Katie Botwin | Gore Lake
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Gore Lake

I WANTED to backpack somewhere unreachable by car, to hike an unknown trail — and not have to drive too far from Denver. The Gore Lake Trail near Vail, Colorado, looked like the perfect option.

With cars on the highway still in sight, my hiking partner Tyler and I pull into a small parking, lace up dirt-caked boots, lift packs onto our backs, and make our way towards the trailhead. The Gore Lake Trail is a 12-mile round-trip route in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, which leads through rolling meadows, aspen groves, dense pine forests, fields of alpine wildflowers, up to a sparkling alpine lake.