Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Piney Lake

Scenic Piney Lake near Vail Colorado is a great place to hike or lounge at the nearby resortScenic Piney Lake

Piney Lake, near Vail Colorado,  is one of the highest lakes in Colorado that you can drive to.  There are several trails that leave from this area, but on this trip we popped up there just to check out the views. If you are interested in hike, check out  Lost Lake which is on the way, and Upper Piney River, which leaves from the parking lot of the Piney River Ranch, a commercial outfitter at the lake.

Canoes dotted the lake. Is this not a classic Colorado tableau?

There is a commercial outfitter at the lake with a limited restaurant (no ice cream!!), lodging, and canoe rentals for around $20/hour.

The Canoe outfitter

Piney Lake is accessed 12 miles BEYOND THE END of Red Mountain Road on the north side of I-70 in Vail. The route is over a rough dirt road that is passable in a passenger car if you go slow. It will take at least a 40 minutes if not more to get there depending on road conditions.

Directions: From I-70, take Exit 176 for Vail. Take the North Frontage Road west to Red Sandstone Road. Turn north here and follow the paved road about 0.7 miles to a fork with a dirt road on the left. There should be a Forest Service sign indicating this is Red Sandstone Road #700 (Reset your odometer here). Continue up this road about 2.7 miles to an intersection with the Lost Lake Road (#786) and continue left. At mile 6.5 you will pass Red and White Mtn Road-FSR 734. At mile 6.7 you will pass the Lost Lake Trail parking lot on the right and then reach an intersection where the Muddy Pass/Moniger Road goes left. Stay right here. (Some maps show the Red Sandstone Road changing number from FSR 700 to FSR 701 at this point, and some don’t, but regardless, you stay right to get to Piney Lake and the Upper Piney River Trail). At mile 9.1, you will cross the Piney River and see a trailhead for Lower Piney River Trail - FDT 1885 on the left. Stay right and reach a Forest Service parking lot on the right at mile 10.65 before the entrance to Piney River Ranch.


  1. Beautiful! Perfect Colorado photos. I just returned from my CO vacation but was a good bit south where the thermometer hit 113 one day.

  2. In the summer of 2005 I moved from Omaha to L.A. I left Omaha in the Afternoon and drove into the night. The Colossal views of the mountains were masked by darkness, I was about to drive through the Rocky Mountains without seeing the astonishing views, when my the steering wheel on my '94 Taurus began to lock up and the engine began to smoke. I pulled the car to the side of the road and called roadside assistance. My car was towed to wonderful Eagle Colorado. The Ford dealership told me it would be about 2 days before I could be on my way again. It was almost fate that broke down at that precise spot. I rented a car and drove to Vail and then ended up just exploring a winding road that jutted through the igneous rock that surrounds these miraculous mountains. My drive came to an end at Piney Lake; I didn't need to go any further. I hiked around and marveled at its beauty. This would be the lake that compelled me to move to Denver in 2007. It is now 2011 and I have yet to return to Piney Lake, but tomorrow I shall return with my fiance and my dog and explore again, to remind myself again why I love this state. Piney Lake is awesome. I highly recommend visiting here at least once.

  3. Is primitive camping and camp fires allowed at Piney Lake?

  4. Gosh, I have no idea. I would contact the forest service to find out.

  5. I was privileged to attend a "hoedown" at the picnic/pavillion area at Piney Lake in 1993. The scenery was stunning to say the least - especially with the mountain backdrop glowing in the evening August sun. The switchbacks on the ride up, however, were another story. Be prepared; you will need nerves of steel to negotiate the drive up. I took dozens of photos of Piney Lake with its picturesque mountains, all the while thinking that if ever there was a postcard perfect shot, this was it. Behold, on our trip back east, while waiting for our flight in Denver's airport, my buddy pulled out a postcard from the stand at a souvenir shop, and there is was - Piney Lake - from the same vantage point as my photos. Don't miss this if you are in the Vail area. It doesn't get any more beautiful.