Me and Annie at Grouse Lake

Happy Hiking: Grouse Lake Trail

Every time I pass through Minturn and Vail, I tell myself, next fall I will hike there.  Due to previous travel and mistiming my visits, I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the magnificent fall foliage until this past week when I hiked Grouse Lake Trail.

VANgo

Not only did I enjoy amazing fall colors, I took VANgo on her maiden voyage, all be it only as a cargo van for now, not a decked-out camper.  VANgo handled the roads nicely and has some get up and go power.  It will be interesting to see how she operates when she is filled to the brim!  I’m looking forward to the full build which will start in December because camping was a little cold!  But I digress.

Anyway, VANgo with Annie attached to her seatbelt riding shotgun and I got a late start leaving Denver.  That coupled with a delay due to road construction, landed us at the trailhead around noon.  The small dirt parking area, less than a mile from Minturn, had a few spots left on Thursday afternoon when we arrived.

Annie riding shotgun in VANgo
Shotgun!

Hike to Grouse Lake

  • Grouse Lake Trail
  • Distance:  9 miles
  • Type: Hard, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,851 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

I wondered if I had made a mistake hiking nine miles to Grouse Lake in the afternoon given the beginning of the trail offers little shade.  The dirt road gradually climbs through a meadow.  Annie and I immediately met another dog owner who didn’t have the best recall control over her off leash dogs.  This became a consistent theme throughout my two hikes in Minturn, which was the only downfall.

While dogs are certainly allowed off leash in the National Forest, and I support those which are well trained, if they don’t come back when called, then they probably shouldn’t be off leash for many reasons.  It could be dangerous for other dogs, people, and wildlife.  Ok, my PSA is complete.

Regardless, once we passed her, the paths split off into different directions.  They are well signed, and we went straight toward Grouse Lake.  Once out of the meadow, the trail climbs moderately through two miles of golden aspen and fall foliage as it parallels the creek.  The colors were simply breath taking.

Along the way there are a handful of peaceful creek crossings as the trail continues its ascent through a lodgepole pine forest until it reaches Grouse Lake.  The lake is surrounded by marshy edges, so it is best to seek slightly higher ground to enjoy a snack while taking in the view.

grouse lake

7 second video of Grouse Lake

Annie and I had the lake to ourselves as we chilled beneath bluebird skies.  In fact, we only saw one other couple while on our way up.  Upon our return, we crossed paths with just two guys until we reached the end again, where a handful of others were exercising their off-leash dogs.  Consequently, I got the sense, the first few miles of the Grouse Lake Trail is popular among locals for after work outings.

They certainly get to enjoy a hidden gem in the fall.  There was hardly a hiker on Grouse Lake Trail while Booth Lake Trail in Vail is packed with visitors.  I felt lucky to hike through such fabulous fall foliage with just Annie!

Camping Near Minturn

With the trailhead conveniently located next to Minturn, hikers may enjoy the cute town too.  With my late start, however, my goal was to find a campsite before dark as I planned hiking Game Creek Trail the following day.

I knew of two roads with dispersed camping Tigiwon and Homestake.  From my limited visits several years ago, I recalled Homestake Road being wider dirt road and less busy as Tigiwon leads to Mount Holy Cross, a 14er.

While it was further away from Minturn than Tigiwon, I found a nice campsite surrounded by aspen just a few miles in, and it was worth the additional scenic mileage.  What a great fall day!  To be continued…ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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