On the Trail: East Vail Waterfall
Difficulty: Expert hikers only
Total Climb: 400 feet
Total distance: .2 miles
Location: Lupine Drive in East Vail
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VAIL — The East Vail Waterfall is a welcome landmark as you descend Vail Pass and head into town, but did you know it’s also a popular hiking area?
The waterfall itself is surrounded by a roughly 5 acre parcel of land owned by the town of Vail and is permanently protected by a conservation easement retained by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. On that parcel are user-made trails which are enjoyed by many adventerous hikers during the summer months in Vail.
The East Vail waterfall is easily visible from I-70; to get to it take exit 180 and head south to Bighorn Road. Turn onto Bridge Street, cross Gore Creek (into which the East Vail waterfall will flow), and turn left on to Lupine Drive.
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A very visible sign describing the East Vail waterfall open space parcel greets visitors, from there you’ll begin a steep climb onto the open space where you’ll eventually find a user-made trail. At this point you may feel like you’re near the same altitude as Vail Village, but you’re actually about 300 feet higher at the very start of the East Vail Waterfall trail, which begins at an elevation of 8,450. The ensuing climb is short, but steep, and if you stick to it you’ll gain a grueling 400 feet in elevation in less than a quarter mile as you quickly approach 9,000 feet.
Getting to the waterfall requires a bit of determination. Streams, slippery log crossings and light bushwhacking are all part of the experience.
Look for raspberry bushes along the side of the trail, and keep an eye out for wildlife, as well. “The site provides habitat for migratory and resident birds and serves as occasional summer range for mule deer, fox, great horned owl, porcupine and black bear,” writes the Eagle Valley Land Trust on their website, evlt.org.
While the area is beautiful be careful on the steep, slippery and all-around dangerous terrain if you venture there, and remember while it’s a glorious celebration of conservation and open space, there’s a reason the land was never developed in the first place. According to evlt.org: “In the early 1960′s, this 4.8 acres were zoned for residential development. Over the years however, the feasibility of construction was questioned, due to the potential of avalanche and rock fall.”
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