The trail to Pitkin Lake starts right across the highway from Vail ski resort. The trail follows a high glacial valley. With high glacial valley trails, there is a considerable jump in elevation from the trailhead to the glacial valley very early on in the trail. As such, the most difficult part of the trail is the beginning of the trail.
The trail gradually rises to Pitkin Lake. Once at the lake the clouds race by, so the weather fluctuates between partly cloudy to clear blue skies, changing the texture the lake and the surrounding mountains to very vivid and contrasting colors. For me, I rated this trail as moderate-to-strenuous, mostly due to the quick elevation gain at the beginning of the trail. The gentle sloping valley walls and the lush valley floor make this a great day out on the trail. This hike comes in around 9 miles round-trip.