Whitney Lake, Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Whitney Lake - 5.25 miles
Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road
|Round-Trip Length:||5.25 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,110' - 10,956' (10,956' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,846' net elevation gain (+1,895' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Whitney Lake - 5.25 Miles Round-Trip
Whitney Lake is located 2.62 miles from Homestake Road in the Holy Cross Wilderness. It lies at the base of Whitney Peak (13,271') in a thick subalpine forest. The short hike is highlighted by verdant aspen groves, flower-covered slopes and good fishing at the lake. Despite a few steep sections the trail is generally moderate and ideal for families:
The trail rises quickly from Homestake Road through the first of three aspen groves. It moderates across the base of an airy slope (.5 miles : 9,510') before turning sharply uphill with views across the Homestake Creek valley.
The trail enters another stretch of aspen and steepens to a second open slope with emerging views of Savage Peak (13,139') and adjacent peaks in the heart of the Sawatch (1.2 miles : 10,050').
Note swaths of skunk cabbage, a member of the lily family with large, lettuce-like leaves. Skunk cabbage is thermogenic, meaning it can produce heat that exceeds ambient temperatures. It's this complex metabolic process that creates the unpleasant smell for which it's named.
The trail reaches a third aspen grove that's abruptly succeeded by mixed conifers leading to a bridge over Whitney Creek (1.65 miles : 10,430'). If damaged, it may simply be easier/safer to get in the water and cross the creek (especially for backpackers).
A short, steep push from the bridge soon levels in a tall spruce-fir forest to Whitney Lake (2.62 miles : 10,956'), which is hemmed against the south flank of the Whitney Peak massif.
The lake is ringed by thick timber, but social trails thread much of the shore with good access for anglers. Note: campsites at the lake may be closed for revegetation. Contact the Holy Cross District for the latest information about camping and fires at Whitney Lake (970.827.5715).
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N39 25.721 W106 24.665 — 0.0 miles : Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road
- N39 25.695 W106 25.135 — .5 miles : Level across base of open slope
- N39 25.755 W106 25.434 — 1.0 miles : Steep climb through aspen grove
- N39 25.675 W106 26.053 — 1.65 miles : Cross Whitney Creek on bridge
- N39 25.527 W106 26.331 — 2.0 miles : Steep push into subalpine forest
- N39 25.547 W106 26.960 — 2.62 miles : Whitney Lake
- Relatively moderate grades and clear trail conditions make Whitney Lake an ideal family hike.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Self-registration permits are available at the trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Holy Cross Wilderness.
- Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District (970.827.5715) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.
- Gold Camp is a developed campground on Homestake Road. There are also many undeveloped campsites along Homestake Road with no fees. These are not marked but the turnoffs for each are fairly clear. Be mindful of adjacent private property.
- Fishing is permitted at Whitney Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed or under strict voice control at all times.
Directions to Trailhead
The Whitney Lake Trailhead is located on Homestake Road, 4.6 miles west of Highway 24.
From I-70, take Exit 171 (just west of West Vail) and follow Highway 24 south 12.4 miles to Homestake Road (right turn). Anticipate this turn, as it comes quickly on a bend in the road.
Take Homestake Road 4.6 miles to a small parking area on the left (south) side of the road. The Whitney Lake Trailhead begins across the road (north side). Note the trailhead sign is fairly hidden and the parking area is unmarked.
Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602