The snowcapped peaks of the Gore range are a familiar sight to the skier on Vail mountain, and to the motorist driving over Vail Pass on I-70. The Gore range runs in a north-south direction from near Copper Mountain to near the town of Kremmling. Much of the rugged interior of the Gore range is contained within the boundaries of the Eagles Nest Wilderness.
The Eagles Nest Wilderness preserves pristine montane forests, high altitude tundra, the clear streams of Piney River, and Gore Creek along with arguably the most rugged and steep terrain within the state of Colorado. Many of the peaks attain heights over 12,000 feet, the highest of which is Mt. Powell at 13,560 ft.
The west side is most easily accessible from the town of Vail, Colorado. On the east side the cities of Silverthorne, and Frisco are a gateway to the wilderness. Highway 40 runs north along the eastern edge, making the eastern side more accessible to hikers. The northern edge is bounded by the town of Kremmling.
When to Visit
You can visit the Eagles Nest Wilderness at any time of the year, although the best months are between the months of June and September. Higher elevation mountain passes may be impassable to foot travel early or late in the season due to heavy mountain snow fall. See our Colorado Backpacking Guide for more information on the Colorado backcountry.
Red Buffalo Pass to Eccles Pass via Gore Range Trail (Multi-day Backpack)
This (2-4 day) shuttle hike requires leaving your car at either the Meadow Creek trailhead or the Uneva Pass/Gore Range Trail trailhead near Copper Mountain. Start from the Gore Creek/Deluge Lake Trailhead on of Big Horn Road head up the Gore Creek trail to Red Buffalo Pass. There is an optional detour here to Gore Lake. A spectacular view awaits you at the pass. Head south on the Gore Range Trail towards Eccles Pass, passing several lakes/tarns. Eccles Pass is my favorite, with awesome views of the Ten Mile Range to the south.
Below Eccles Pass, you have the option to take the Meadow Creek trail (shortest) back to civilization… or continue south on the Gore Range Trail over Uneva Pass to the trailhead at I-70/Copper Mountain. [2-4 day backpack/strenuous ]
View Red Buffalo Pass – Eccles Pass Trek in a larger map
Piney Lake & Upper Piney Lake (Easy Hike)
Near Vail, scenic Piney Lake abuts the peaks of the Gore Range and the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Upper Piney River Trail takes you to Upper Piney lake and a waterfall at mile 2.5. This hike is popular as it is accessible from Vail via a drive up FR 700. Take Red Sand Stone Rd. to FR 700 and follow it to the lake.
I recommend Trails Illustrated Map #108 (Vail, Frisco, Dillon) for backpackers and backcountry visitors. Do not enter the backcountry without a map and a good idea of where you are going.
Nearby Wilderness Areas
Holy Cross Wilderness, Sarvis Creek