Pitkin Lake Trail

HARD 121 reviews
#2 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

hiking
10 days 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
19 days 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.

26 days ago

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

hiking
26 days 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
27 days 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
6 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
6 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
7 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.

7 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
7 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
7 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
7 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
10 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
10 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
10 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.

10 months ago

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

10 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.

hiking
10 months ago

Longer than advertised ca. 12 miles by our count, but the pristine, clear lake is worth it. Great views throughout, get through the first climb, gets easier after, but never boring. Varied terrain, meadows, rocks, walk by creek. Wear waterproof shoes, many creeks to cross and take waterproof layers. We had hail during august.

10 months ago

It's a very beautiful hike. Really awesome. Haven't seen a bear, tho, just a snake and chipmunk. The hike is not so hard if the weather is nice. Then me and my friend did this hike we walked in rain and hailed storm. We weren't prepared for that. So I would advice you to always take your rain jacket. Just in case, cause it was freezing out there. But I am very happy I did this hike. Lake didn't look so spectacular cause of the fog but still was nice.

11 months ago

My favorite hike that we did this week! It was so interesting, we kept moving through different terrains. There was a fair amount of incline but just take your time. The views were amazing the whole way. You can hear noise from the highway for the first little bit of the trail but it quickly fades away. Bring layers. It was quite chilly at the top. Lots of wildflowers when we went.

11 months ago

Fantastic hike. Absolutely amazing lake at the end. I would recommend waterproof boots or shoes because there are several streams to cross add some are a bit marshy.

hiking
11 months ago

Hiked on July 31st. Encountered a BLACK BEAR on the middle portion of the trail at 7:30pm. Had to bushwhack around to avoid it. Awesome views at the lake, nice challenging trail.

hiking
11 months ago

This trail is NOT 8.5 miles. It's a bit over 11 there and back. It's also a gain of almost 5000 NOT 2900.

hiking
11 months ago

One of my favorite hikes in the area. first half mile or so is rough, but power through that and it will mellow out much more. it was about 5-6 hour return at a steady pace. plan more time if you want to take lots of pictures.

as of 7/28/17 wildflowers are beautiful in all the medows !! spent 2 hours at the lake having lunch and relaxing. absolutely beautiful day. DON'T FORGET BUG SPRAY! we did and the mosquitos were pretty bad.

hiking
11 months ago

Beautiful, long hike for my level. Lots of variety in the hiking terrain. Saw lots of different creatures, including two snakes. When I got to the lake, you could see the trout the water was so clear. It was a hot day yesterday so quite a workout. I highly recommend this hike.

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