Pawnee Pass Trail – Day One of our Indian Peaks Trip.
It’s always best to have the hardest day of your backpacking trip be the first day. Get the suck over with!
The plan is to start at the Long Lake Trailhead in the Brainard Recreation Area on the east side of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, hike up over the Pawnee Pass and down to Pawnee Lake for 2 nights, then hit Mirror Lake and Crater Lake on our way down to the Cascade Creek area for a final night, then Colette will pick us up at the Monarch Lake trailhead on the west side of the Indian Peaks.
The Pawnee Pass sits at 12,542 feet on the Continental Divide. Everything to the west drains to the Pacific Ocean, everything to the east drains to the Atlantic Ocean.
The trail up from the Lost Lake trailhead gains roughly 2,480 feet to the pass, then plunges steeply on the other side to 10,877 feet at the lake.
Into the Wilderness
You better come properly fueled, my Garmin HRM Tri thinks I burned 2,783 calories today and I do this all the time!
The climb up is slow and steady, typical Colorado mountain hike becoming alpine meadow then loose scree.
Once we got to the meadow and had an obvious path ahead, I ran ahead so I could bag Pawnee Peak at 12,943 feet before Shelby and Tom reached the pass. Mission accomplished, they reached the sign at the pass minutes before I returned.
They were happy to have the climb done, but didn’t realize what was just ahead.
The Cascade Creek trail down to Pawnee Lake is loose Class 2 rock, nothing new for mountaineers but I think a little hair-rasing for first-timers. Pack the poles, grab the rocks, and start downclimbing. Good fun once you get moving!
Three Little Indians
As you descend out of the scree, the rock gives way again to lush green meadows with running water and wildflowers everywhere.
Not So Bad
Home Sweet Home
We scored an amazing campsite at the north end of the lake with views of the pass and were lucky enough to have the entire basin to ourselves – perfect!