How many times have you driven I-70 through Vail in the spring and seen the incredible waterfalls coming off the mountains on the south side of the highway? I decided to go searching for those falls. The first one? East Vail Falls.
In March 2001, the Town of Vail and the Eagle Valley Land Trust bought the 4.8-acre parcel at the base to protect it. However, you can’t park there, you have to park about a quarter-mile away (directions below).
Walk east on Bighorn Road (watch for traffic!) and turn south/right on Bridge Road. Walk across the bridge and turn left/east on Lupine Drive. Walk past a couple of homes to an open lot on the right with a sign that says this is the East Vail Waterfall Conservation Easement. From here you should see the waterfall in the distance.
Find a path to the left of the sign. It goes up the open space parcel, eventually winding through the vegetation. Some areas are a bit overgrown, so long-sleeves and long pants are a good idea.
When I reached the water the first time, the trail turned up, so I continued to climb. A few steps away, and through some more tree branches, the trail CROSSED the stream. Come here in the fall and the walking across the water will be easy. Come here in the spring and the log that crosses the creek will be wet and slick. So slick, in fact, that I couldn’t walk across it. I had to sit on the log and work my way across.
Turn left on the other side of the creek and continue hiking up the hill. A short distance away, the trail crosses the creek again. However, in early-June in a heavy snow year, I couldn’t cross here. The water was flowing over the logs used to cross the creek. Waterfall seeker/writer Marc Conly says the trail continues to climb through the thick vegetation until it actually goes BEHIND the second leap.
When you’re done exploring, return the way you came.
Details: The hike from the parking lot to the second creek crossing is about 0.4 miles each way with 200 feet of elevation gain.
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Directions: From I-70, take exit 180/East Vail and turn south on Bighorn Road. Bighorn Road curves left. Drive a short distance and park in the parking lot on the left, behind the bus stop. If you see Bridge Road, you’ve driven too far.