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Camping at Pawnee Campground

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Location and Access

Pawnee Campground is nestled within the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland (Pawnee NG), particularly close to Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado. Its exact location is approximately 2 miles north of the town of Ward or about 24 miles northwest of Boulder. The entrance to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area is off of Colorado Highway 72. From there, visitors can follow the signs to reach Pawnee Campground.

Campground Features

Pawnee Campground offers a scenic alpine camping experience at an elevation of roughly 10,350 feet. The dense forest and proximity to Brainard Lake make it a picturesque spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Sites: The campground typically offers a mix of reservable and first-come, first-served camp sites that include amenities such as picnic tables, fire grates, and tent pads.
  • Capacity: The campground has around 47 sites which can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs, though the sizes and space for large RVs might be limited.
  • Facilities: On-site facilities include vault toilets, drinking water, and trash services, but there are no electric hook-ups or showers.

Activities and Recreation

Due to its location, Pawnee Campground provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation:

  • Hiking: There are numerous hiking trails accessible from the campground, including trails that lead to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, known for its rugged terrain and stunning vistas.
  • Fishing: The campground offers easy access to Brainard Lake and other nearby bodies of water, where anglers can fish for various trout species.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The area is also a prime location for viewing wildlife, including moose, elk, and various bird species.
  • Photography and Nature Study: With its abundance of natural beauty, the area is perfect for photography and observing the diverse flora and fauna.


Pawnee Campground typically operates from June through September, depending on the weather. The short operating season is due to the high elevation and potential for snow outside these months. Always check the current conditions and operating dates before planning a trip.

Reservations and Fees

Reservations can be made for Pawnee Campground through the Recreation.gov website, which handles bookings for many public lands. There is a fee for camping, which varies depending on the type of site and the amenities provided. Visitors should be prepared to pay entrance fees for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area as well.

Regulations and Safety

Visitors should be aware of the following regulations and safety tips:

  • Wildlife: Proper food storage is crucial to prevent bear encounters, as the campground is in bear country. Use bear-proof containers and avoid leaving food out.
  • Altitude: Since the campground is very high in altitude, visitors should take precautions to prevent altitude sickness. This includes acclimatizing slowly, staying hydrated, and avoiding strenuous activity immediately upon arrival.
  • Weather: Always prepare for rapidly changing weather conditions, including cold temperatures, even during the summer months.
  • Leave No Trace: Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize impact on the environment.


Pawnee Campground in the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests Pawnee NG offers a serene setting for camping and outdoor activities. Always prepare and plan ahead to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience when visiting this high altitude destination.

Location of Pawnee Campground
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