Gore Lake, Gore Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Gore Lake - 12.2 miles
Gore Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||12.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,721' - 11,414' (11,425' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,693' net elevation gain (+3,192' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Gore Lake is located in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area north of Vail, Colorado. It fills a large basin at treeline beneath Snow Peak (13,024'), Willow Peak (13,357') and Red Peak (13,189').
The hike to Gore Lake loosely follows Gore Creek 4.2 miles before breaking north up a steep gulch that levels in a string of alpine meadows below the lake. Gore Lake is compelling for its excellent cutthroat trout fishing, idyllic setting and isolated location deep in the Gore Range:
The Gore Creek Trail heads east through intervals of meadow and aspen, joining Gore Creek briefly over a cascade (.9 miles : 9,075') before edging back up the north valley wall.
Travel eases to a bridge (1.8 miles : 9,517'), then undulates ruggedly in dense forest that breaks at a long opening in the valley cleared by avalanches (2.0 miles : 9,521').
The trail re-enters dense lodgepole (2.45 miles : 9,733') and moderates to a lazy oxbow in the creek (2.7 miles : 9,802'). Lush grasses, wildflowers and shade highlight this mild segment.
The trail steepens to another major clearing (3.2 miles : 9,908'), then eases back into a pristine swath of spruce and fir by the creek (3.5 miles : 9,945').
This next mile offers better fishing access and camping terrain, logistically desirable overnight locations before the strenuous push to Gore Lake or Red Buffalo Pass.
The Gore Creek Trail reaches the Gore Lake Trail split at the foot of another opening in the valley and turns sharply north (4.2 miles : 10,194'). It steepens on a twisting climb beside a creek before leveling in a high subalpine forest (4.75 miles : 10,794').
Travel steadies through an expanding alpine landscape where the trail may be faint, washed-out or snow-covered in places.
The trail generally favors the gentle west side of the meadow system before making a deliberate - if not counter intuitive - departure up its steep and cluttered west ridge (5.4 miles : 10,975').
It begins a shifting climb to a large cairn and hairpin turn (right) just below the lake (6.0 miles : 11,341'). A short climb through the vestiges of treeline leads to the southeast shore of Gore Lake (6.1 miles : 11,414').
Gore Lake's perimeter is easy to explored, as are the slopes above. Anglers will find good fishing along the outlet, and in a number of outlying ponds. Scramble up the west shore for panoramas across the Gore Lake basin, and south to the Holy Cross Wilderness Area.
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N39 37.662 W106 16.491 — Gore Creek Trailhead
- N39 37.751 W106 16.105 — .4 miles : Eagles Nest Wilderness Boundary sign
- N39 37.810 W106 15.517 — 1.0 miles : Undulating climb past falls into forest
- N39 37.783 W106 15.062 — 1.5 miles : Rugged progress through forest intervals
- N39 37.733 W106 14.800 — 1.8 miles : Cross bridge (right) over tributary
- N39 37.701 W106 14.586 — 2.0 miles : Large clearing in valley
- N39 37.644 W106 14.115 — 2.5 miles : Re-enter forest, trail briefly moderates
- N39 37.569 W106 13.654 — 3.0 miles : Steep travel to another major clearing
- N39 37.511 W106 13.187 — 3.45 miles : Re-enter forest, now spruce and fir
- N39 37.451 W106 12.590 — 4.0 miles : Moderate travel closer to creek
- N39 37.500 W106 12.294 — 4.2 miles : Gore Lake Trail junction - turn left
- N39 37.820 W106 12.359 — 4.75 miles : Steep climb levels at base of alpine valley
- N39 38.068 W106 12.174 — 5.1 miles : Level travel through alpine meadows
- N39 38.272 W106 12.079 — 5.4 miles : Climb out of meadow up steep ridge to west
- N39 38.531 W106 12.387 — 6.0 miles : Sharp right turn at cairn on final approach
- N39 38.490 W106 12.475 — 6.1 miles : Gore Lake
- Morning travelers will face a low eastern sun on the way out, and a high southern sun on the return from Gore Lake. Sunglasses and hats are recommended.
- Experienced hikers can scale passes over Gore Lake or follow drainage forks lower in the valley to reach Snow Lake and Deluge Lake. A challenging x-country loop can be formed between the three lakes, as the Gore Lake Trail and Deluge Lake Trail both begin at the Gore Creek Trailhead in Vail.
- Look for moose in the alpine marshes below Gore Lake in mid-summer, and along Gore Creek in the fall. Aspen, willow and maple along Gore Creek produce exceptional autumn colors.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Gore Creek Campground - Facilities and Campground Information:
- The Gore Creek Campground is located 2.5 miles east of Exit 180 from I-70 on Bighorn Road. It's located just past the Gore Creek Trailhead and holds 25 campsites with picnic tables and fire grates. A vault toilet is available. Campsite parking spurs are 30-40' long, but no electric hook-ups, running water or dump stations are available. Sites are first come, first served. There is a $16 fee, and 10 day occupancy limit.
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- One member of each party is required to register at the Gore Creek Trailhead and carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no registration fee. Permits are required to help measure visitation and manage impact.
- 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 Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.
- Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District (970.827.5715) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.
- There are several developed campgrounds within the White River National Forest. Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District for information on these sites.
- Fishing is permitted with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are permitted on the Gore Creek Trail and within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6'.
- Horses are permitted on the Gore Creek Trail.
- Bikes are not permitted on the Gore Creek Trail.
Directions to Trailhead
Gore Lake is located within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest. The Gore Creek Trailhead is located 2.3 miles east of Exit #180 off I-70 on Bighorn Road.
From westbound I-70, exit #180 and turn left at the bottom of the off ramp. Continue east down Bighorn Road 2.3 miles to the parking area on your left, before you reach the Gore Creek Campground. Parking is limited. Park at the trailhead, not at the campground.
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