Booth Lake Trail

Distance10.04 mi
Elevation Gain3077 feet
My Time5 hr 48 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownVail
Food NearbyJoe’s Deli

The Booth Lake Trail is challenging trail that takes you past Booth Falls and ultimately to Booth Lake. It also takes you through Aspen and Pine forest and has a stream.

The Aspen Grove

The start of the hike is pretty tough. The first mile and half will have you gain 1000 feet of elevation and has grades consistently in the high teens to mid twenties. So its relatively steep but the nice part is you will be walking through one of the largest aspen groves that I have been in.

The aspen’s stretch toward the sky for almost an entire mile at this opening stretch. There are also some really cool large rock formations close to the trail to observe in this early section. When I went the leaves had already dropped but I am sure this is a beautiful hike in the early fall.

A mile or so of tall aspen trees make up the first part of the trail.

The Pine Forest

As you continue into the 2nd mile of the hike the aspen grove will transition to more pine trees. This area is really shady and on this November day still had plenty of snow and ice.

You will also come to Booth Falls, although from the trail you don’t really have a great view of the falls. You have a good view of the river that feeds the falls and you can hear the falls but never really get a clean view.

After the falls, the trail leads you close to the stream. I really liked this section of the trail as you are really close to the water as it cuts its way through the forest and valley. There are a couple of spots where you can stop and enjoy the water as it slowly makes it way down hill.

The river is cutting through the forest with snow on its banks and a downed tree lining the sides.

This section is also one of the steepest on the trail. As you start to pull away from the stream to head up the hill you will encounter grades up to the mid 40%. With this area in the shade it is also possible that this steep section is iced over as it was for me. I actually needed to put on some crampons to get up the steepest icy sections.

Overall on this second section you will gain 600 feet of elevation in .8 miles. Towards the top of this section you will reconnect with the stream and when I went it was really beautiful covered in snow.

The High Valley

Once you clear the pine forest the trail will get a little bit easier. Over the next 2 miles you will gain about 1200 feet of elevation and I really enjoyed this section. You will be walking through some open area’s with amazing views all around you.

The trail will have a gradual incline to it but its a great place to catch your breath and prepare for the final push to the lake. You will also reconnect with the stream for part of this section. I stopped and had a snack once I got into the open and took my time. It really is beautiful being surrounded by the mountains and having the open views.

Booth Lake

The last push to Booth lake gets a little steep again with consistent grades in the mid 20% range. The trail gets a little hard to follow on this last push as you will have traverse some rocky terrain but if you keep heading up you should be ok.

I have been to a few alpine lakes but this has to be one of my favorites. The lake is more kidney shaped than a more common oval at the base of a mountain as so many of these high altitude lakes. When I got there in early November it was completely frozen.

The lake also has two small islands in it which is rare for the mountain lakes I have been to so far. The combination of having the lake frozen and the surrounding snow covered mountain and the bright sun made this one of the more serene places I have been so far.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 10.04 miles and had a total elevation gain of over 3,077 feet including undulations. That put the high point at at 11,495 feet. I was also moving for a total of 5 hours and 48 minutes.

Effort

This one was a challenge. The rough footing made for a lot of small choppy steps to stay upright. Plus it was long with a real solid elevation gain. There were also some flatter area’s to catch your breath though. Here is the step count from the hike from my Fitbit.

The step count from today's hike was 31, 630 steps.

Terrain

I did this hike about a week after a snow storm. While most of the snow was gone there was still some snow and ice on the trail. On the way up in the morning most of the ground was frozen and pretty solid but the ice was a challenge. On the way back down the hill, most of the ice had started to melt and the ground turned pretty sloppy and muddy. There was also still ice around in the shade. It was very slippery and I ended up throwing on crampons for part of the hike.

Access

The trail head is located in a neighborhood on Booth Falls Road. There are only a few parking spots, maybe enough for 10 cars, and there are signs that there is a 3 hour limit on one side of the parking area. Not sure if it counts for both sides. There is some overflow parking at the beginning of the neighborhood as well. DO NOT park on the neighborhood streets as you will be ticketed or towed. I have heard that this is also close to one of the Vail bus routes and people take the busses from the villages to get here. There are a couple of port-o-potties at the trailhead.

Wrap up

This hike was challenging but it wasn’t the hardest I have done. A majority of the difficult elevation gain is in the first 2 miles and after that you have a wonderful walk through a high valley with panoramic views that are unchallenged in their beauty.

The lake itself might be my favorite high elevation lake that I have been to. Part of that is I had the lake completely to myself for the 40 minutes or so that I was there. It was very peaceful and calming especially because it was frozen.

Now the bad part was the trail on this November day was full of ice on the way up and the ice melted and made the trail a muddy sloppy mess for the way down. Even that wasn’t enough to sour the hike for me. I would rank this as a top 5 hike so far for me!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes on my interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for a hike or any comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy hiking!

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