Walking Mountains Hike of the Week: Catch fall colors on hike to Whitney Lake | VailDaily.com

Walking Mountains Hike of the Week: Catch fall colors on hike to Whitney Lake

Peter Suneson
Walking Mountains Hike of the Week

Trail Name: Whitney Lake.

Mileage: 2.5 miles or so to the lake, roughly 5 miles out-and-back.

Subjective rating: Moderate to difficult. Roughly 2,000 feet of elevation gain over a short distance makes this trail "short-n-steep."

What to Expect

The Whitney Lake trail starts on the north side of Homestake Road roughly 5 miles from the turn off of U.S. Highway 24 — look for a small parking area on your left. The trail begins through small sage meadows and a few brilliant stands of aspen. As you continue to climb through spruce and fir, keep an eye out for the great views of the Sawatch Range.

If hiked during wildflower season, the wet meadows roughly a third of the way up the trail are a great place to see larkspur, monkshood and fields of elk lily. Late in the wildflower season, the Whitney Lake trail is one of the best hikes to see mariposa lilies as their fragile blooms remind us that the gentian are next to bloom, and flower season is on the way out.

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Because this is a shorter hike, the lake sees lots of visitors over the summer. Please respect the fragile ecosystem by only camping in designated sites, 100 feet from streams, lakes and trails.

Stewardship Message

As we hike around our beautiful valley this fall, the most striking colors we see are generated by carotenoids, chemicals that bring our aspens their amber glow.

The brilliance of aspen fall color change is dependent on a variety of factors, one of those being the health and fitness of the individual trees or the stand. Carving your initials in the bark of an aspen tree is one way of ensuring the fitness, health and thus fall color of the aspen could be forever compromised. Tree bark is like our skin; it keeps the good stuff in, and the bad stuff out.

Do your part this fall and encourage your neighbors, colleagues and guests to the valley to leave a more positive impact on the natural wonders that brought most of us here in the first place.

Peter Suneson manages the backcountry hiking and snowshoeing programs at Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org.

Hike with Walking Mountains

Walking Mountains Science Center leads guided hikes year round for people of all ages and abilities. To see a schedule, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org or stop by one of their Eagle Valley Locations:

In Avon at the Buck Creek Campus behind the hospital

On Vail Mountain at the Nature Discovery Center

At the Vail Nature Center near the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens