Explore Backpacking - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Backpacking Map

Scenic and steady hike up. Perfect amount of backpacking-per-day. Springs were great, campground was dispersed. We thought the hike was quite manageable, but we found two texans stranded on the trail with no water and some pretty bad altitude sickness. Creeks are everywhere, so bring a water filter. High avalanche danger in the winter.

1 month ago

beautiful place to go.

could not access the trail.. the road was about 8 miles of 4wd snow covered road. beautiful out there though !

5 months ago

Gorgeous area. Savage peak just dawns over you, and the lakes are beautiful. I camped here, and if you plan to do the same, keep in mind that much of the year it can be somewhat swampy and if you don't get there early you're options for a dry camping spot are pretty limited.

One of the most beautiful vistas I’ve seen.

I don't recommend doing this hike all in 1 day. It's a bit much even for relatively experienced hikers. Even so, this was a great hike with a couple cool (but mild) challenges. Docking 1 star because the hot spring area wasn't that well kept and because I've been on better hikes.

6 months ago

We mistakenly took the trail head and lower Piney lake and then Meadow Creek Road. Still pretty but the 9-mile dirt road made me like it less than others.

Long and bumpy dirt road to get to the lake. But worth it! The lake itself is gorgeous, but the trails around it were just decent in my opinion. The real prize is the lake, which you don’t even have to hike to get to, it’s right where you park.

The views from the whole trail are stunning. When I imagine Colorado this is what comes to mind. Wildlife is everywhere. We saw a bald eagle and a moose. This was a great trail!

6 months ago

Easy trail, with only a small incline. Lots of awesome scenery. The trail starts right at the campground.

It is absolutely worth the looooong drive down the dirt road. The view of the lake when you get to the ranch is stunning. The hike itself is relatively easy. There's only a short bit of climbing. Really beautiful with the golden aspens this weekend. We also saw a moose on the drive in!

It's already winter up there so bring your layers! Snowed 4 inches the night we camped up by the springs. Also there are free wag bags at the trailhead. Use them! You'll save the Forest Service a lot of unpleasant work.

7 months ago

Amazing hike! A bit steep at the beginning but then mellows out a bit. The streams and lakes are incredibly beautiful! Be sure to take big spray. Highly recommend!!

Loved this hike so much we've done it twice in two weeks and 1/2 way with our 5 year old. Love love love

Good views and pretty ponds coming up. Very steep towards the end.

The best hike of my life. The scenery was amazing. Wading the open stream and crossing the railless bridges were unforgettable challenges.

Hardest hike of my life because of the altitude, I'm from a sea level city and never been in the mountains before, but it was definitely worth the hike and experience. Scenery was amazing and the people you meet on the way were very nice. We camped over night and left early morning; to be honest I wish we could've stayed a little longer for the view and hot spring. Would recommend to anyone wanting a hike with great scenery.

100% worth the drive - we did it in a rental Ford Fusion, so you can do it in anything. Piney River Ranch at the trailhead is super hospitable, and the trail is gorgeous. I'd rate it as easy though, other than the fact that it's a little long out and back.

geart place to be. worth it when you get to the lakes.

7 months ago

This was a challenging hike with a wonderful destination. It was challenging due to the rapid elevation gain, but otherwise, the trail was easy to follow. Once in the basin, we were treated with stunning views of the lakes and surrounding rock formations. The condition of the trail at the beginning of the hike and the Labor Day crowds are the only things that kept this from being rated with 5 stars.

one of my favorite trails before the flood in 2012. went back for the first time since then and still a great trail

Lovely hike! The trailhead can be difficult to find for a first-timer to the area. Be prepared for a long bumpy ride. I wouldn't drive it in a two wheel drive car. At first, we stopped at the lower Piney trail. Don't stop there. Go all the way to the lake at Piney River Ranch. When we left around 12:30, the parking was pretty full so go early. The trail is 3 miles to the falls which are pretty, but not super impressive as falls go. The first two miles are easy and then it gets hilly and rocky. Anyone in relatively good shape can do it. The views and aspen trees are gorgeous. Saw 4 moose before reaching the trailhead on the road. In a Jeep, the drive is half the fun.

This is a beautiful hike! I wouldn't necessarily classify it as moderate, there were sections that were more challenging but overall pretty easy. Important note...this hike is 3 miles in to the Falls, you have to hike another 4 beyond that to get to Upper Piney Lake. We had a family member with us from TX and the altitude was getting to her so we didn't go beyond the falls. Truly so many beautiful photo ops and the leaves are changing already! Be ready for an EXTREMELY bumpy, slow ride in and zero cell service!! The 12 miles in took 45 min. Enjoy!

8 months ago

Awesome trail. All of the really hard part is in the first 2 miles. We logged this as 6 miles in and 6 out on the GPS. After Surprise lake the trail mellows. We saw lots of mushrooms. No great views until Cataract lake due to dense forest thus the 4 stars and maybe 40 people were up there by Saturday night, we were glad we went Friday as people were struggling to find spots by Sat night. Cataract Lake was hard to fish, nothing bit on good worms in 2 days of fishing. We only caught 3 baby 5 in brookies with metal spoons. Also this is a difficult trail, almost 3,000 ft of elevation gain and 12 miles I'm seeing 8 mile trails with 2,000 ft that are called difficult.

We went from 8/18/17-8/20/17.
As challenging as it was, it was incredibly rewarding once you get to the top and soak in the hot springs. Bring flip flops/ water shoes (highly recommended) if you need them to cross water or also to use at the hot springs. Get there EARLY, and start the trail early to get a camp site at the top. Really be mindful of how you pack your load. Be prepared for the ascent up, it's not easy with 20-40lbs on your back. You cannot have fire at the very top camp sites so be prepared to bring freeze dried food/ or any type of food that you just need to add water.
Make sure to bring a rain cover for your pack and dry bags in the case there is a random rain shower (it really saved us from having wet everything inside our packs), especially since it gets COLD at night!
The hike was just insanely beautiful the whole way and back! Highly recommended.

8 months ago

Yep, it's mostly uphill but hey, most of Colorado is! I led the boy scouts up this trail and we made a 4 day event of it. The trail passes Surprise Lake - a picturesque lake with flowering, floating Lilies. If you camp at this lake, I recommend as soon as you see the lake, hop over the little hill on the north and drop down the other side. It's more secluded and off the trail. As the trail continues towards Cataract Lake, it levels out for awhile then, one last upward trek to some really great views then quickly drop down to Cat and Cataract Lake. Be prepared for any weather as we had over an inch of hail that lasted for 20 minutes. Afternoon rain was regular but that didn't last long.

one of the best hikes i have been on. Piney Lake is gorgeous with spectacular views of surrounding mountains and rivers. We camped nearby on the Red White and Blue trail and we had a great night of camping.

Okay, WOW, where do I begin? First off, if you are planning on backpacking, this is not an 'easy or moderate' hike by any means. 7.5 miles with a full backpack is DIFFICULT no matter what terrain you are going up. However, if you are not carrying an overnight backpack, then I could see this being a moderate hike. The uphill is not too bad, it's just very long.

The hike itself was my favorite part. The views are absolutely unbeatable and the obstacles you have to go through make it such a fun and exciting hike.

Beware - we got to the parking lot at 9:15 on Saturday morning (had to rent a bear canister in town, store didn't open till 9 :x (don't overlook this!!)) and we got one of the last spots. I would not recommend starting this hike any later than 9:30 on a weekend as you will likely not get a parking spot or a camping spot.

We got one of the last camping spots as well. If you can get to the top early, I would definitely hike to the very top where the hot springs are and camp up there.

The hot springs were awesome. Such a cool and unique experience. There were a lot of people up there when we went as it was late in the summer and a weekend, however, it was by no means 'out of control, or too rowdy' as some reviews (mostly on other sites) claim. I would recommend bringing some flip flops or sandals to wear to the springs and also to cross the river (on the hike) with.

Easy and quiet in beautiful CO

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