Hike of the Week: East Lake Creek offers hike through aspens for all skill levels
Hike of the Week
Most fall color has dropped from the trees to the ground by now, but to find lingering fiery hues, your best chance is to hike through an aspen grove. East Lake Creek offers just that. It offers a variety of terrain and paths that go deep into the Holy Cross Wilderness, making it a great fall option for any hiker.
Take Lake Creek Road out of Edwards. When the road splits, take the right fork, West Lake Creek Road. Follow the signs to the East and West Lake Creek trailheads. Proceed past the hairpin turn that also serves as the trailhead for the West Lake Creek trail and park in the small parking lot on the left side of the road.
What to Expect
The East Lake Creek trail travels deep into the heart of the Holy Cross Wilderness. In its entirety, the trail takes you 12 miles up the East Lake Creek valley to Upper Camp Lake. However, a great half-day option is to hike just over 2 miles to where the trail meets the creek at a bridge. Bring some snacks and hang out on the rocks for an hour or two.
The first 2 miles of the trail are different from most trails in the Vail area in that it is more rolling. Don’t let this fool you though, this trail still packs a lot of elevation gain into a 4-mile round trip hike. The first climb out of the parking area passes through one of the larger aspen clones in the valley.
The trail passes a junction with the Dead Dog Trail and climbs and descends through a few small drainages — passing through stands of spruce, fir and pine. After about 1.5 miles, the trail begins a steep descent to East Lake Creek. Remember, you have to hike back up it, so don’t hike farther than your body can handle, because the trek back won’t be a straight shot downhill.
Just past the wilderness boundary, the forest opens up and you will find a beautiful meadow with a large boulder and views of the valley. This makes a nice end destination, or you can continue another quarter mile to the bridge over the creek or head deeper to explore the Holy Cross Wilderness.
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information on this hike and others with Walking Mountains, you can reach him at 970-827-9725, ext. 144, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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