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Pitkin Creek Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.4 (19) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

10.1

Miles

16.2

KM

Out and Back

11,362' 3,463 m

High

8,468' 2,581 m

Low

2,924' 891 m

Up

2,923' 891 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

41%

Max Grade (22°)

Dogs Leashed

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

Overview

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. Overnight campers, all trailhead parking is 3 hour maximum so you'll need to take the bus or risk the ticket.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Nick Wilder with improvements by Hunter R and 1 other

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 19 votes

#2

in Vail

#595

Overall
  4.4 from 19 votes
5 Star
53%
4 Star
37%
3 Star
11%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in Vail

#119

in Colorado

#595

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9,194 Since May 4, 2016
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

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
Amazing wildflowers!
Jul 23, 2019 near Vail, CO

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Check-Ins

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
Sep 23, 2020
Mike Amolsch
Another 40K day, 11 miles, saw small bear cub far away- scared! Sore, tired- just me and joe, he got a little such- nice lake- love Vail 11mi
Aug 27, 2020
Claire McDaniel
10.5mi — 4h 20m
Aug 25, 2020
Nick Wilder
10.2mi
Aug 19, 2020
Nick Wilder
3 miles each way - to the scree field. 3mi
Jul 8, 2020
Mike Tozier