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Pitkin Creek Trail



9.8 mile 15.7 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 2,894' 882 m
Descent: -2,893' -882 m
High: 11,352' 3,460 m
Low: 8,462' 2,579 m


Avg Grade: 11% (6°)
Max Grade: 47% (25°)


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Alpine meadows lead to Pitkin Lake nestled in the craggy Gore Range.

Nick Wilder

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Fishing · Geological Significance · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife


The north side of the Vail valley is blessed with several steep but rewarding trails leading all they way from the valley to the high alpine. This one is a little longer than it's neighbors, perhaps a little less steep, and just as spectacular. It is less crowded than Booth Creek, and a good option if you want a little more solitude.

Need to Know

Parking is tight (but not as bad as Booth Lake Trail), so take the bus from Vail Transportation Center.


The first half mile of trail is the steepest - don't get discouraged right off the bat. It starts in a dense aspen grove; a great place to enjoy the colors if you do it in the fall. Over the next couple miles, you'll pass through grassy meadows, stands of lodgepole pine (many are dead from the pine bark beetle epidemic), and get close to the creek a few times.

At about 2.5 miles - halfway to the top - you'll get a good view of Pitkin Falls. Enjoy the view and get ready for several more bench sections that have alternating steep climbs and then beautiful meadows that will be filled with wildflowers in July and August.

Break out of treeline just as you reach Pitkin Lake at 11,360'.

Your return journey will be equally as spectacular, as you'll have views all they way down the narrow drainage that you've ascended, and beyond.

Flora & Fauna

The fishing is reputed to be quite good here.

History & Background

If you look carefully, you'll see the remnants of several glacier moraines that result from the retreat of glaciers that sculpted this valley long ago.

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May 30, 2020
Nick Wilder
Ran until it got too snowy. 4.6mi — 1h 00m
Jul 20, 2019
Bradley Graham
4.5mi — 2h 40m
Jul 13, 2018
Melissa Baumann
Gorgeous hike!! Didn't see anyone until the descent. 10.3mi
Jun 29, 2018
Mike D
Jun 23, 2018
Michael Johnson
Oct 30, 2017
Jeru Kidder
Snowy at top in October, but good hike. 9.2mi
Jul 16, 2016
Molly Bluemle
4h 30m
Apr 23, 2015
Olya Labuza

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 12 votes


in Vail


  4.3 from 12 votes
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in Vail


in Colorado


134 Views Last Month
6,654 Since May 4, 2016



Leaving Pitkin Lake. The beauty is even more spectacular on the return trip.
Aug 5, 2019 near Vail, CO
Pitkin Lake
Feb 19, 2018 near Vail, CO
Pitkin Creek from the bridge near the trailhead.
Jul 23, 2019 near Vail, CO
Fall Colors
Oct 9, 2019 near Vail, CO
About halfway to the lake...
Jul 23, 2019 near Vail, CO
spectacular aspen
Oct 9, 2019 near Vail, CO