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. This is where most hikers turn around as 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.