The Brainard Loop is an excellent trail run for those hot summer days. With most of the trail in the shade, this one is great when the sun is out and the temps are hot. Plus, you can always soak your feet in the various rivers if need be (or dunk your hat).
I park outside of the actual recreation area, as they collect a fee now. Park at the turn around just before the gate (this is where they close the gate in the winter) and head north along the Sourdough Trail towards Beaver Reservoir. The trail quickly drops here as you head down towards the river. Cross the river and shortly after the trail splits. Take the left hand trail (the right goes to Beaver Reservoir) and begin to follow it west as you wind your way up. You roughly follow the river, but eventually you break away as you run through beautiful pine forests. There are a couple stream crossings along the way. Eventually you will meet up with the Waldrop Trail (also called the North Trail), which you continue on as you head towards Brainard Lake.
Stay right on all junctions, eventually coming out above Brainard Lake onto the road between Brainard and Mitchell Lake parking areas. Run the road briefly up towards Long Lake and Lake Isabelle, where you get back onto the trail.
Before you get to the road. The sign is so high off the ground because of winter snow levels. In the winter, this little spot is called the "arctic circle" for those familiar with coming in on the North Trail and going to the cabin.
Here I run around Long Lake on the Jean Lunning trail. Run this trail all the way around Long Lake and then back down to Brainard. From here, I usually run around the south side of the lake and pick up the Little Raven trail. This trail is great, and was fixed up in 2007 so it is much easier to follow. It runs south and east, eventually dropping you onto the dirt road from Left Hand Reservoir. Run down the road for about .5 miles, and then head due east back onto the Little Raven. This little spur section will drop you onto the Sourdough Trail, at which point you can head north again and back to your car.
All in all, this is a great loop run at mid-elevation. With little or no people, I often hit this one when I'm looking for something local and fast.
Since I can't do a profile yet, here are the estimated numbers.
Distance: ~10 miles
Elevation: 9,800 - 10,600
Time: ~1.5 hours