This is a weekly series that highlights an outstanding day hike or backpacking trip. The goal is to inspire you to want to get out and see these places for yourself. I know for us, just seeing amazing photos and reading about a great hike is enough to get us motivated.
This week's hike will take us to Gore Lake and Deluge Lake, both located within Colorado's Eagles Nest Wilderness.
Why this Hike?
The two lakes and their surrounding areas are the highlights of this 2-night trip near Vail, Colorado. Each one provides a picturesque scenery of isolated wilderness, and believe us when we say that there's plenty to take in!
- The two lakes are not too far apart from each other.
- High difficulty due to high elevation gain
- Great fishing spots are available in Gore Creek and at the lakes (a valid Colorado fishing license is required).
- Beautiful wildflowers from June to September
- Various mammals such as bears, marmots, mountain goats, elk and moose, and birds such as grouse can be seen.
- Dogs are allowed so long as they are leashed
- Ideal months to hike the trail are from July to October, but the Gore Creek Campground is open as early as May.
- Deluge Lake has a single cabin that you can use before going back to the trailhead.
How do I get there?
From Exit 180 on I-70, go east down Bighorn Road for about 2.5 miles until you can see the trailhead on the left side before reaching the Gore Creek campground. You will soon see a marked fork on the trail. Go right to head for Gore Creek Trail.
You can also take a bus from the Vail Transportation Center and get off at Bighorn road.
The following map outlines our recommended route.
We recommend a 3-day, 2-night itinerary for both lakes. You can spend the first night at Gore Lake and your second night at Deluge Lake. The total distance is approximately 14 miles (22.5 km).
- Day 1 - Gore Lake (5.8 miles / 9.3 km)
- Day 2 - Deluge Lake (3.6 miles / 5.7 km)
- Day 3 - Gore Creek trailhead (4.6 miles / 7.4 km)
You will start out on a rocky and steep first mile before the trail starts to level out. Expect the local wildlife to dart through grasses, shrubbery and aspen groves while you are walking parallel to Gore Creek. After about four miles, turn left at the trail split onto the Gore Lake Trail. This is a two-mile hike towards the lake that will be steep, passing through smaller twisting creeks, meadows and forests that can prove to be challenging until you reach the tree line.
After choosing where to set up camp around the lake, go ahead and take in the sights until night falls. You've earned it! Feel free to climb the surrounding slopes to get a better view of the surrounding area. You can also fish on the outlet and ponds, so long as you have a valid Colorado fishing license.
On your second day, hike past Snow Lake in order to scale the ridge known as Snow Pass. You should then descend to Deluge Lake. The descent is very steep, so go slow and watch your step! Go find the small log cabin near the trees on the south side of Deluge Lake. You can stay the night in there if no other campers are occupying it, or you can set up camp somewhere in the vicinity and feel free to explore the surrounding area.
On your third day, go back via Deluge Lake Trail. Parts of the way back is steep, so be careful going down. Later on you will reach the marked fork which you saw at the beginning of your trip.
What will I need?
The conditions on the trail are excellent and the start of the trail is easy to follow because it is parallel to Gore Creek. Bear boxes, tables and campfires are available in Gore Creek Campground if you decide to stay there before your trip. Weather in the mountains is generally very good from July to October, but make sure to bring some sun and rain protection since afternoon thunderstorms can be common. The insects are usually not a problem.
Make sure you bring enough equipment, food and water (or a means to purify water) for a 3-day trip, and a backpacking stove since there is little wood to be found in the area. The Gore Creek Campground has good amenities but keep in mind that it has no water supply and electricity. Check out our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List for a complete list of things that we recommend and a handy printable checklist.
Do I need a permit?
Register for free at Gore Creek Trailhead, and make sure to bring a copy of your registration with you when on the trail.
The Town of Vail24-Hour Bus information
Phone: 970-477-3456 Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645
Phone: 970-827-5715 Purchasing a Colorado State fishing license More information on buying a fishing license
Have you done this or other hikes in the Gore Range? Do you have other outstanding hikes that you'd like us to write about? Please share your feedback in the comments.
is there a trail between gore lake and deluge lake that is visible? or do you need a map/gps to do this part?
Just a quick tip that I think is valuable and confirmed by Forest Rangers with whom I met along the way. If you’re doing the loop, the Rangers and I recommend ascending Deluge Creek Trail, mainly because it is so steep. They see several injuries of people descending such a steep incline with full packs and therefor recommend the less steep, more gradual descent of going down the Gore Creek Trail. Plus, climbing up Snow Pass is much better coming up from the Deluge Lake side than going down from the Snow Lake side. Either way, it’s a beautiful loop, but also as an experienced backpacker, this should be rated a difficult to very difficult. Cheers, ~BVL
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