Hike of the Week: Head to Lost Lake for a moderate Vail Valley lake hike

By Nathan Boyer-Rechlin
Special to the Daily
Cole Weathers flies through Lost Lake Trail during Wednesday, July 11's Lost Lake Loop in 2018.
Chris Dillmann |

Lost Lake near Vail is an excellent and accessible moderate hike to a gorgeous mountain lake. This trail is a great family full day hike, and is a more moderate trek than many of the difficult lake hikes here in our valley.

Getting there

To get to the Lost Lake trailhead, take Red Sandstone Road towards Piney Lake from West Vail. This is a dirt road (currently with numerous pot-holes and washboards) however it does get regularly graded each year, and if you take it slow, low clearance vehicles should be fine. As the road winds around a clear-cut section of forest, look for a pull-off on the right, as the road attains the height of land before descending to Piney Lake. This pull-off is the Lost Lake Trailhead.

What to expect

Lost Lake is a 7-mile round trip with 1,000 feet of climbing. The trail follows a high ridge through a lodge-pole pine forest. This area was hit hard by pine beetle, and the trail follows the edge of an extensive clear cut, which provides views to the South of Mt. Holy Cross (and an interesting lesson in forest ecology).

Wildlife is common in this area, with elk prints, numerous birds including Clarks’ nutcracker, mountain lion and coyote signs all being common. The trail climbs gently for 2.5 miles before turning left and descending down a short, but rocky section of trail.

From 2.5-3 miles the trail climbs again to the high point of the hike, before slowly descending to the lake. Continue around to the south side of the lake on a primitive, but well-maintained trail. You may encounter a brief wet part of the trail, but the trail usually dries up around this time of year. End with stunning views of the Gore Range.

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Walking Mountains hikes

Each Week, Walking Mountains offers a variety of community hiking programs. Visit or email for more information on our free community hikes, or on joining our hiking club for full access to our bi-weekly full day peaks and lakes hikes. This is what we have on deck for the coming week:

Thursday July 2: Full Day Hiking Club Hike to Kokomo Pass; $80 or $500 for the full season.

Monday July 6: Backyard Backcountry Series: “Whats Bloomin’ in the Backyard” Half Day Hike at Stag Gulch; free

Tuesday July 7: Full Day Hiking Club Hike to Notch Mountain; $80 or $500 for the full season

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator, hiking guide, and trails guru at Walking Mountains Science Center. You can reach him at (970) 827-9725 ext. 144, or

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