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 a point just north of the ski resorts of Copper Mountain and Vail to just south of 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 the majority of the north-south oriented Gore Range. The Gore Range is near the top among the most rugged portions of Colorado. The density of the peaks, their vertical pitches with extremely steep terrain make hiking strenuous but often very rewarding. Many of the peaks attain heights over 12,000 feet, the highest of which is Mt. Powell at 13,560 ft. Below the peaks pristine but dense montane forests are watered by the many streams and creeks that tumble from the peaks above. The clear streams of Piney River, and Gore Creek water ribbons of meadows that line narrow valleys before emptying into the Colorado River.
The wilderness is accessible from the town of Vail on the west, and the town of Silverthorne to the east. Because of the rugged nature of the area, few trails pass over the Gore Range. Most trails follow a narrow valley into the interior of the range only to come to an abrupt end beneath vertical walls of rock capped by sawtoothed treeless ridges. The two trails that do cross the range from east to west are located on the extreme north and at the southern ends of the range where the peaks pause and open up to form a mountain pass.
One can visit the Eagles Nest Wilderness at any time of the year, although the best weather occurs 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 the 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 a vehicle at both the Meadow Creek/Lily Lake trailhead near Silverthorne and the Gore Creek/Deluga Lake trailhead in Vail. Start the hike from the western end at the Gore Creek/Deluge Lake Trailhead on 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 as well as the Gore Range to north. 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. This shuttle hike can take as little as 2 days, or up to 3 days if you decide to head south from Eccles Pass over Uneva Pass to Copper Mountain.
More information about the Red Buffalo to Eccles Pass traverse of the Gore Range is available in my e-book.
Save time looking for the perfect backpacking trail with this e-guide to the best backpacking trips Colorado has to offer. Download in PDF format.
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 due to its proximity to the town of Vail. Take Red Sand Stone Rd. to PIney River Road and follow it to Upper Piney Lake trailhead.
For a trail map, I recommend the Trails Illustrated Map #108 (Vail, Frisco, Dillon) by National Geographic. This map shows trails, streams, and mountain peaks in a topographical map format and is printed in full color on water proof and tear resistant plastic.
Holy Cross Wilderness, Sarvis Creek