Of the five trails that begin from near Vail and head generally north into the Gore, four are initially very steep as they climb out of the valley. Only the Gore Creek trail avoids this problem, but there are two trails that take off from this trailhead location and they are now joined at one start at the upper end of the parking lot. A short distance up the trail is a register where you should stop to sign in if overnight permits are required. Head up the Deluge Lake Trail, #2014, for an unrelentingly steep hike.
Turning onto the Deluge Lake trail, you will first find yourself heading west and somewhat downhill for a while before the trail turns abruptly to the ENE and begins the long, gruesome, relentless climb. In two miles, the trail gains about 2,300 feet in elevation! With fully loaded packs, there is no way to make this fun or remotely enjoyable. In addition, the highway noise from I-70 far below, carries up the canyon and proves highly annoying until you finally turn out of the main drainage and head up the Deluge Creek drainage. There are a few switchbacks on the lower end of the trail, and then some others near the higher end, just before it starts to level out some. In between, it is extremely steep and it will be a footing problem on your way back down and out with lots of loose dirt & gravel. Hiking back down, as you encounter day-hikers coming up, you will likely not see too many smiling, cheerful faces. Most will have this look of "Why didn't they tell me this trail was so steep?"
Above the higher switchbacks the trail begins to level out some and takes you across a small creek, through a brief fern forest, across some talus and then on to a nice meadow, still well above the main Deluge Creek. Continue on, passing through more forest and then coming to Deluge Creek, after having crossed a subtle ridge and losing a little elevation. Cross the creek and continued parallel to it, having now broken out into more open meadow. Ahead, you can see the higher bench that harbors Deluge Lake. We had thought we might see a good campsite in this stretch but not seeing one, we found ourselves going all the way to the lake. It took us just over 3 hours with breaks to pack up there. The lake is a beautiful location, half surrounded by Grand Traverse, Mt. Valhalla and Snow Peak, and half by the open tundra of this upper bench. Some nice groups of campanula graced the trail approaching the lake when we packed in in early August. It was blissful solitude there on a weekday.
We spent extra time trying to locate a good campsite, but at the lake, there is no tree cover, so we had to settle for a somewhat exposed site, down south from the lake a bit, and about 100 yards east of an unoccupied cabin. See our approximate coordinates for that site. There were a few very low conifers there.
Deluge Lake Camp
N 39° 39' 14.44", W 106° 13' 34.26"
Elevation 11,750 ft.
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