One good thing about being a consultant is the fact that there are occasions when you have a little bit of down time in between gigs. Earlier this year in June, I had one long, luscious week to catch up on errands and doctor’s appointments and more importantly, to get outside and explore. I chose to spend a few days solo in Vail, Colorado and hike a trail I had never done before. The trail I picked was the Gore Creek Trail (GCT). The GCT is located in the pristine Eagles Nest Wilderness in the Vail Valley area.
Many trail guides I found on the GCT mention an approximate 6.2 mile hike – please keep in mind, this means 1 WAY to Gore Lake. They don’t seem to be consistent with distance measurements. The best trail guide I found on the topic is the ProTrail Review which gives an in depth review of mileage points, and a detailed description of the trail and what to expect when.
The ProTrail review rates this hike strenuous and I have to agree, it is not for the faint of heart or couch potatoes. The trail is steep and rocky in some areas so if it is raining, it can be slick. In summary, it is about a 3,200 foot elevation gain up to the lake. Of course you don’t have to go that far. Even if you hiked a mile or so in, it would still be enjoyable as the trail loosely follows the Gore Creek for about 4 miles and much of that 4 miles takes you through dense forest. If you decide to make it to the lake, I understand the opportunity for trout fishing is outstanding. The challenge I had getting to the lake was there were several fallen trees I had to maneuver around. If you are not careful, you can easily get off trail and lost, so stay aware and alert.
Overall, this is one of my favorite hikes in the Vail area. It is gorgeous, challenging and the chance of seeing wildlife is fairly high. The day I hiked the GCT, I saw a total of 8 people and one bear, a very large cinnamon colored bear. As I was approaching a small ridge, about 15 feet away, I saw the beautiful, fluffy creature scouring the ground for food, smack dab in the middle of the trail. I completely froze in my tracks. I could either jump into the river that was about 20 feet below on my left, turn around and head back in the other direction, or hike up the steep hill on my right. Either way, I was toast if this bear was female with a few cubs in tow. Thankfully, no babies were involved and as soon as the bear saw me, he (assumption on my part) high tailed it out of there. Although I nearly crapped my pants, it was by far one of the BEST days of the summer.
Key Tips: Wear sturdy hiking shoes, bring a lot of water and snacks and carry hiking poles if you have a tendency to lose your footing or need to fend off attacking wild animals.
Last but not least, if you are hiking alone, please make sure you let someone know where you are going. We don’t need any Aron Ralston stories on the GCT.