Eagle River Coalition: 5 hidden gems of Eagle County

A participant in a 2023 community science program examines a species near the Whitney Lake trailhead. Exploring areas off the beaten track in Eagle County can result in experiencing new adventures and gaining new perspectives of the world around us.
Chris Cohen/Courtesy photo

With hundreds of miles of trails winding through the landscapes and open spaces around us here in Eagle County, it can feel overwhelming to decide where to explore next. There are the classics of course, such as Booth Falls, Lionshead Rock, Beaver Lake and hikes near Sylvan Lake, and these gorgeous places can draw us in time and time again. These classics are iconic, to be sure, overflowing with memorable views and landmarks. 

However, there are also oft-overlooked hidden gems, boasting fewer visitors and allowing for a change of scenery. Why not try out some of the parks and landmarks in the valley that may be off the beaten path? Responsibly recreating in and around local public lands and open spaces adds a connection to the natural world around you and can instill a sense of gratitude, peace and curiosity. Whether you have an hour, an afternoon or a full day to spend outside, getting out and experiencing new places in nature can be incredibly fulfilling.

Our team at the Eagle River Coalition recently put our heads together to create a list of some of our favorite places to visit in the Eagle River Valley. In doing so, we highlighted some real gems and we are sharing them with you to encourage changing up your outings and visiting a perhaps lesser-known destination. Happy trails! 

Whitney Lake, located in the southeastern part of the Eagle River Watershed, is a stunning and moderately challenging 5.7-mile out-and-back hike. The trailhead is located about 10.7 miles down Homestake Road, which begins about 13 miles south of Minturn. One of the more well-known of our selected outings, the Whitney Lake hike highlights the diverse ecosystems in this part of the watershed. The route is winding and rocky, traversing through high meadows and aspen and conifer groves, and ends at Whitney Lake. We recommend packing a lunch to enjoy near the lakeshore before heading back to the trailhead.

Located southeast of Eagle, the trail to Nolan Lake begins at the historic mining town of Fulford. It is a rather challenging 6-mile round-trip hike that ends at Nolan Lake, offering stunning views of mountains and waterfalls. Not far from Sylvan Lake State Park, there are many trails and amenities to be enjoyed in this area during a day trip or a weekend overnight with friends and family.

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Nestled conveniently just west of the interstate in Eagle, the Eagle River Park offers a delightful escape where all are welcome. The park boasts comfortable seating areas, picnic tables, a scenic riverside path and an exciting vantage point to watch kayakers and surfers in action. With a sandy beach area and sections of soft turf for playing, there’s plenty of space for the whole family — pack a picnic and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Eagle River.

Known for being the site of Minturn Community Fund’s Minturn Summer Concert Series (Thursdays at 6 p.m. through mid-August) Little Beach Park is a must-visit for families, featuring grills, multiple play structures, swings, basketball courts and shade trees. Best of all, it’s located along the Eagle River within walking distance of downtown Minturn and a short jaunt from the Minturn Bike Park. We love Little Beach Park because it is a community gathering place that integrates the river and the incredible setting.

Located in Sylvan Lake State Park, the West Brush Creek Trail is a beautiful and accessible hike connecting the Meadows Day Use Area and the Sylvan Lake Campground. The trail follows West Brush Creek, meandering through meadows and alpine groves. You’ll enjoy views of New York Mountain and several beaver dams along the roughly 5-mile route. 

With so many amazing locations in the Eagle River Watershed, we hope you consider getting out of your comfort zone and visiting a new trail or park this summer season. Whether for a full-day excursion or just a picnic lunch, there is something for everyone. Grab a friend, refill your water bottle, apply your sunscreen and head out for a new adventure!

Melanie Smith is the development director for the Eagle River Coalition. Email her at

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