Pitkin Lake Trail

HARD 136 reviews
#3 of 26 trails in

Pitkin Lake Trail is a 9.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Vail, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
9.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,975 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

2 days ago

As someone from Michigan, this hike was a little difficult for me. There were some flatter areas but overall it was an incline. Took me about 3 hours to get up to the lake and 2.5 to get back down. However, it is pretty rough on the knees going down. Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks/lunch for the lake.

hiking
8 days ago

Excellent hike! It took us 2:.5 hours to reach the lake at a good pace....and then a nice dip in the lake!!

hiking
12 days ago

Beautiful! Not many people for a Saturday in Vail. Caught the end of wildflower season.

hiking
14 days ago

The trail is definitely steep but nothing too challenging. We completed the trail with our four year old doing it on his own. Got to the lake in five hours, all trails clocked it as 5.6 miles one way. Beautiful views, tons of wild flowers!

hiking
18 days ago

Awesome hike! Pretty challenging, honestly, especially the beginning and end pitches. It mellows out quite a bit in the middle with a couple of quick pitches in between. I used the Map My Run app and logged 5.42 miles one way and it took me just under 5 hours round trip. Gorgeous scenery, lots of wildflowers, and tons of water crossings (easy). There are a few places where the trail splits but it’s pretty obvious which way to go as most of the wrong ways are blocked with sticks. I only came to one that wasn’t blocked around mile 4. I stayed right and that appeared to be correct pretty quickly after I passed a couple of other hikers coming down. This is not a hike for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely worth the push to get to the lake. If you’ve got weak knees, you’d probably benefit by hiking with poles. Bring lots of water and snacks and check the forecast for rain. Completed 7/28/18
Side note: Do NOT try to park in the grassy area to the back left as you pull in. Dude that lives nearby is a total ass hat - Save yourself the interaction with him.

24 days ago

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hiking
25 days ago

Hiked on 7/14/18. Great trail with amazing views and change of scenery. I’m a 24 year old in shape male and it took me 2 hrs 30 min up and 2 hrs 10 min down. My Garmin watch tracked this trail at exactly 5 miles up and 5 down. Somewhat challenging but definitely worth the reward.

hiking
25 days ago

Tackled this trail after not hiking in the Rockies for over 5 years. The beginning is an intense experience, gaining a lot of elevation quickly. After about 2 miles, it has more level ground but will steadily increase in elevation until you reach the lake at about 6 miles. It was very challenging for someone like myself who moved from sea level in North Carolina a month ago but other, more experienced hikers seemed to be cruising along. The views were worth every moment of short breath! Final note, AllTrails may say this trail is a little over 9 miles but I used a GPS tracker and it tracked me at 11.32 start to finish. Just something to consider. Overall, finished in 6 hours. 7/21/2018

hiking
1 month ago

This trail was challenging but very beautiful. The first part of the hike (1 mile or so) is tough but gives you an idea of what to expect for the remainder of the hike. Lots of creeks and streams to see as well as some little waterfalls. Did not see excessive wildlife but there were plenty of flowers budding and blooming. I'd say the wildflowers will be in full force in about a week or so. Great varying terrain to keep you entertained as you tackle the inclines. Nicely set up with flat parts to make the altitude change manageable. Very worth the climb; about 7 hours round trip. Hiked 7/10/2018

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike! Pretty tough on the knees going back down, but the views are definitely worth it. Avid hiker, my first “hard” trail. Took me 8 hours round trip.

1 month ago

Wonderful hike with beautiful views. Did this hike on 6/23- took about 6 hrs roundtrip

hiking
1 month ago

So me and my group tracked this trail at 10.2 miles, not sure where the 9.5 or even 12 mile distance is coming from. Let me preface my review with this: this is not a hike for beginners. The first mile really gives you an idea of what you'll be getting into(lots of steep incline climbs). Be sure to keep some extra socks just in case(I made the mistake of forgetting and had my ankles get cut up a bit from wet socks being drug down into my shoes after traversing some marsh and creeks). As far as wildlife, didn't see much besides some bees, squirrels, and snakes. We started our hike at 10:00am and finished around 3:00pm, so be prepared for about a 5 hour hike if you average about 3mph.
My major complaints about the hike:
-honestly, I think Booth Falls offers more as far as photographic beauty(and it happens to be right near the Pitkin Lake Trail). I'm not saying that Pitkin Lake Trail doesn't offer a lot of beauty, but I'm not sure the hardship of the hike was worth it.
-Speaking of hardships, the decline(especially the last 1.5 miles) is BRUTAL on the knees and hamstrings. I work out 5-6 days a week and usually run about 30-40 miles per week, and this hike STILL killed my legs. Be sure to bring some pedialyte to avoid cramping.

-Also, there were a few times me and my group got lost as the trail had a few points where it was difficult to understand where to go. I can only imagine how difficult this would be for hikers attempting this in the fall or winter.

Overall, I'm glad I did this hike, but it's not a hike that I would do again(mostly because the difficulty didn't have the payoff of many other hikes I've done in the state).

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked today. The snow has melted. There are water crossings. I would advice bring water shoes (Keens) strapped to your backpack and hiking poles. The wildflowers are just coming it. It was a lovely hike. It's probably spectacular in July.

hiking
2 months ago

I was up there today 6/12- gorgeous, challenging hike! Snow update: still some patches in the higher treed areas, but tracked so footprints to follow / no post-holing. It was very wet in higher places, so waterproof hiking footwear advised. The lake is partially melted :0)

trail running
2 months ago

I completed this trail on June 8. The last 1.5 miles have a fair amount of snow, which made the trail somewhat difficult to follow. I wore trail running sneakers which were fine - probably no need for snowshoes or microspikes. The lake was frozen and absolutely beautiful surrounded by snow covered mountains. Definitely worth the effort to see the lake at the end.

hiking
2 months ago

Don’t under estimate this trail. It’s starts hard but gets easier as it goes. Still has constant climb to the lake about the whole way. The view is worth it once you get there. Just a nice lake surrounded by mountains!! It was an amazing view and worth the gutsy climb!

hiking
7 months ago

I also lost my father's beloved grey/dark brown cashmere scarf, from Banana Republic but almost 20 years old. If anyone finds it - please, reach out. It may have been 'off-piste' or on the general trail, but I would so appreciate its return.

alexandrakonkina@gmail.com

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked this trail a week ago.

As some reviewers have noted below, the trail gets severely snowy towards the end. I suspect I was nearing the end of the trail, but I had to stop and turn around because I got very lost in the final stretch of trees. The trail almost completely disappeared and I was unable to find it (and on the way back) for about another half hour.

I was also alone, which wasn't the greatest idea. I would recommend hiking this trail in groups of 2 or more, especially in the winter. No mountain lion tracks, but some bobcat tracks were visible.

Good views, and a great workout. Not icy right now, but wear snow boots.

hiking
8 months ago

We hiked this trail yesterday and it was one of the prettiest trails I’ve ever hiked. As others have mentioned, It was hard to find the trail in certain points and it is uphill nearly the entire way, especially in the beginning and at the end. It was a great work out, taking us a little over three hours to get to the top and another two or so to the bottom. Definitely bring your snowshoes for the last part of the trek.

I would not recommend this hike for beginners, or for visitors who have yet to acclimate to the altitude. The views on this trail are amazing, especially once you get to the “meadow” section.

I’m excited to come back to this trail in the Summer or Fall when Aspens are in color. Super hike with not one other person on the trail. 5 Stars.

8 months ago

Great long and very scenic hike. Plenty of small little tarns to hit with your line. And plenty of scrambling fun to be had.

hiking
8 months ago

Hiked on 12/9/2017

Made it about 1 mile until Pitkin Lake before having to turn around. We had lost the trail several times over the first 4 miles but kept finding the trail again to continue. Trail is under about 1 ft minimum of snow (powder not packed snow), at times 3 ft. Turned around after not wanting to walk through deep snow anymore. Started the trail at 7:30am - back at the lot at 12:30pm. Several stops to figure out where the trail was, 1 food break and lots of stops for photography (our main reason for going out there).

Highly recommend this trail but should wait a few months before hiking unless you have snow shoes. I will be back to complete this hike in Summer. Trail is most difficult at the beginning. No snow at the trailhead but starts about 1 mile into the trail.

hiking
8 months ago

This was the highlight of my trip to CO. Catching wild fish with our bare hands(and obviously releasing them) was something I'll never forget. The hardest part is in the beginning but when you get to the top its worth it.

hiking
8 months ago

Completed hike in August, beautiful wildflowers, wonderful hike... fun. One item to watch-out for are the damn aggressive wasps who got us going up and down!

backpacking
10 months ago

It was fine I mean ppl say it's hard and tough but not really ! I've been hiking since I was a child so it was fine :)go for it

hiking
10 months ago

Disclaimer: This my first altitude hike after 18 days at sea level and a 35 mile backpacking trip at about 5k ft. however, this hike is beautiful but it is an ass-kicker. Confirming an earlier review, the length identified by alltrails is inaccurate. The one-way distance is 5.3 miles (10.6 RT). The trail is also different than the map indicates. I tracked it with alltrails map and toward the end it detours dramatically. I walked back using a different hiking app and it tracked it as 5.3 miles. I figured the detour added at least 0.5 mile extra and this would make sense given the difference between alltrails one-way estimate. I was up there with one other couple and they put a flyrod to the test and caught at least three fish within 10 mins.

hiking
11 months ago

Loved the trail. Beautiful sites all the way around. A word of caution . . We tracked 12 1/2 at 11,883 feet. Air gets pretty thin especially to us eastern Pennsylvanians!! That being said a must see lake! Absolutely beautiful! So glad we continued on! It took us 6 1/2 hours with plenty of stopping pictures and encouragement from each other

hiking
11 months ago

What a beautiful and challenging hike with all sorts of terrain and landscapes! Lots of squirrels, chipmunks, birds. Took us 3 hours and 45 min up, 2 hours and 40 min down. We stopped a few times for bathroom breaks and pictures on the way up. Spent 45 min up at the lake and had lunch because it was oh so beautiful! Bring lots of water and snacks to keep you going. The weather was absolutely perfect and we shed our layers a little over one hour in; started at 815am. Also, thank goodness we wore sunscreen! I was thankful for my ankle high hiking boots for added stability. My knees were hurting towards the end from the repeated steep descents on the way back. I exercise daily doing either hot vinyasa or Bikram and run 3-4 miles a few times weekly. I found this to be a pretty challenging hike.

hiking
11 months ago

This hike is going to be a GEM in about 2 or 3 weeks once the aspens start changing in full. Already some yellows and oranges in the upper aspen meadows. There weren't many spots to park at the TH, and equally few hikers on the trail, which was a relief to have the lake to ourselves. We clocked the whole thing as 10.5 miles (honestly, the longer mileage made the elevation gain more doable). Steep descent was hard on the knees and ankles. Even if you don't want to do the full trip, leaf peepers will surely enjoy the first two miles of aspen groves.

11 months ago

Enjoyed this hike a lot! Took us 3hours to get up, and about 2.5 to return.

11 months ago

One of my top five hikes this year. More of a 12 mile hike then advertised. First part was rough but mellowed out. Lots of raspberries to eat and blueberries. The lake was crystal clear. Beautiful big rainbow fish. We will definitely be back! Plan lots of time for this hike seriously an all day thing plan 6-9 hrs or backpack overnight.

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