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Camping: Colorado > White River National Forest > Holy Cross Ranger District

Quick Facts

Eagles Nest Wilderness-Vail side

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Willow Lakes, Eagles Nest Wilderness
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Willow Lakes, Eagles Nest Wilderness


The Eagles Nest Wilderness is located in the Gore Range of north central Colorado, directly north of Vail Pass. The southern boundary of the wilderness is adjacent to the Interstate 70 corridor which connects the towns of Vail, Dillon, and Silverthorne. Designated as wilderness in 1976, Eagles Nest totals 133,496 acres.

Eagles Nest is dominated by the Gore Range, a chain of sharp peaks, rugged escarpments, and narrow mountain valleys, forming a rock backbone of wilderness. Elevations range from 7,850 feet on the Piney River to 13,534 feet at the top of Mount Powell. There are 17 peaks over 13,000 feet and 33 peaks over 12,000 feet. At the lower elevations on the east side and in the Piney River drainage on the west, are open parks, broad valleys, and densely forested slopes. There are many constructed trails available for travel through this rugged terrain, which offers moderate to difficult hikes.


As humans, we must minimize our impacts to help preserve this resource for present and future generations.

GROUP SIZE: Eagles Nest Wilderness use regulations allow no more than 25 people and/or stock.

DOGS: Please remember, dogs must be on a leash at all times! Dogs may harass, stress, injure, or kill wildlife, annoy fellow hikers, and introduce disease. In protecting the natural ecosystem, the USFS enforces the leash regulation.

HUMAN WASTE: Deposit human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp or trails. Pack out toilet paper.

TRAILHEADS: The following trailheads access the wilderness:

Access from I-70 East Vail: I-70 to East Vail Exit 180.

Pitkin Creek: Turn left and pass under I-70. Turn right on the north frontage road and continue to the trailhead on the left.

Booth: Turn left and pass under I-70. Turn left on the north frontage road for 1 mile. Turn right on Booth Creek Rd. Trailhead is at the end of the road. Note: Do not park on the street if the trailhead is full.

Bighorn: Turn right proceed on the south frontage road for 1 mile. Turn left on Columbine Drive. Continue to the end of the pavement.

Gore Creek: Turn right proceed on the south frontage road to the end (2 1/2 miles).

Deluge: Same are Gore Creek.

Access from Red Sandstone Road (FDR 700): I-70 to Vail Exit 176. Travel on the north frontage road and turn right on Red Sandstone Road. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left on gravel FDR 700.

Meadow Creek: Continue for 7 miles to Piney Crossing (only bridge on road). Trailhead is on the right.

Piney River Trail: Travel 9 miles on FDR 700 to Piney Lake. Piney River Ranch is on private property. Overnight hikers should park outside the ranch property. Foot and horse access is on the left (west) side of the fence line.

MAPS: The following maps cover different portions of Eagles Nest Wilderness. They can be purchased at district offices or outdoor recreation shops

National Forest Maps:
White River

USGS Quads (7 1/2 minute series):
Piney Peak, Mt. Powell, Squaw Creek, Willow Lakes, Vail East, Vail West, Red Cliff, Vail Pass, Dillon, and Frisco.

PERMITS: There are no permits required at this time.

FIRES: Are prohibited within 1/4 miles of all lakes. Carry lightweight stoves for cooking.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of like." John Muir

Directions from Vail: The trails on the Holy Cross portion of the wilderness area are accessed from several trailheads toward the east end of Vail, or from Red Sandstone Road, north of Vail.

Directions from Beaver Creek: Follow I-70 east to the east Vail exit (#180). The trails on the Holy Cross portion of the wilderness area are accessed from several trailheads toward the east end of Vail, or from Red Sandstone Road, north of Vail.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Summer through Fall (NOTE: Seasons vary depending on snow depth and weather. Many trails travel through high elevations and are not clear of snow until Mid-Summer. Weather patterns change quickly. Warm sunny days can turn into powerful electrical storms. Be prepared for snow even in August) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Trails clear of snow until 12,500 ft. Updated: 1999-07-19 17:27:00.0

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Kim Fenske (Copper Mountain, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Willow Lakes are a dramatic and beautiful area of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Highly recommended for mid-June wildflower viewing, Willow Lakes can be reached in about 3 hours. View my web-site for more information and photographs of the area: http://www.fenskefoto.com/index.html

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking
ICON Forest Areas Eagles Nest Wilderness-Vail side
ICON Hiking & Walking
ICON Horseback Riding
ICON Mountain Climbing

Related Activities
Gore Creek Campground - This campground sits along Gore Creek, just east of Vail, at an elevation of 8700 feet.

Gore Creek General Forest Area - The Gore Creek General Forest Area includes the entire Gore Creek drainage, which runs from Dowd's Junction to Vail Pass and the Gore Range.

Piney River/Sheephorn Creek General Forest Area - This area includes the Piney River and Sheephorn Creek drainages, north of Vail.

Red Sandstone/Piney River Ranch Road - Red Sandstone Road provides the main access to a large area north of Vail. The road begins in the town of Vail and is passable in two-wheel drive vehicles.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Holy Cross Ranger District, 24747 US HWY 24, P.O. Box 190 , Minturn, CO, 81645, Phone: 970-827-5715, Fax: 970-827-9343


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