The ski lifts of Vail Ski Resort may be just minutes away, but the 12.5-mile rugged trail hike to crystal clear Gore Lake elevates hikers 3,000-feet into a high alpine region full of scenery and seclusion deep in the Eagles Nest Wilderness of the Gore Range.
Beginning at the Gore Creek Trailhead, the trail loosely follows the creek east up the valley through grasses and shrubs, then aspen, which transition into pine as the miles tick by.
After four miles, purify some water in the creek before making a left at the trail junction onto the Gore Lake Trail, where the trail abruptly steepens as it heads up a series of switchbacks. Through this area, hikers will alternate between dense forests and open meadows while ascending the 2 miles up to tree line.
At tree line, the trail mellows out as hikers approach the lake-filled glacial cirque. At 11,400-feet hikers reach Gore Lake, where there are several spots to pitch a tent along the water’s edge and gaze up at the surrounding rocky cliffs.
After taking in the view for a minute on a fast-paced trail run or an entire night on a leisurely backpacking trip, hikers can then retrace their steps back down through the meadows, the steep incline, making a right at the trail junction this time to then follow Gore Creek back to the trailhead.