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Upper Piney River Trail

Intermediate
 4.3 (21) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A superbly scenic and relatively easy alpine hike near a lake and river.


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Map Key

6.1

Miles

9.8

KM

Out and Back

9,906' 3,019 m

High

9,362' 2,853 m

Low

845' 258 m

Up

846' 258 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

46%

Max Grade (25°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers

Overview

This remote spot requires a long drive on a bumpy road, but the views are well worth the effort. Lots of other people think so too- be prepared to share this alpine paradise with others especially on high season weekends.

Need to Know

Be sure to park in the public lot just before the Piney Lake Ranch. The first lot you reach is open to the public, but leave the private parking lot for paying customers. You are welcome to have lunch, drink, or an ice cream at their cafe! You can even rent a canoe if so inclined...

Description

Starting across the road (to the north) from the public parking area near Piney Lake Lodge, hike eastwards towards Piney Lake. Take in the massive Gore mountain range spread out before you. The trail passes through grassy meadows on the north side of the lake and follows along the broad river valley. Piney River cuts a sinuous path through shrubs and turf that turn brilliant colors in the fall. The path is smooth and ascends gently at first.

After entering the first of the small aspen groves, the incline steepens as the trail begins to climb the base of the hillside. Negotiate a few switchbacks and use log planks to cross burbling streams. Enjoy good views across the valley at the craggy rock faces. Enter a few stretches of deep shady evergreen forest and then pop out for good views of the rugged Gore Range.

Eventually, you'll reach the cataracts, or cascades that rush between a narrow rock chasm. The sunny smooth rocks near here make a great picnic spot. Most people make this their turn-around point, but you can keep hiking along Piney River to Upper Piney Lake, or over West Booth Pass and connect with the Booth Creek Trail. The trail gets much rougher and more difficult beyond the cascade.

Flora & Fauna

Aspens, wildflowers

Contacts

Shared By:

Megan W

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 21 votes

#1

in Vail

#515

Overall
  4.3 from 21 votes
5 Star
52%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
10%
2 Star
5%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Vail

#105

in Colorado

#515

Overall
209 Views Last Month
18,890 Since Sep 20, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

This area is beautiful in Fall!
Sep 20, 2016 near Vail, CO
Great fall day at Piney Lake!
Sep 20, 2015 near Vail, CO
A peaceful fall evening at Piney Lake.
Oct 24, 2016 near Vail, CO
Piney Lake and the incredible Gore Range
Sep 20, 2015 near Vail, CO
Stormy skies on the Upper Piney River Trail.
Sep 24, 2018 near Vail, CO
Looking back towards the river valley on the ascent to the falls
Aug 8, 2020 near Vail, CO

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Check-Ins

Oct 31, 2020
Meaghan O.
9mi — 4h 30m
Aug 20, 2020
Andrew Brenner
Aug 9, 2020
Warren G
Put out a fire on the way back
Jul 3, 2020
Taylor Lederman
Oct 13, 2019
Alvaro Belloso
Nice and quiet in October — 3h 15m
Sep 23, 2019
Jill Shaddy-Gouvion
Attempted to get there but "bumpy road" was a bit of an understatement. 4wd is a must!
Aug 10, 2019
Amy Hartman
With mom!
Aug 8, 2019
J Z
2h 40m