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Upper Piney River Trail



6.1 mile 9.8 kilometer out and back
91% Runnable


Ascent: 845' 258 m
Descent: -846' -258 m
High: 9,906' 3,019 m
Low: 9,362' 2,853 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 46% (25°)


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Trail shared by Megan W

A superbly scenic and relatively easy alpine run near a lake and river.

Megan W

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers


This remote spot requires a long drive on a bumpy road, but the views are well worth the effort. Lots of other people think so too- be prepared to share this alpine paradise with others especially on high season weekends.

Need to Know

Be sure to park in the public lot just before the Piney Lake Ranch. The first lot you reach is open to the public, but leave the private parking lot for paying customers. You are welcome to have lunch, drink, or an ice cream at their cafe! You can even rent a canoe if so inclined...

Runner Notes

This is a great trail with fairly smooth surfaces and reasonable grades, especially for an alpine run. Can be crowded with hikers on weekends.


Starting across the road (to the north) from the public parking area near Piney Lake Lodge, run eastwards towards Piney Lake. Take in the massive Gore mountain range spread out before you. The trail passes through grassy meadows on the north side of the lake and follows along the broad river valley. Piney River cuts a sinuous path through shrubs and turf that turn brilliant colors in the fall. The path is smooth and ascends gently at first.

After entering the first of the small aspen groves, the incline steepens as the trail begins to climb the base of the hillside. Negotiate a few switchbacks and use log planks to cross burbling streams. Enjoy good views across the valley at the craggy rock faces. Enter a few stretches of deep shady evergreen forest and then pop out for good views of the rugged Gore Range.

Eventually, you'll reach the cataracts, or cascades that rush between a narrow rock chasm. The sunny smooth rocks near here make a great picnic spot. Most people make this their turn-around point, but you can keep running along Piney River to Upper Piney Lake, or over West Booth Pass and connect with the Booth Creek Trail. The trail gets much rougher and more difficult beyond the cascade.

Flora & Fauna

Aspens, wildflowers

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Sep 19, 2015
Nick Wilder

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 17 votes


in Vail


  4.4 from 17 votes
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in Vail


in Colorado


51 Views Last Month
14,528 Since Sep 20, 2015



A peaceful fall evening at Piney Lake.
Oct 24, 2016 near Vail, CO
Stormy skies on the Upper Piney River Trail.
Sep 24, 2018 near Vail, CO
The Gores in Fall.
Sep 20, 2016 near Vail, CO
Great spot for a picnic!
Sep 20, 2015 near Vail, CO
Cascade near the trail's end
Sep 20, 2015 near Vail, CO
This area is beautiful in Fall!
Sep 20, 2016 near Vail, CO


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