The sights and sounds from Sylvan Lake State Park. (Video by Seth Boster)

Sylvan Lake State Park

If you know Eagle, you know it’s a bedroom community of Vail — 30 miles west of the resort down Interstate 70. And you know it’s an adventure base camp. With mountains in every direction and a culture of health and wellness, it’s no wonder outdoor athletes and brands make Eagle home.

But for the visitor, where to begin? It can be a trickier question for families with little ones.

Consider Sylvan Lake State Park.

Before plugging it into the GPS, be advised: This isn’t like the state-protected reservoirs you’re familiar with on the Front Range, with pavement leading to your parking spot along the shore.

Sylvan’s visitor center is about a 30-minute drive from town — a scenic drive through the no-cell-service countryside. From there, a dirt road riddled with potholes stretches about 5 miles to the lake. Passenger cars are fine, but hopefully the tires are in good shape, and hopefully the road is dry.

The scenery keeps getting better the farther you travel. And the remoteness means far fewer people than you’d find at Colorado’s other water getaways.

With colors splashed across the slopes of White River National Forest, fall is a good time to go. You can’t go wrong in the summer, as standup paddle boarders and non-motor boaters know here.

A trail loops around the 42-acre lake, meandering around tall trees, which clear for unobstructed views of snow-capped peaks. Anglers roam this path, staking out a spot for colorful trout. Short on time — as we were at last visit — this is a great way to see the park and stop for a picnic.

A longer option is the 6-mile West Brush Creek Trail, linking the visitor center to the lake. Cabins and tent sites are available upon reservation. Call 1-800-244-5613 or visit

Trip log: 1.4 miles round trip (loop)

Difficulty: Easy

Getting there: Going west on I-70, take exit 147 for Eagle. Follow signs to Sylvan Lake State Park. Visitor center at 10200 Brush Creek Road, Eagle, 81631.

FYI: $9 entrance fee per vehicle; stop for pass at visitor center. Park open 24/7. Hiking and biking on lake trail. Dogs on leash.


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