See a Side of Vail in the Summer you’ve Never Seen Before

I opened up the little cabin door and took a deep breath of chilly mountain air. Inhale. Exhale. It was 6AM and the solar was developing from behind the Gore Vary. I regarded out on the calm, pristine Piney Lake and my eyes locked in on the small birds flitting round dipping their beaks into the water for a morning drink. I used to be utterly alone within the backcountry panorama. It was arduous to imagine I used to be technically in Vail – a city recognized for its luxurious and tourism.

This is part of Vail I by no means knew existed!

Historical past of Vail City

I’ve typically puzzled how Vail got here to be such an upscale mountain city – so completely different from many different mountain cities in Colorado. And the very first thing I realized is that Vail doesn’t come from a western mountain city background like many of the ski cities round Colorado; it was a purpose-built ski city! It was created to have all the pieces at your disposal as a pedestrian pleasant ski village.

Its development started in spring 1962, and by fall 1966, the City of Vail was integrated. Since then it has continued to develop and have numerous facelifts. It’s now house to not solely unbelievable snowboarding, however world class eating places, lodges, condos, and spas. If I had been to match it to highschool occasions – Vail is the favored child with all the fitting stuff.

Nevertheless, one factor Vail isn’t is rustic and backwoods-ish…that’s till I discovered this little gem the place I awakened solely 11 miles exterior of Vail!

Piney Lake – a Hidden Secret in Vail

On the finish of the street, you’ll discover Piney Lake, one of many prettiest views in Vail…and Colorado. Discovered at 9,350 toes, Piney lake frames the majestic Gore vary within the distance. Right here, there aren’t any fancy resorts or eating places; in reality, there’s barely even energy due to a generator. You’ll solely discover 6 little cabins by the lake, and possibly a moose in case you are fortunate.

In actuality, Piney Lake isn’t an excessive amount of of a secret, as through the day it’s full of holiday makers canoeing, mountain climbing, biking, horseback using, fishing, and SUPping. However the secret is…ssshhhh… in the event you keep in a single day at Piney Lake, you’ll have this backcountry wilderness and unbelievable views all to your self from 5PM to 10AM.

“You need to keep to get the actual fantastic thing about the place – it’s a completely completely different really feel – everybody leaves and it’s yours to get pleasure from in peace and quiet.”

Piney River Ranch

Piney Lake is owned by the Denver Water Board, who purchased it within the late 80’s through the water scarcity in Denver with the intention to fill a reservoir. However fortunately, they by no means had to try this! Piney River Ranch leases the land from the Water Board on a long-term lease and has continued so as to add facilities to the world by the lake for in a single day stays and day guests.

What Services are at Piney Lake?

Piney River Ranch has developed the world for day guests and some in a single day company. Positioned within the Vail backcountry, they one way or the other have managed to supply just a few nice amenities on this distant vacation spot.

You’ll discover a easy restaurant serving foods and drinks from 11 am to six pm together with a small reward store. There may be additionally a small boat home that rents SUPs, canoes, and kayaks by the hour. For in a single day company the Ranch has 6 lakeside cabins and three glamping tents. All of their energy on the Ranch is run by generator.

And if you wish to go extra rustic, there are dispersed tenting areas alongside the street close to the Ranch. Be aware – For info on tenting, you’re suggested to name the Minturn Ranger’s station at 970-827-5715.

One factor there isn’t…any connectivity…not even cell connectivity. I believe the final word strategy to actually benefit from the open air is by doing it offline. It’s simply one more reason why I like Piney Lake!

Piney River Ranch Cabins and Glamping

We arrived on the Ranch and I noticed the Adirondack chairs in entrance of our ‘Moose Cabin’ stating in the direction of the lake, and I knew this was simply what I used to be on the lookout for. Every cabin has a propane grill, a fireplace pit (wooden is on the market), porch, picnic desk and Adirondack chairs to maximise your outside area. In any case – you need to spend as a lot time as you’ll be able to absorbing this view.

piney lake cabin view

The cabin was pretty inside with a queen mattress, a bunk mattress, sofa, and slightly bar space for espresso. It was easy and cozy. The cabins don’t have any plumbing however a there have been a number of restroom decisions. You could possibly use easy pit bathrooms, or go a tiny bit additional to the restroom with a a number of bathroom stalls and sinks. There aren’t any showers although.

I cracked open my beer, put my toes up and took within the view. We introduced meals from house to grill out that night time by the lake. Christopher cooked up a feast of grilled goodness reminding me that that is what summer time is about; time exterior with good meals and associates.

After grilling out I began up the pit hearth and loved the flames dance within the chilly air whereas watching the celebrities come out, whereas I concurrently cursed myself for not bringing the makings for S’mores! Doh!

There are additionally three glamping tents that sleep four folks, nonetheless they don’t have a direct lake view. Every has a wooden range within the glamping tent for the chilly nights. There was a gaggle of enjoyable ladies renting the tent behind our cabin and so they graciously let me in for a glance…and even provided me a beer!

If you wish to get a whole view at Piney Lake Ranch, take a look at this video of the property (word – they’ve changed the yurt with extra cabins and changed the teepees with three glamping tents)

Examine availability at Piney River Ranch

Issues to do at Piney Lake

Regardless that I might’ve sat and loved the views all day, I used to be able to get out into that Vail backcountry!

Mountaineering the Higher Piney River Falls Path

The primary path is the Higher Piney Lake Path that begins proper the place the street ends, follows alongside the lake after which disappears into the valley within the distance. This can be a fashionable path, and fairly actually, I don’t suppose I might’ve favored it as a lot as I did if it weren’t for staying on the Ranch in a single day, enabling us to get on the path early!

We began out round 8AM and nobody was round. The place the lake ended the river started and we adopted above it for some time winding into the plush inexperienced valley. The path then turned up and began just a few switchbacks taking us by means of aspen groves. Wildflowers lined the path and it was a fairly light rolling path as much as the falls.

We stayed and loved the falls whereas absorbing the solar on the massive rocks. On the way in which again down, we wore our masks anticipating extra site visitors on the path. We had been proper, we handed huge household teams and many day guests. It made me all that extra grateful that we went up early.

It was a 6 mile spherical journey – simply excellent for working up an urge for food for lunch again on the ranch!

Get extra information on the hike at All Trails. There may be additionally an extended extra advance path that goes past the falls and as much as a lot larger however the path shouldn’t be as nicely marked.

Get Out on the Lake

It’s not sufficient to easily take a look at the lake, get on the market and revel in it’s crystal clear waters. You may hire a canoe, kayak, or SUP by the hour from the boathouse.

piney lake vail canoe rental

We took a canoe out within the early night and paddled across the small lake. It was a good way to wind down and revel in a unique perspective. Hold your eyes peeled for moose alongside the banks! It’s additionally an incredible place to take a picnic lunch with you out on the canoe if you wish to get away from the day guests on the restaurant. Or take a guide and take a floating studying break!

Final canoe/kayak/SUP is rented at 5 and may keep out till 6PM. Or – be at liberty to convey your individual and keep out so long as you’d like! Lifejackets are offered.

Horseback Using on Aspen Stuffed Trails

I hadn’t deliberate on going horseback using, however one other visitor I met by the boat dock couldn’t cease raving about their horseback trip, so we determined to test it out. It’s price it to easily meet the wonderful Newnew – the horse wrangler with a petite construct however a robust character. We walked to the stables and Newnew got here up and launched herself. She had on dusty denims, a cowboy hat, and you might inform she was smiling behind her masks as her eyes lit up and her smile strains appeared. I knew we had been in good arms.

vail horseriding piney lake

Newnew takes matching a horse to a visitor extraordinarily severely. She is aware of these horses extremely nicely – like her personal children. As we lined up behind the fence, she gave us a rundown of what to anticipate and took our ‘temperature’ on how we had been feeling in regards to the upcoming 2-hour trip.

“They (the horses) acquired your again – however extra importantly they’ve their very own again – they don’t need to fall, and so they received’t fall,” she calmed any newbie fears anybody had. She went on to say, “They really feel your vitality.”

Regardless that I’m not a horse knowledgeable, I’ve at all times felt that approach about horses, they’re unbelievable animals; delicate, clever, and perceptive.

And fairly frankly, very similar to the horses, Newnew can even really feel your vitality. That’s how she matches horses and company. She is aware of the character of her horses, the place they wish to be within the line, how briskly they need to go, and the way they like their reins. She observes folks as they arrive, how they work together with one another, and talks to them about their experiences and the way they’re feeling about using. Then she does the matchmaking; making an ideal horse/rider expertise.

It was clear to me that she cared as a lot in regards to the horse as she did the visitor. And that’s what made this horse-riding expertise so fantastic.

I used to be matched with Bud, a delicate large that regarded like butterscotch and smelled of hay and leather-based. As I regarded into Bud’s eyes and pet his nostril, I used to be conscious of my vitality. I really feel like we acquired off to an incredible begin. As we clomped alongside by means of the aspen groves all I might take into consideration what how this felt good for my soul. I cherished the rhythm, the odor, and sound of the leather-based saddle creaking forwards and backwards. On high of Bud, I had a complete new vantage level of the forest and the wildflowers.

The 2 hour trip even included slightly galloping! The horseback trip with Bud and Newnew was a spotlight of my time on the Ranch.


I didn’t have time to attempt my hand at fishing on the lake, however I noticed loads of fishermen and girls throwing out a line. The lake and river are house to many sorts of trout together with brookies, browns, cutthroat, and rainbow trout. I used to be informed that these species stay in such abundance, that you just’re nearly assured to make a catch!

A fishing license is required to fish on this non-public lake and will be acquired at Walmart, Metropolis Market, and Safeway. You may also hire an actual for $20 from Piney River Ranch.

piney lake fishing


I introduced my tripod alongside to do some night time pictures, nonetheless mom nature didn’t fairly cooperate with me and gave us cloudy skies. Nevertheless, whenever you do have a transparent night time at piney lake – it’s beautiful!

A Smoking Restaurant

Regardless that we cooked out at our cabin, we additionally made positive to eat on the restaurant for lunch. I couldn’t depart there with out making an attempt a few of the meat from the smoker they’ve out again! We loved the smoked pulled port and smoked wings – the proper deal with for after our hike!

Piney river ranch restaurant

What to Deliver to Piney River Ranch

On any given day it’s possible you’ll expertise quite a lot of climate at Piney Lake; solar, rain, hail, snow, wind. Due to that you just’ll need to be ready to get pleasure from your time there. And if it does rain, hail, or snow simply wait it out for a bit and also you’ll possible have sunshine the subsequent hour.

  • Clothes for cold nights and mornings
  • Sunscreen and a great Wallaroo SPF solar hat– you’re at 9300 toes!
  • Mountaineering gear (see all of my important mountain climbing gear right here)
  • Lengthy pants and shut toed footwear for horse using
  • Water footwear for being out on the lake
  • Digicam and don’t overlook a tripod for night time pictures.
  • Thermal mug for and having your morning espresso or tea exterior with a view
  • Don’t overlook your masks! Masks are required to enter the lodge. I additionally suggest them on the path to the waterfall as it’s an out-and-back slender path with plenty of site visitors. These are my favourite from Turtle Fur.
  • Meals for grilling
  • S’mores equipment (sure, there’s such a factor!!)
  • Video games
  • If you wish to watch films – you need to obtain them to your system earlier than you arrive since there is no such thing as a connectivity.

The way to Get to Piney Lake in Vail

Vail’s Piney Lake is among the highest lakes in Colorado you’ll be able to drive to!

Take I-70 West in the direction of Vail get off at exit 176. Take the North Frontage Street west to Purple Sandstone Drive flip north and observe 0.7 miles to the fork. From right here observe the dust street to the left and proceed about 2.7 miles, right here you’ll hit a break up, observe indicators to Piney Lake persevering with left. Keep the course down the dust street for about 9 miles.

Road to Piney Lake in Vail

The one difficult a part of this complete journey is the final 12 miles. The dust street is tough. It’s maintained by the forest service although, so it’s attainable to do in a passenger automobile in the event you go sluggish. How sluggish? Nicely, the specialists at Piney River Ranch mentioned that in a low clearance common sedan, it ought to take 45 minutes if no more to get there in case you are going sluggish sufficient! An SUV could be a bit quicker – but it surely’s nonetheless suggested to go sluggish, there are a selection of hairpin turns and wildlife to observe for too.

Nevertheless, let me stress – Each sort of automobile does make it on the market on the tough street, you simply should be affected person. We drove a Jetta.

The street is maintained so long as the Ranch is open – from June 23rd to September 30th. Earlier than or after that, ensure you name the USFS on (970) 827 5715 for updates
on the street and its situation.

COVID 19 Adjustments for 2020

The Ranch did a great job of using their outside area and inspiring social distancing. They aren’t doing any desk service, however they’re providing counter service as an alternative. They’ve closed their indoor dinging and have unfold out picnic tables in entrance of the lake with 6 ft of distance. It’s a stunning view and I’d slightly be exterior anyway!

Additionally they don’t permit folks into the lodge constructing with out a masks.

See a Totally different Facet of Vail This Summer time

piney lake vail secret

As I talked to one of many managers on the ranch, she mentioned they nonetheless had availability for in a single day stays in August and September. Be sure to guide nicely upfront! I personally suppose September could be the most effective time to be there to benefit from the fall colours and golden Aspens across the lake.

For my part, you need to keep to get the actual fantastic thing about the place – it’s a completely completely different really feel when everybody leaves and it’s yours to get pleasure from in peace and quiet. From 5PM to 10AM the subsequent day all that Piney Lake Vail backcountry magnificence is yours!

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