Panoramic views from the Pitkin Lake Trail hike near Vail, Colorado
Panoramic views from the Pitkin Lake Trail hike near Vail, Colorado

Pitkin Lake Trail hike

Vail
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Open meadow on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoAspen grove on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoBefore ascending to the lake on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoClimbing to the lake on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoValley view on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoScenery of the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoGranite cliffs behind the trail on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoViews of the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoLooking back down the valley on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoDescending on the Pitkin Lake Trail Hike near Vail, ColoradoPitkin Lake Trail Hike in Vail has beautiful views

Pitkin Lake Trail hike

Distance: 9.7mi
Elevation: 2,746ft
Time: 5-7h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.8 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

Pitkin Lake Trail makes for an adventure-filled day hike. The gorgeous trail starts off steep, but it quickly (after roughly 1.0mi) levels out. Gradually, the trail ascends the valley, past two waterfalls, to the stunning lake that sits below East and West Partner (two 12992ft peaks).

Pitkin Lake Trail hike Map

Getting there

Take the I-70 E from Vail. Use right two lanes to take exit 180. Turn left onto Big Horn Rd.

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About

When to do

Summer/Fall

Backcountry Campsites

Yes, in Eagle's Nest Wilderness

Toilets

No

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Out and back


Pitkin Lake Trail
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Pitkin Lake Trail

The trail begins adjacent to the trailhead message board. You’ll follow Pitkin Creek for a couple hundred meters through dense foliage. Quickly, you’ll cross a large bridge as Pitkin creeks rushes below.

After crossing the bridge, the trail steeply ascends for 0.2mi gaining 184ft of elevation, taking you to the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area sign. After passing the sign, the trail continues to strenuously climb for another kilometer before leveling out. The trail plateaus to a disperse aspen forest, offering shade to cool you off after the steep ascent.

After the trail levels out, around 1.2mi in, the trail opens up to a steep hillside scattered with pines, aspens, spruces, and firs. The Gore Range comes into view, sitting picturesquely at the back of the valley. The trail also passes a series of moraines (rock/sediment piles left from glacial retreats), which are always fascinating. Continue for another 656ft and you will reach the creek, rushing on your right.

1.9mi in, the trail becomes heavily forested; however, it soon opens up to a beautiful meadow with even better views of the Gore Range.

After a series of small switchbacks, at 2.5mi, look out towards the east to see the first of two waterfalls along Pitkin Creek.

At 2.8mi, just past the small creek crossing, continue left on the trail towards the western side of the trail. Follow the well-distinguished trail as it meanders onto the western slopes of the valley. From here, the trail begins to steeply ascend towards the alpine tundra where Pitkin Lake resides.

At 3.5mi, while passing through a meadow flush with creeks, a cascading waterfall will be on your left.

After enjoying the waterfall, leave the valley of meadows and hike up another steep section of the trail. The trail takes you to another high alpine meadow filled with pine trees and numerous small creek crossings. For the remaining 1.2mi, the hike takes you through similar terrain slowly curving around to the final destination: Pitkin Lake.

Pitkin Lake sits around 5.0mi in, dramatically surrounded by tall, gray granite walls and alpine tundra. East and West Partner, at 13048ft, reside above the lake.

After enjoying your well-earned time at the lake, follow the same trail back, through Pitkin Creek drainage, to finish your hike!

Insider Hints

  • There is a 3ft-tall man-made waterfall located on Pitkin Creek 82ft past the trailhead information board. It the perfect place for a quick dip to refresh you after the long hike.

Comments

rosevalley 2 years ago

The climb sure was strenuous, but you'll be rewarded with beautiful scenery throughout the hike!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
6h 10m Time Taken
TopherSan 2 years ago

There are lots of pleasant views to see here. We took a refreshing dip after the long hike.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
6h 00m Time Taken
CandyJ 2 years ago

The cascading waterfalls were simply majestic!

10.0 Overall Rating
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Physical Difficulty
5h 20m Time Taken
London AP 2 years ago

Nice hike to explore. Enjoyed the variety of firs, pines and aspens. They look so delightful.

10.0 Overall Rating
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will-perry 3 years ago

It gives off a nice atmosphere with lots of positive vibes. Amazing place!

10.0 Overall Rating
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Reagan Jaz 3 years ago

There are different trees and wildflower species to see along the way. Some of the shrubs can get itchy. Make sure to wear arm sleeves.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Physical Difficulty
onoyuki 3 years ago

It was quite steep so prepare by stretching your legs before starting the hike.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Physical Difficulty
lilibethl 3 years ago

The trail was quite steep, so be always careful. Great hike to work out your legs. Aside from the strenuous hike, this place offers beautiful views of the surroundings.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Brexit Smith 3 years ago

Nature filled surroundings that all nature lovers will love. The waterfalls were fantastic. The hike was awesome because of the great views.

10.0 Overall Rating
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lelandi 3 years ago

This was definitely moderate. had more trouble descending than climbing up.

10.0 Overall Rating
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15 Comments Show all

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