Pitkin Trail is one of five trails that travel through the Eagles Nest Wilderness from exit 180 of I-70 as it winds through the Colorado Rockies near Vail. The Pitkin Trail, along with its fellow nearby trails (Booth lake, Bighorn Creek, Deluge Lake, and Gore Creek), is an exciting all around, out and back, trail that journeys to Pitkin Lake. This trail can be enjoyed as a day hike or a multi-day backpacking experience with outstanding views no matter how far or long you choose to travel.
From the gravel parking lot, Pitkin immediately enters a dense pine forest and travels along the rushing Pitkin Creek that crashes over boulders and falls. The initial climb is fairly benign but soon begins a steep uphill switchback battle. As the trail ascends the views open allowing panoramas of distant peaks and landscapes, and the only sounds are those of wind and wilderness.
Soon after the mountainside trudge the path takes a turn inward and over a final ledge. Once this final rise is overcome the trail enters a vast wildflower meadow skirted by tall aspen and pine groves, but high above the foliage remain snowy jagged peaks that reach to the open sky.
The scenery and landscape constantly change as the route navigates up and down over rocky terrain toward Pitkin Lake. Waterfalls are not only a regular sight along Pitkin Creek, which the trail edges and crosses regularly, but also from high in the peaks that encompass the valley. There are a few overlooks along the trek that make for great spots to relax, enjoy the view, and look down over the creek, across at the surrounding peaks, and back over all that you have traveled. From the overlooks there is only a short distance until Pitkin Lake the crown and end point of the trail. There are a few short climbs to the top but soon you will reach the giant rocky bowl where Pitkin Lake rests. Where you go and what you do from here is up to you.
How To Get There: Exit 180 from I-70 Colorado
Total Distance: 4.3 Miles (One Way)
Map Used: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #149 Eagles Nest and Holy Cross Wilderness Areas