Backpack to Bubble Lake

Vail, Colorado

based on 2 reviews



13 miles

Elevation Gain

3600 ft

Route Type



Added by Matt Huber

Put your navigation skills to the test and backpack into the extremely remote wilderness of the Gore Range.

The Gore's are a rough and remote section of the Eagle's Nest Wilderness.  What this trip may lack in overall miles, it more than makes up for in elevation gain, scrambling, boulder hopping, and overall hard miles on the trail.  Every trip I have had the pleasure of taking into the Gore Range has left me sore, battered and bruised.  They also leave me with some of the best and most rewarding views.

Most of the fun that comes with backpacking into this area is experiencing the remoteness firsthand and using your own map to find where to go.  I'll give you enough of an outline on how to get there but leave enough out so you can earn the end views.

Starting at Piney River Ranch, take the easy, flat and often overcrowded trail along the river for about 2.8 miles.  For more details on this section check out this Outbound adventure.  

Once you back towards the waterfalls, there will be a fork in the trail marked by a large cairn that can EASILY be missed.  This is where the fun begins.  Get ready for about +1600 feet of gain over the next mile.  Once you come to the plateau, there is an awesome camp spot with a little creek running though it.  Stay here.  Unless you're some kind of super human, stay here.  It's a nice spot, if you try to make it to Bubble Lake in one day with a full pack you might cry.  Don't let your friends see you cry.

On day 2, wake up and scramble up and over the pass (+1100 feet of scree).  Up and over this pass gives you options to summit Mt. Powell which will be the mountain directly north of you.  For Bubble Lake, continue down the valley for about a mile.  Depending on how late in the summer you go, there will still be a decent amount of snow.  The boulder hopping with full packs is slow and you run the risk of leg injuries if you aren't paying attention.  After a mile down the valley, you'll come to a point where the south side (your right) opens up with a grassy slope.  Stay high, scramble up the chute.  Up and over this and you'll see the Bubble Lake. 

Stay at the lake for as many days as you like, the return hike can be done in one day.  Retrace the same route back to the car. 

This will be a 3+ day trip for most people.  

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Backpack to Bubble Lake Reviews

I thought this was a cool lake for sure. But I wouldn't go back to it. I'm down for tough hikes but I thought the big pass on this hike was actually pretty dangerous, and I have a family so it's just not worth the risk. Also I know this makes me sound like a coward, but the black bears in this area were actually quite aggressive. I've never seen bears like that anywhere in my life. I've spent 6 months in Alaska and I've encountered grizzly bears in Denali. None of those interactions were more scary than my interactions at Bubble Lake with the black bears. Those bears seem to be very fierce about keeping this lake for themselves and to be honest, as lame as it sounds, I am more than willing to let them have it.

My friend, who is a very fit backpacker and climber, got HORRIBLE altitude sickness going over the pass. I had to carry his pack for him the rest of the way and he needed two full days to recover. Unless you can run a marathon, this is probably not the lake for you. There are a lot of other great lakes in the Gore range that are a lot more reasonable objective to tick off of your list. I can say that because I have been to about 75% of all of the major lakes in this wilderness area.

Leave No Trace

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