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blue Upper Piney River Trail

  4.4 ( 15 ) Favorite


6.1 mile 9.8 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 845' 258 m
Descent: -846' -258 m
High: 9,906' 3,019 m
Low: 9,362' 2,853 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 46% (25°)


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Trail shared by Megan W

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

Megan W

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


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...


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

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Jul 14, 2019
Jenny Hennum
Took dogs (leashed), a bit uphill at places, 1/3 no shade near lake and marsh/river area, 2/3 shaded, worth the cascade/falls at end! (w Toph/Rachel) 6.1mi — 3h 15m
Jul 9, 2019
Ben Bayer
Jul 6, 2019
Patrick JT
Jul 4, 2019
Michelle A
Jun 23, 2019
Matt Greenfield
Sep 24, 2018
Nick Wilder
Sep 17, 2018
Jordan Hergert
Aug 4, 2018
Markus T

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 15 votes


in Vail


  4.4 from 15 votes
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