Vail’s Booth Creek trail may see reservation system, but no sooner than 2020 |

Vail’s Booth Creek trail may see reservation system, but no sooner than 2020

Town, forest service launching planning effort that may lead to use limits

The Booth Creek trail is among the most popular in Vail. That popularity could lead to future limits on access.
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

Count the money

Here’s what Vail will spend money on regarding Booth Creek and other trails:

  • $30,000: Funding a planning effort with the U.S. Forest Service.
  • $16,000: Development of a “trail host” volunteer program.
  • $2,000: For a “Clean up after your K-9” media campaign.
  • Pending: $10,000 for portable toilets at East Vail trailheads.

VAIL — The day is probably coming when you’ll need a reservation to hike the Booth Creek trail. But that day won’t come this year.

Facing ever-increasing use on the popular trail in East Vail, town of Vail and U.S. Forest Service officials are working on ways to ease the impacts of growing trail use, for both the neighborhood and the trail itself.

While use is growing at all the trailheads leading into the backcountry adjacent to Vail, the Booth Creek trail is perhaps the most popular. That’s thanks to high marks for the trail posted on social media, and the growth of trail use in general.

Reacting to growing parking problems and other complaints from neighbors, town officials in 2018 started in earnest to try to work on those problems.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Vail Town Council, Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger and U.S. Forest Service Holy Cross and Eagle District Ranger Aaron Mayville provided an update on those efforts.

Money for management

Among those efforts was a request for $48,000 for items including a $30,000 planning effort with the Forest Service.

While there are still steps to go, it’s looking more like Booth Creek may be the next popular trail to allow use only by reservation.

A similar system was begun this year for the Hanging Lake Trail in Glenwood Canyon — which is also in Mayville’s district. That reservation system requires taking transit to the trailhead. As of this week, more than 11,000 reservations have been made for the summer season.

Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet said the town should implement a reservation program immediately. Henninger replied that while reservations come, he’d prefer to have the planning effort complete before taking that action.

“We’d rather do it right than (quickly),” Henninger said.

More immediate measures include providing portable toilets at all the trailheads in Vail. At Booth Creek, town officials have an arrangement with Vail Mountain School to use the parking lot there.

Henninger said there was thought given to a “bark and ride” system to allow dogs on town buses. That plan was put off for the moment because the estimated use wouldn’t come close to justify the expense.

But there will be volunteer help at trailheads this summer. The town last year also agreed to fund a “trail ranger” program that would put seasonal Forest Service employees on the trail systems around town.

The town will also create an education program for the town’s welcome centers and work with hotel concierge staffs to provide alternatives to the Booth Creek trail, especially during busy times.

Time to act

East Vail resident Penny Wilson lives in a neighborhood near the Booth Creek trailhead. Wilson watched a live stream of Tuesday’s meeting on High Five Access Media. In a Wednesday telephone interview, Wilson said she hopes this year’s efforts can have an effect on traffic, litter and other problems.

Wilson said her neighborhood has been hit hard by the increasing use of the trail. Parking has been a particular problem.

“With people parking on the frontage road, it gets dangerous, with people parking, and not paying attention to cars,” Wilson said.

Wilson noted that last year’s efforts to control traffic on the frontage road did cut traffic. But, she added, people headed to the trailhead often park at nearby Booth Creek Park, blocking many in the neighborhood from using that facility.

After watching Tuesday’s meeting, Wilson said, “I do think we’re getting there,” regarding controlling access. And, she added, she’d favor having a permit system in place for the summer of 2020.

“I’m just excited they’re starting to look at all this,” Wilson said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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