A morning walk to Booth Falls | VailDaily.com

A morning walk to Booth Falls

Ryan Slabaugh

Old romantic William Wordsworth wrote, “the sounding cataract/haunted me like a passion.” It’s understandable. Thursday morning, I awoke to a carpet crew installing a new rug in my condo and the hammering and nailing sent me out the door with hiking shoes and a backpack of water.

I parked at the Booth Creek trailhead in East Vail a little bit after 8 a.m., anxious to see the level of water at Booth Falls, located about two miles up the trail. The water feeds from Booth Lake, about six miles after the trailhead, and down the 60-foot cascade and back into Vail.

But with the drought, would there be a waterfall, or a trickle of water wishing for the strength of a drinking fountain?

The trail was empty. I heard Booth Creek just west of the path, rumbling under the thick brush and heavy grasses. The trail is steep to start, and had many hikers questioning me on my way out. One man, poking at an insect with his bamboo walking stick, asked me how far until the falls.

I told him about two miles, and his reply was, “Two miles? Two miles. Man.” And he walked onward, wondering the same thing I had a few hours earlier, I suppose. Would their be any water?

Support Local Journalism

I continued. The trail climbs through a grove of pine trees and into a more open, flat stretch, where columbine, paintbrush and larkspur wildflowers provided an aromatic guide. It was early, so the flies were still dormant.

After another mile, I caught the tail end of a snake sliding past the trail and back into the tall aspen trees after a morning basking session. After thinking about new carpet for an instance, I rounded a tight turn through a fluttering creek and saw the bluffs I’d been waiting for. I was too far away to notice if, indeed, there was water at the end of the trail.


Poet Octavio Paz wrote, “Only the water is human/in the precipitous solitudes,” but I felt human as well. The sound of Booth Creek still followed, but was little consolation for the cold morning air on my lungs. The first two miles climbs a thousand feet above its starting point at 8,400 feet, and I was feeling it. But with my goal in sight, I continued.

After another open, winding stretch, the flies began to wake. I could hear them swarming in the tops of trees and along my ankles. They stayed put, mostly, and allowed me to continue with very little swatting.

Finally, after the final climb around to the top of the waterfall, which was as I expected, I stopped to take pictures. I climbed around the rocks, some loose, but without much trouble found the pool at the bottom. The water was 4 feet deep, with a plastic bottle floating like a battleship.

I bagged it, tested the water (cold, cold, cold) and relaxed. Later, I would finally find words that summed up an easy morning’s work, a climb to a waterfall, and a simple walk down where I, like Booth Creek, allowed gravity to make my trip home a little easier.

Cornelius Eady, a poet, wrote in her Nature Poem, “I can’t tell you/why certain things/make me hold my tongue.”

When I got home, the carpet was in and the pounding was gone. Somewhere, a man stopped poking insects with sticks and instead, saw what thousands of people have seen before him. A waterfall, not grandiose, but still worth the trip.

Booth Falls Info

One of the most popular local trails, the Booth Creek trailhead is located at the end of Booth Falls Drive, about 0.2 miles after turning from the frontage road in East Vail. The waterfall is two miles along the trail, with Booth Lake four miles after the waterfall. The terrain is rock, dirt and gets moderately steep in parts, which gives it its difficult rating. But with a little time and effort, it’s doable and worth it.

Support Local Journalism