A local’s guide to hiking East Vail, Part 1
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 in a two-part series about East Vail hiking trails.
VAIL — While Vail’s surrounding mountains are typically known for being white, the annual greening of the area’s peaks thaws the numerous trails that wind through the Gore Range. In particular, the trails of East Vail present hikers with the unique ability to familiarize themselves with the beauty of the surrounding White River National Forest and Eagle’s Nest Wilderness.
Gore Creek Trail
Gore Creek Trail is a popular East Vail hike that hugs the rumbling banks of Vail’s signature creek. Most of Gore Creek Trail is pretty moderate in terms of climbing, and it offers visitors wildflower viewing, glimpses of Colorado wildlife and gorgeous views of East Vail to the west. The first mile of trail is rocky and steep before modestly climbing alongside Gore Creek. After 4 miles of following the creek through aspen groves, stands of conifers and alpine meadows, the trail splits. The right fork becomes Red Buffalo Pass, which takes hikers over the Gore and into Summit County, while the left fork heads to Gore Lake. Surrounded by striking peaks in the midst of alpine tundra, Gore Lake presents itself 2 miles past the fork. It should be advised that the trail crosses multiple smaller creeks and streams which trickle down into Gore Creek and can make for tricky crossings and/or flooded sections of trail depending on river height.
Trailhead: From exit 180 on Interstate 70, head east on Bighorn Road for 2.5 miles and under the overpass, until the trailhead appears on the left. Once on the trail, hikers soon encounter a marked fork. Head right to Gore Creek Trail.
Length: 6 miles one way to Gore Lake.
Elevation gain: 2,755 feet.
Booth Creek Trail
It’s safe to say that Booth Creek Trail is the most popular of all of the trails in East Vail. The hike offers visitors the opportunity to opt for a shorter trip to Booth Falls or attempt a longer trek to Booth Lake. The waterfall features 60 feet of rushing water and is a common spot for hikers to rest and take pictures. While the waterfall is a popular turnaround spot, for a bit more of an adventure head to Booth Lake at the end of the trail. The trip to the lake is an excellent opportunity for wildflower viewing, as the surrounding conifers and aspens open and the trail rises through rockier meadows. The final ascent to the lake is some of the more demanding climbing found on the trail, but the views of the surrounding Gore Range are worth the sweat.
Trailhead: From exit 180 off of I-70, head west on the North Frontage Road. After the Vail Mountain School, take a right onto Booth Falls Road. The trailhead and associated parking are located at the end of this road.
Length: 4.1 miles to Booth Lake.
Elevation gain: 3,036 feet.
Deluge Creek Trail
On the checklist for an avid and experienced hiker, Deluge Creek Trail is one of the more difficult in East Vail and features strenuous climbing for the first 2.5 miles before mellowing and passing through a high alpine glade to the lake. After climbing steep switchbacks through thick stands of aspen and navigating through several smaller scree fields, the trail turns to coniferous forest. While the trail is steep and strenuous, hikers can enjoy breathtaking panoramas of the Gore Range, Gore Creek and East Vail. Keep in mind that the trail edge features some pretty steep drop offs, and care should be taken if passing other hikers. After hiking for a little over 3 miles, the trail crosses a creek, which may be difficult depending on water height. Continue for another mile to the lake, which sits against a dramatic wall of rock offers views of the Sawatch Range to the southwest.
Trailhead: From exit 180 on I-70, head east on Bighorn Road for 2.5 miles and under the overpass, until the trailhead appears on the left. Once on the trail, hikers soon encounter a marked fork. Head left to Deluge Creek Trail.
Length: 4 miles to Deluge Lake.
Elevation gain: 3,036 feet.
It should be noted that as of mid June, all of these trails still had a significant amount of snow when reaching higher elevations. While it’s possible to reach the lakes, expect to posthole for the last section of trail, which may require a degree of route finding and should only be attempted if familiar with trail location. Similarly, all of these trails take hikers deep into Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, and standard leave-no-trace practices should be followed. For more information about the White River National Forest, Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, and/or trail information, visit the Forest Service’s website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
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