I had almost a 24-hour layover in Denver between my Columbus and Cabo trips, and from the Denver airport we drove straight up into the Rocky Mountains, passing first through Denver and then Boulder before the sun reached high noon. Our destination was Brainard Lake Recreation Area, located an hour and a half from Denver and an hour west of Boulder.
Multiple lakes surrounded by alpine forests and tall peaks sit at various elevations, the ones at the top flowing down into the next in the form of a river. The region was clearly carved by a glacier that has since melted and receded, Isabelle Glacier, and you can hike to it from the trailheads at Brainard Lake.
Grab a map on your way in – it’s well-marked and the walk takes you past Brainard and Isabelle lakes. It was in the seventies that day, but I stood on snow when we reached the glacier, the water flowing underneath and serving as the mouth that feeds the lakes and rivers below.
Further establishing this trek as the best layover of my life was the last-minute moose sighting – literally as we were driving out. I pulled the car over and was able to get the photo below. It was the first wild moose I’ve seen, something that made my face light up. There’s just no comparison between seeing that kind of animal in a zoo and standing thirty yards away in the wild.
Check out some of the spectacular sights captured in these photos. Brainard Rec Area is open June through October, and it’s $9/vehicle to enter. You can walk in for $1 if you start at another trailhead.