Colorado, Niwot Ridge Trail

State: Colorado
Location: Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests
Length, One-Way: 3.2 miles
Trail Type: Out and Back
Minimum Elevation: 10300 feet
Best Season: June to October
Difficulty: Easy
Usage: Heavy

Trail Information

Follow the Niwot Cutoff Trail west out of the trailhead, up a small slope and through the woods, 0.6 miles and 220 feet elevation to Long Lake. At the east end of Long Lake, the Niwot Cutoff Trail ends on the Jean Lunning Trail. Just across the bridge over the Long Lake outlet to the right (north), is the Pawnee Pass Trail. The Jean Lunning Trail enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness and continues west for a mile along the south side of Long Lake on a wide, gentle trail with several wide bridges. A quarter mile beyond the end of the lake, it turns north and ends on the Pawnee Pass Trail.

The unsigned Niwot Ridge Trail heads south from the Jean Lunning Trail after a few hundred yards. To hike up Niwot Ridge, follow the Niwot Ridge Trail up the hill. The trail passes through alpine forest and climbs into the delicate alpine tundra. Niwot Ridge has been designated by the U. N. as an International Biosphere Reserve for arctic and alpine research. Some of the strongest winds in North America have been recorded here (160 mph). Since Niwot Ridge is a study area of extreme fragility and uniqueness, please remain on the trail and old road to the south.

After snow begins to fall, it is common to see snowshoers and backcountry skiers along the Niwot Ridge Trail.


The Niwot Cutoff Trailhead is located within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Turn west onto the Brainard Lake Road (a.k.a. County Road 102, FDR 112) off of CO 72 just north of Ward, approximately 13 miles north of Nederland. Follow the paved road five miles to Brainard Lake. The Niwot Cutoff Trailhead is on the west side of Brainard Lake, past the turnoff for the Mitchell and Long Lake Trailheads, near the Niwot Mountain Picnic Area.

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