick

July 31, 2010

Mount Audubon in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (part of Roosevelt National Forest) is a rather large mountain, conspicuous in the distance straight ahead as you drive Rt. 36 West into Boulder. It is to the left of Longs Peak and easily recognized by its large bowel shaped indent on the East face. (looks like a freakin' meteor crater)

Mt. Audubon in the distance from Rt. 36 South of Boulder.
Flanked by Sawtooth Mountain and some jagged Indian Peaks.

An extreme zoom shot. The signature snowpack
is seen, as is the meteor crater.

With it's 8 mile round trip and 2700 ft elevation gain, it should rate in the "moderate" range for difficulty, depending on how young you are(n't). At 13,223 feet, it just classifies as a "13er" and just may be the easiest way in Colorado to break 13K.

Just as you enter Boulder on Rt. 36, head West on Rt. 119 (it is called Canyon Blvd.) to Nederland, then North on Rt. 72 from the circle up to Ward. Look for a sign for Brainard Lake recreation area (it is easy to miss it and drive by), and turn left up the road. The trailhead is about 6 miles in. You will pay a fee (it was $9), and park officials will direct you to parking. Plan on getting parked a half mile or so from the trailhead; this place is always packed!

The trail begins amid the pines, rising gently for about a half-mile until it reaches a steep series of narrow switchbacks that lead into a forest of high-alpine, wind-dwarfed conifers. The treeline is about a mile and a half in; most of the hike is among wide open space and you are totally exposed - awesome views but not good in thunder and lightning.

Once past treeline, the trail arcs gracefully through high, grassy swales, offering unimpeded views of the foothills and plains to the east. The trail remains clearly marked until it cuts toward the summit through a talus field on the north ridge, where you must look for cairns, especially if a dusting of snow has obscured previous tracks.

On the trail you will see (and hear!) tiny picas everywhere. Enormous black ravens hang casually about, and marmots scramble in the scree above treeline. On the summit, you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view, including vistas of the Never Summer and Mummy Ranges, the harrowing heights of nearby Indian Peaks such as Arickaree, Pawnee and Kiowa peaks, and blackwater ponds off the backside, and an incredible view of Longs Peak.

As late as June there may be snow on the ground which definitely will make staying on trail difficult, especially the final mile to the summit; snow also will appear again as early as September. That leaves July and August, the warmest months with the longest days. Fine. Except then is when the mid-afternoon thunderstorms peak - and they occur almost every single day. You can plan on getting a real early start (not me, it sucks getting up early). Or plan on several attempts until you hit one of those rare days when the weather is perfect! all day (that's me).

Throughout this site, you can click on the little picture to get a BIG picture.

On the road leading up to the trailhead your target goal looms over you.
The trail up is over and beyond the ridge on the right.

A rather unimpressive trailhead start
at the end of the parking lot, about
4400 ft above my Arvada condo.

At first a dull walk thru the woods, as with all these hikes.
But very soon you will break out from the treeline.
This part of the hike is very short.
Soon you will come to a sharp right turn in the trail, and see this
off to the left. The trail begins to ascend from here, and is much
more opened up.

The trail rapidly opens up as you aproach the treeline, which is about
a mile and a half in, and 700 feet above trailhead.


Not even a third into the hike yet, you will see views like this off
to the right and behind you:



Soon after this point, the trail is through a large scree field, and then up onto a huge plateau area,
which is almost flat and with a relatively gentle incline. Near the end of the plateau, the trail veers
off up and to the right towards the summit.

Where's the trail?
Actually, it is easy to navigate and see when you are there.
Here you have cleared the treeline and are about to ascend
up onto the large plateau. About 900 feet above trailhead.
Just into the plateau, the summit looms ahead of you. About 2 hours in,
and the weather started getting scary.

About 1100 feet above trailhead.
Almost looks like ground level here
with the hike just starting!

Looking back as you enter the plateau

Now I'm a getting scared

The plateau is about 1100 feet above trailhead, and very big. Awesome
views behind at this point, and later on, off to the sides.


Looking toward boulder. You can't see the city, but South Boulder and Bear Peak mountains are
visible in the hazy distance (left picture), also Green Mountain ("flatirons") and ElDorado.