Vail will close Booth Lake Trailhead parking
Closure will last from June through early August
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday acted to close the parking area at the Booth Lake trailhead in East Vail. The closure will begin June 2.
Council members have for some time worried that the popular trail to Booth Lake is being loved to death. In addition to trail degradation, trash and dog and human waste on the trail, the trailhead is also being used and overused, to the chagrin of residents along Booth Falls Road.
The council listened to a presentation from Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger, who talked about the plan.
The closure will begin June 2, after Vail Mountain School closes for the summer. That parking lot, just down the street from the trailhead, has roughly 50 spaces. Those spaces will be open unless the school is hosting a summer event.
The lot will be open to public use until the school re-opens in early August.
In addition to closing trailhead parking, the area will be closed to shuttle turnaround traffic. Booth Falls Road will also be striped to provide a pedestrian path in both uphill and downhill lanes.
The town will also post trail hosts at the top and bottom of Booth Falls Road on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to help hikers with parking, direct those possible users to the Vail Village parking structure, or direct them to another trail.
Those recommendations aren’t likely to include other trails in East Vail.
Henninger told council members that U.S. Forest Service officials don’t want the town to promote those trails, all of which also lead into wilderness areas.
Council member Kim Langmaid said many visitors who hike into those wilderness trails might be better off using other trails in town.
Wilderness values make those trails different than, say, the North Trail or the trails on Vail Mountain, Langmaid said.
“I’ve seen corporate groups of up to 30 people going up (the Booth Lake Trail),” Langmaid said. “That’s not the appropriate place for that to be happening … the East Vail trails are different. They need to be thought of differently.”
In addition to shutting off parking at the trailhead, Henninger said town officials will also work with the people who manage AllTrails and other apps to “deprioritize” the Booth Lake trail, with the idea that fewer visitors will go.
The plan also includes $25,000 for public outreach and education, and the town will put bicycle racks at the trailhead. The town is also planning to put a permanent restroom at the trailhead.
All this action comes because of the years-long process required to create a reservation program similar to the one at Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon.
Vail Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia told council members that she’s met with Forest Service officials about starting the process that could ultimately lead to user restrictions on the trail.
“They said they’d be willing to work with us,” Bertuglia said.
Mayor Dave Chapin acknowledged that some residents may see the parking area closure as a “radical approach.”
But, he added, the trail traffic on weekends is what’s radical. “The waste, human and pet, is out of control … What we have now is an overuse problem.”
Chapin said the plan represents first steps for more responsible use on the trail, adding “this has become a quality of life issue for people in the neighborhood, and we need to address it.”
Use on the Booth Lake trail increased 40% in 2020 over the previous year.
Users will be able to park at Vail Mountain School for much of the summer.
The closure comes with a $25,000 education campaign.
Signs will be posted on Mann’s Ranch Road prohibiting hiker parking.