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Pitkin Lake
Pitkin Creek Trailhead sign
Pitkin Creek Trail falls
Pitkin Creek dirt trail in field with mountains in background
Pitkin Creek trail with clear lake and mountains
Pitkin Creek trail with lake and mountains
Pitkin Creek Trail with pines
Pitkin Creek Trail greenery

Pitkin Creek Trail

4.8 miles (one way)

The first mile of the trail is strenuous as it climbs steeply out of the Vail Valley. Fallen trees along the trail are evidence of past avalanches. The grade levels out somewhat as the trail passes through mature aspen groves and spruce-fir forests and a series of moraines from an ancient glacial retreat. After about 2.5 miles, steep switchbacks reveal the first of two waterfalls on Pitkin Creek about 200 yards to the east. After a number of false summits, the trail reaches Pitkin Lake, nestled beneath an arc of gray granite in the alpine tundra.

To avoid trampling sensitive vegetation and to prevent soil erosion, please stay on the trail at all times. Dogs are permitted, but must be kept on a leash in order to protect wildlife and the hiking experience of other trail users. This trail enters the Eagles Nest Wilderness – regulations are posted at the trailhead. For a map of the trail, please visit Hiking Project.

Details: Including directions, a map, and other information can be found on this printable Recreation Quicksheet from the Forest Service.

Trail Adopted By: BG Buildingworks

Show Your Love for Vail Trails

Hiking in Vail goes hand in hand with caring for our pristine natural environment. Here’s how you can do your part!

Stay on the Trail

No shortcuts - going off trail compromises trail construction, kills the vegetation, increases soil erosion and may result in reduced water quality.

Pack Out Trash

Stash it until you can trash it - anything you bring with you, you must pack back out! Trash can hurt wildlife and contaminate water ways.

Dog Do's and Don'ts

Do pick up the doo – pack out all dog poop. Don’t let dogs off leash – this is to protect them from wildlife and wildlife from them.

Respect Wildlife

Give them space - observe wildlife from a distance and do not follow or approach them. Never feed animals as it can alter their behavior.

Plan Ahead

Take the trail less traveled - there are over a hundred miles of hiking trails in the Vail area! Use the trail guide to discover area trails and whenever possible ride a bike or take a FREE Town of Vail bus to the trailhead.

Driving Directions

Access: Parking is very limited at the trailhead. Do not park in undesignated areas; there are only fifteen designated parking spaces. We strongly encourage taking the free East Vail blue line shuttle, which runs every 30 minutes, from the Vail Transportation Center to the Falls at Vail bus stop. Walk up Fall Line Drive a ¼ mile to the trailhead.

Bus to Hike

Take the East Vail bus

  • Park for free in Vail Village or Lionshead structures and take a free bus to East Vail
  • Get off at the Falls at Vail bus stop
  • Walk up Fall Line Drive a 1/4 mile
  • You will see the Pitkin Trailhead

Dogs & Leashes

On all trails that enter the Eagles Nest Wilderness, as well as on the North Trail, DOGS ARE REQUIRED TO BE ON A PHYSICAL LEASH. If you would like to hike with your dog off leash, there are several areas you can go, such as any trail, aside from the North Trail, that does not enter the Eagles Nest Wilderness, as well as dog parks within the Town of Vail. Remember that, no matter where you are, when in public, your dog needs to be under verbal control. Also, if you use a provided dog waste bag, please remember to carry it out with you. The bags are not biodegradable.