Piney River Ranch stands out as a premier hiking spot as it holds an iconic view of the Vail Valley, Gore Range, Colorado and Rocky Mountains. It embodies everything we love about where we live. The Upper Piney River Ranch/Piney Falls trail (6 miles round trip) captures open fields of wildflowers, majestic stands of aspens, cool shady pines and craggy rocky formations all while overlooking Piney Lake with towering Mt. Powell in the distance. The area is home to abundant wildlife like moose, bear, deer, eagles, marmots, foxes and loads of trout.

This hike and location has something for everyone, for every level of hiker and is only 12 miles north of Vail, with a backcountry feel that allows you to feel like you’re a world away!

The Upper Piney trail begins at the end of Red Sandstone Road, outside of the Piney River Ranch entrance, and ends at Upper Piney Lake, and is roughly 7 miles each way. Begin your journey outside of the ranch (where public parking is available), pass Piney Lake and gently climb through an open meadow before entering the forest and reaching a cascading waterfall about 3 miles in. The average hiker will have no problem reaching the waterfall destination in about an hour and a half. The trail becomes less distinct and more difficult after the falls and becomes steeper as it approaches Upper Piney Lake and takes you to Knee Knocker Pass. Beyond this, the Upper Piney River Trail provides access to Mt. Powell, peaking at 13,580’ in elevation, and is also the highest summit in the Gore Range. Fewer people use the trail after the 5.5 mile mark, so exercise caution.

Family Adventure Hike

Join a Walking Mountains Backcountry guide for a fun and educational 2 hour hike along the Piney River, followed by time to enjoy the historic Piney River Ranch. Opportunities at Piney include horseback riding, canoeing & lunch at their onsite restaurant (added cost applies). Transportation to and from Piney from Vail & Avon is provided.

What To Expect

Your day starts at 8:30 by meeting your guide at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, or one of four convenient pickup locations between Avon & Vail. We will load a Walking Mountains van and drive the scenic hour along Red Sandstone Road to Piney River Ranch. After a brief orientation to the Ranch, we will take a leisurely, educational hike along the Upper Piney River. You will experience the beauty of the Colorado Rockies, learn about what critters live in our streams & forests, and your guide may even bring some surprises to share along the way! Moose and other wildlife are commonly seen at the far end of the lake, and this is a beautiful place to learn about Colorado’s wildlife & wilderness areas! After the hike, you will have about 1 ½ hours to enjoy all that Piney River Ranch has to offer. We will load the vans at 1:15 and return to Vail & Avon by 2:30.

Reservations are required and are made through Walking Mountains Science Center.

For additional information please contact:

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin
Community Outreach Coordinator
(970) 827-9725 x144

Guided Hike – Wednesdays in July and August
$40 for adults (17+) & $25 for children (8-16)