Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,000.00 ft (914.40 m)
Trail type
9.80 mi (15.77 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Located in Eagles Nest Wilderness area and one of a series of trails in the Gore Range that lead to a terminus alpine lake, the Pitkin Creek trail trades steepness for extra miles. "Less steep" is a matter of perspective. With an elevation gain of approximately 3000 feet topping out at 11,300 feet hikers are plenty high up to be impressed with dazzling views of East Vail and the surrounding peaks. With a length of more than 10 miles, there is ample trail time to enjoy all Pitkin Creek has to offer. In short, it gives you a backcountry experience in the form of a day hike.

Hikers can expect aspen groves, alpine meadows, stands of spruce and pine. Downed trees from avalanches and pine bark beetle kill are part of the hike's ecology. There is plenty of wildlife, too.  Marmots and pikas tease you from their homes in the scree. You may see elk grazing in the meadows, bighorn sheep or mountain goats in the higher elevations. Sizeable trout swim around confidently just below the surface of the terminus Pitkin Lake. 

Take the East Vail Exit 180, turn right (if West-bound), then immediately right again and park in the designated parking. Parking is limited and an alternative is to take the bus from the Vail Transfer Station. The trailhead begins in the higher of the two tiny parking areas. 

The first half-mile of the hike is the steepest for a sustained period, taking you up approximately 600 feet in elevation. The trail brings you through scrubby oaks and juniper then gives way to aspen groves, pine tree forests, alpine meadows, rock fields, avalanche zones and alpine tundra during the final push to the pristine, Pitkin Lake. At roughly 10,000 feet elevation and 2.5 miles into the trail, catch a view of Pitkin Falls to the East. Pitkin Creek transects the trail at a number of different spots offering a welcome drink to dogs along with the restorative sound of water. 

For overnight camping information go here

There are no amenities on this hike including no trash cans. Be prepared to pack out your garbage and leave no trace. 


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Dramatic views. Interesting geology. Varied ecology. Pristine.


No potable water.

Trailhead Elevation

8,455.00 ft (2,577.08 m)

Highest point

11,370.00 ft (3,465.58 m)


Big vistas
Geologically significant
Backcountry camping
Near lake or river

Typically multi-day


Suitable for


Permit required




Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.