On the afternoon of Alexandra and David’s Brainard Lake engagement session, I kept a careful eye on the weather. It was a dreary day in Boulder, with heavy clouds and drizzling rain all afternoon. But I packed up like normal and drove up the canyons, and once I passed the gateway entrance station at 10,000ft, the clouds lifted and I was met with sunshine and blue skies.
Brainard Lake is one of my favorite engagement session locations in the Boulder area, because it’s such an easy area to access when the road is open, from mid-June through mid-October. And when the road is closed in winter, you can still hike up to the frozen alpine lake! But easy access normally means lots of people, and it can be hard to find a quiet spot without hikers in the background.
Not this day! When Alexandra and David pulled into the recreation area parking lot, we were the only people there! Gotta love when bad weather in Boulder keeps everyone home 😉 We hiked down along the lakeshore with their dog, who was wearing the cutest bandanas to match her humans’ outfits.
There are lots of great spots to explore around for Brainard Lake engagement photos, and I love how you have incredible mountain views in every direction. We also got the most beautiful fall colors this day, even if we had to head slightly further back down the road to find actual aspen trees. The alpine lake sits right below the tree line, so most vegetation around the lake is lower brush and trees – but that’s perfect for photos!
Practical tips for Brainard Lake engagement photos
The road to Brainard Lake is open from mid-June through mid-October. In winter, it’s a 5 mile round-trip hike from the winter parking area to the lake.
It’s often very windy at Brainard Lake, and the temperature is usually at least ten degrees cooler than in Boulder. The best months for warm weather are July through September, and you have the best chance of seeing fall colors the last two weeks of September.
You need a timed entry reservation to drive up to and park at Brainard Lake when the road is open. Reservations can be made via recreation.gov, and cost $16 for a personal vehicle. If you have the national parks & forest interagency annual pass/America the Beautiful Pass, you only pay a $2 reservation fee. There’s no fee in winter, when the road is closed at the gate.
There’s no photography permit needed for simple portrait sessions without props that follow Leave No Trace principles. For elopements, please contact the Boulder Ranger District directly to ask about the most up-to-date rules since they can vary based on the date, group size, and other factors like vendors and decorations.