The small parking area for the Pitkin Lake Trail has a sign warning about a 2-day parking limit. If planning on being there longer, call the Vail Police Department - Enforcement Division and ask for permission to park there longer. Be prepared to provide license plate and vehicle description.
The trail begins by ascending gently along the east side of the stream, then crossing on a sturdy bridge. A short distance farther on, it abruptly begins an incredibly steep ascent with well-positioned logs to reduce runoff and provide steps for the arduous climb with full packs. For the next half mile, you might as well be climbing a mountain, but after that, the trail begins to level off, still maintaining some distance from and above the creek. Overall, this trail is in fairly good condition and after the initial section was not too arduous.
After about two miles up the trail comes right beside the creek. After the section near the creek, the trail remains very moderate until it crosses an open meadow and then begins climbing up to another bench level. At about 3.25 miles in the trail crosses the west fork of Pitkin Creek and there is a large campsite past that crossing. In 2010, the campsite was not well-used. It's a short distance before the trail makes a left turn to begin a steep ascent out of the valley to Pitkin Lake. We are calling this the "lower campsite." It can be used as a base camp for Mt. Solitude, Peaks X and Z. The waterfall shown on the map is somewhat obscured from here.
After passing the campsite, the trail begins climbing steeply for about 1/3 mile before leveling off in the upper valley that leads to Pitkin Lake. We arrived in the vicinity of the lake in about three hours from the trailhead. We found a very nice site 100 yards east of the trail and down from the lake by about 150 - 200 yards. It had some nice trees for some shelter, a fire ring and several level spots for tents and was located right at the foot of the prominent south ridge of East Partner. Close by and down a little from the campsite are some scenic ponds with a view down the valley. This is the "upper campsite" and can be used as a base camp for both Partner summits and Peak Q.
Other campsites can be found in the vicinity of Pitkin Lake that are mostly below the lake in some of the last trees. We also noted some campsites near the lake, but please respect National Forest rules regarding how close you can camp to the lake. As noted above, we have suggested two possible campsites depending on which peaks you want to ascend, an upper and a lower one. See coordinates below. These are only approximate at best and were not field verified.
Lower Pitkin Ck Camp
N 39° 40' 48.50", W 106° 16' 40.96"
Elevation 10,420 Ft.
Upper Pitkin Lake Campsite
N 39° 41' 34.19", W 106° 17' 10.03"
Elevation 11,400 ft.
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