Whitney Lake, Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Whitney Lake - 5.25 miles

Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road

Whitney Lake (10,956') and Whitney Peak (13,271')

Whitney Lake (10,956') and Whitney Peak (13,271')

Round-Trip Length: 5.25 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,110' - 10,956' (10,956' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,846' net elevation gain (+1,895' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Whitney Lake - 5.25 Miles Round-Trip

Whitney Lake is located 2.62 miles from Homestake Road in the Holy Cross Wilderness. It lies at the base of Whitney Peak (13,271') in a thick subalpine forest. The short hike is highlighted by verdant aspen groves, flower-covered slopes and good fishing at the lake. Despite a few steep sections the trail is generally moderate and ideal for families:

Trail Map | Photo Galleries

The trail rises quickly from Homestake Road through the first of three aspen groves. It moderates across the base of an airy slope (.5 miles : 9,510') before turning sharply uphill with views across the Homestake Creek valley.

The trail enters another stretch of aspen and steepens to a second open slope with emerging views of Savage Peak (13,139') and adjacent peaks in the heart of the Sawatch (1.2 miles : 10,050').

Note swaths of skunk cabbage, a member of the lily family with large, lettuce-like leaves. Skunk cabbage is thermogenic, meaning it can produce heat that exceeds ambient temperatures. It's this complex metabolic process that creates the unpleasant smell for which it's named.

The trail reaches a third aspen grove that's abruptly succeeded by mixed conifers leading to a bridge over Whitney Creek (1.65 miles : 10,430'). If damaged, it may simply be easier/safer to get in the water and cross the creek (especially for backpackers).

A short, steep push from the bridge soon levels in a tall spruce-fir forest to Whitney Lake (2.62 miles : 10,956'), which is hemmed against the south flank of the Whitney Peak massif.

The lake is ringed by thick timber, but social trails thread much of the shore with good access for anglers. Note: campsites at the lake may be closed for revegetation. Contact the Holy Cross District for the latest information about camping and fires at Whitney Lake (970.827.5715).

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 25.721 W106 24.665 — 0.0 miles : Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road
  • N39 25.695 W106 25.135 — .5 miles : Level across base of open slope
  • N39 25.755 W106 25.434 — 1.0 miles : Steep climb through aspen grove
  • N39 25.675 W106 26.053 — 1.65 miles : Cross Whitney Creek on bridge
  • N39 25.527 W106 26.331 — 2.0 miles : Steep push into subalpine forest
  • N39 25.547 W106 26.960 — 2.62 miles : Whitney Lake

Worth Noting

  • Relatively moderate grades and clear trail conditions make Whitney Lake an ideal family hike.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Self-registration permits are available at the trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

  • Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District (970.827.5715) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

  • Gold Camp is a developed campground on Homestake Road. There are also many undeveloped campsites along Homestake Road with no fees. These are not marked but the turnoffs for each are fairly clear. Be mindful of adjacent private property.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Whitney Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed or under strict voice control at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Whitney Lake Trailhead is located on Homestake Road, 4.6 miles west of Highway 24.

From I-70, take Exit 171 (just west of West Vail) and follow Highway 24 south 12.4 miles to Homestake Road (right turn). Anticipate this turn, as it comes quickly on a bend in the road.

Take Homestake Road 4.6 miles to a small parking area on the left (south) side of the road. The Whitney Lake Trailhead begins across the road (north side). Note the trailhead sign is fairly hidden and the parking area is unmarked.

Contact Information

Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Trail has some steep sections, but we hiked too early in the year. Waist deep snow approaching the lake, with evidence that a few hardy hikers had made it through. We didn't, as it started to rain, and working the way through the snow was too much. Wait until July this year, and i'm sure it will be great!"
Jim H  -  Colorado Springs, CO  -  Date Posted: June 13, 2016
"Nice place but I would not bring my family or dog here in late summer or throughout the fall really. There were lots of hunters (groups with guides/outfitters) that are on and just off the trail all throughout this area with both rifles and bows. Not to complain as I respect hunters, I would just bring my kids and/or dog elsewhere this time of year."
Patrick  -  CO - Colorado  -  Date Posted: August 3, 2015
"Few people, good trail. The hand rail referenced in the previous comment has been fixed. Once we were at the lake, it began raining and rained on us the entire way down--just a steady gentle rain with a couple loud pops of lightning and thunder. If anyone reading this found some keys on a fob along the way, please report that."
karen  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 20, 2015
"Trail Condition Update: The Whitney Lake Trail is snow-free up to the lake. A hand rail is damaged on the bridge over Whitney Creek, so be careful if the bridge is wet, or if carrying a heavy/imbalanced pack. Beautiful trail with aspen groves and sunny slopes!"
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: July 2, 2014


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