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

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Out and Back

11,362' 3,463 m


8,468' 2,581 m


2,924' 891 m


2,923' 891 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (22°)

Dogs Leashed

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). Overnight parking is not allowed at the Pitkin trailhead. Backpackers can park for free at the Gore Creek or Red Sandstone parking garage and take the bus to the Pitkin trailhead. The alternative is to pay $35 to park overnight in the Vail parking structure and use the free bus to reach the trailhead.


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.


Shared By:

Nick Wilder with improvements by Hunter R and 1 other

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 22 votes


in Vail


  4.4 from 22 votes
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18 Views Last Month
12,675 Since May 4, 2016



Wild mushrooms at Pitkin Lake
Aug 30, 2023 near Vail, CO
Pitkin Lake
Aug 25, 2020 near Vail, CO
Leaving Pitkin Lake. The beauty is even more spectacular on the return trip.
Aug 5, 2019 near Vail, CO
Pitkin Creek from the bridge near the trailhead.
Jul 23, 2019 near Vail, CO
Wildflowers on the way to Pitkin Lake
Aug 25, 2020 near Vail, CO
About halfway to the lake...
Jul 23, 2019 near Vail, CO



Current Trail Conditions

All Clear 29 days ago
Add Your Check-In


Sep 10, 2023
Jessey Hershberger-Kirk
Come back and backpack this! 10.9mi — 7h 44m
Aug 30, 2023
Nick Wilder
Jul 2, 2023
Meaghan O.
some snow, passable without spikes 10.1mi — 7h 30m
Jul 30, 2022
Matt Russell
10.2mi — 5h 00m
Jul 29, 2022
Hollis Vohr
Jan 17, 2021
Jacek Czyz
Did it again on snowshoe this winter as approach to Pk U=West Partner. 4h20' up to Lake . 13h40' RT to summit and back to TH 4.9mi
Dec 17, 2020
Jacek Czyz
Upper half knee deep either on ski or snowshoe. Now great trail. 10.6mi — 12h 00m
Oct 2, 2020
Katie Osland
To the lake GPS said 5.6...a little off I think for the return. 12.5mi — 5h 42m