A Colorado classic, the hike from East Vail to Frisco can be done in one push or as an overnight endeavor. Offering spectacular views of the Gore Range and opportunities for primitive camping, the journey from East Vail to Frisco is well worth the 13.1 miles over Red Buffalo and Eccles Passes. Leave a car in Frisco, as this is a one-way hike that takes backpackers into neighboring Summit County.
Beginning at the Gore Creek Trailhead, follow signs for “Gore Creek Trail” into the Eagles Nest Wilderness as it rambles next to the Vail’s iconic Gore Creek. After 4 miles the trail splits to the left toward Gore Lake and right to Red Buffalo Pass, as indicated by signage. This split is also marked by the graves of two early pioneers along with primitive camping spots. The right fork to Red Buffalo Pass is accompanied by a creek crossing, which can prove tricky depending on the season and water flows.
Once you are on the trail for Red Buffalo Pass, the path winds through coniferous forest and a large meadow marked with breathtaking panoramas of the Gore Range. This is a welcome stop for a breather, as the trail then ascends steeply toward treeline and the pass summit. Once over Red Buffalo Pass, follow cairns downward into Summit County where the trail again will split as it becomes the Loop Trail. This fork is unmarked, but hikers should head right toward the alpine lakes that guide the way to the smaller summit of Eccles Pass. The summit of Eccles dazzles with views of Red Mountain, Buffalo Mountain, and Copper Ski Resort. Continue to another split, marked this time, and head toward the Meadow Creek Trail. The final miles of hiking trail descend through aspen and pine forest before dropping hikers at the Meadow Creek Trailhead in Frisco.
Note that early and/or late season snow may make the trail impassable, so the hike from East Vail to Frisco should only be attempted from mid-summer to early fall. Check with the Forest Service for fire restrictions if you are planning to camp in the wilderness area.
Conservation Colorado has worked with communities around the state for over 50 years in pursuit of its mission - to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. It fights to protect the air, land, water, and people of Colorado. Their collaborative approach and focus on electing pro-conservation officials has yielded successes in addressing climate change, supporting clean energy development, conserving water resources, and protecting our public wildlands and rivers.