HIKING TRAILS AROUND VALLECITO
View of Pine River Road, Forest service #602
Pine River Trail – Easy-Moderate. Continue around the north end of Lake (CR 501) After Middle Mountain Road and end of pavement Turn left on the Pine River turnoff at FS #602.(at Elk Point Stables) Take the road 3.8 miles to the Pine River Campground and Trailhead. The Pine alternates between meadows and canyon, frequently flowing peacefully on the flat valley floor. The boundary of the Weminuche Wilderness is 2.7 miles up the trail, the fishing is fantastic, and the turnoff to Emerald Lake is at mile 6.3 (Trail #528). The trail continues to ascend, sometimes gradually and sometimes moderately.
Vallecito Creek Trail – Easy/Moderate
From CR 501 continue to North end of the Lake and bear left (North) for 2.8 miles on CR 500 to reach Vallecito Campground and trailhead parking. A stunning day hike on the first few miles of the trail, or a wonderful four-to-five day backpack trip. You follow a rapid flowing creek tumbling down a narrow glacial valley; the creek is among the loveliest in the West. The first 2 miles you rise 500 feet or more above the creek with fantastic vistas, and then drop down right beside the creek. There are many side trails that lead to wonderful polls, great for fishing or relaxing. Continuing to the first foot bridge at 3 miles is a great day hike. The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and in August. In the spring the creek is a committed Class v+ whitewater run for experts only. In the winter a popular snow shoeing trail.
Lake Eileen Trail – More Difficult
From 501 continue north watch for the Forest Service Work Center, and the trailhead is on opposite side of road a Trailhead sign is visible from the road.
Parking is available on the right and the trailhead is on the leftThe trail passes through aspen forests to the small, shallow lake covered by water lilies and surrounded by aspen trees. A short climb to the ridge gives you great views of the lake and Forests. All though only four miles round trip, with a 1140 ft elevation gain we are calling a four hour trip.
The Lakes Trail – Easy
There are many portions of this trail that skirts the edge of the Lake. Look for the Lake Trail signs and parking areas as you drive along the Lake on 501, there are benches and picnic tables along the way and plenty of fine fishing spots. There is a “Flowers from the Lake Trails” brochure available to help you identify the wildflowers.
Cave Basin Trail – Most difficult, map compass skills suggested
Continue on 501 all the way around the Lake, when you start heading south, Middle Mountain Road and the parking area will be on your left. Continue up middle Mountain Road (gravel forest service road) to the turn off at the ten mile marker. Cave Basin Trail begins at an elevation of 10,800 feet and if you go all the way, ending at an elevation of 12,360′ (Overlook of Emerald Lake). Ten miles round trip, but any portion of is great way to experience some high elevation hiking. The trail starts off wide and well defined but disappears, after about 3 miles due to the gray limestone that forms benches. Use your map and compass skills to progress across gray limestone benches, past meadows and sinkholes. The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and in August. This area offers excellent views and photographic possibilities. As with all high-altitude areas, storms can move in rapidly, bringing severe wind, lightning, rain, snow, or hail any time of the year. Plan accordingly.
Tukerville Trail – Easy
Follow directions to Cave Basin Trail and continue to the end of road 11 miles to an open area which was the mining town of Tukerville. Although all the building have been removed, there were 6 bunkhouses, shop, and a mess hall, in full operation from 1920 to 1929. There are many trails leaving from there, some starting as ATV trails. If you bear left you will reach a wonderful overlook where the mines were in the cliffs below.
North Canyon Trail, East Creek Trail, Graham Creek Trail
Look for Trailhead signs on the gravel road 501A, which is a continuation CR 501 on east side of Lake. You acess 501A by driving around north end of Lake until you’re going south, or driving over the Dam road.These Trails head up the ridges on the East side of Lake, following creeks with water falls to open meadows.