Get Outside! Hiking Booth Falls

A Dramatic Waterfall Caps This Hike Through The Eagles Nest Wilderness

Basics: Distance: 4 miles RT Elevation: Various by source, 1,000 – 1,500 feet. Location: Vail Valley (directions below) Trailhead: 18 parking spaces, map, trash can, trail register Dogs: Allowed on leash. Sign at trailhead warns of a $100 fine for going off-leash

I typically prefer to do waterfall hikes in June and July when the falls are gushing from snowmelt, but with all the mountain snow this year, I thought I would give Booth Falls a chance in August. It was a good choice.

The Booth Falls trailhead is just one mile off I-70 at the East Vail exit. The trailhead parking lot is small, just 18 spaces. When I arrived at 8:40 a.m. on a Saturday there were only 2 spaces left. I took one, grabbed my gear and headed for the trail.

The only problem? Where is the trail? Standing in the parking lot I saw a social trail and a road. It turns out, if you hike up the road just a few steps past the gate, you’ll see the trailhead sign and trail register.

From here, get ready to climb. The trail begins with several switchbacks between the parking lot and the wilderness entrance sign 0.25 up the trail. The traffic noise from the interstate competes with the sound of Booth Creek for about a half mile. Then the sounds become a medley of the creek, the wind in the trees, the birds flying by and your hiking boots on the trail.

I’ve seen pretty wildflowers on plenty of hikes, but this trail was amazing. I saw more than a dozen different kinds of flowers in a variety of colors. I don’t take many wildflower photos anymore; you need a good macro lens and no wind. But today I found myself taking several wildflower pictures. I was just so impressed with the number of flowers and the number of different flowers. That may be why there were flowers painted on the trailhead sign.

This trail was also very lush. I’m glad I wore pants, because the trail was almost overgrown in some areas.

As you hike along, you’ll see several social trails leading to Booth Creek. I was quite surprised to find the trail didn’t follow the creek very closely. Typically trails by creeks are actually by the creek. In this case, hikers occasionally hear the creek, but rarely walk near it. The valley view as you hike toward Booth Falls and Booth Lake

The social trails tend to appear in areas where you can hear the running water. I did a few of the social trails, but didn’t find much.

About a mile up the trail there’s a good view of a cascade on the other side of the creek. You don’t have to hike a social trail to see this, just watch for it to appear. I took about 3 steps off the trail to get a good picture.

I turned around to look back at the trail and spotted something I didn’t expect; ski runs. You can see some of the runs at Vail ski resort. After a photo, it was time to continue on.

A lot of people assume this is an easy hike, I saw a lot of families with kids under 10. But note the elevation gain, about 1,200 feet in 2 miles. I stopped and talked to several families within a quarter mile of the falls and many of the kids were ready to turn around. They agreed to keep going when I told them how close they were. In all fairness, I also talked to two groups of adults who looked ready to quit. This is a short hike, but it is not an easy hike. When descriptions say moderate to describe this hike, they mean it. Some of the many wildflowers along the trail

Also make sure your group has good shoes, there are a couple stream crossings and at one point, the trail actually goes up a stream of sorts.

About 2 miles up the trail, you’ll hear a really loud cascade. Take a social trail and look. I actually missed the lower view of the falls. I didn’t know I had missed it until I suddenly found myself at the top of the falls. There are no signs for the falls and the trail doesn’t end at the falls, it continues on to Booth Lake, 4 miles away.

While there are glimpses of other cascades along the way, you’ll know you’re at Booth Falls when you see a large 80 foot waterfall dropping in a crevice of sorts. This is not a wide waterfall, but it is very pretty and quite high. Maneuver your way around the rocks to get a good picture. Be careful with small children, there are a lot of steep drop-off’s. Beware of social trails. I climbed down for a good picture of the falls, and then decided to take a social trail back down along the creek. Big mistake. I ended up stuck in a very steep section. I had to turn around and climb 150 feet back up to return to the main trail.

If you have the energy, it’s definitely worth your time to continue on the main trail to the top of the falls. There are also some very pretty cascades above Booth Falls that are picture worthy. You’ll know you’ve seen most of the cascades when the creek flattens out. I’m learning that it’s typically worth your time to climb above a waterfall and see the cascades that feed it. Side view of Booth Falls

This is a nice hike in a wilderness area. I kept thinking I really should have come in the fall, there are just so many aspen trees here, this trail must be beautiful when the leaves are turning. But it was also a good hike in mid-summer for the amazing array of wildflowers and I’m sure Booth Falls is even better in early summer when there is more snowmelt.

I welcome your comments, questions and hiking trail suggestions, just email me at

Directions: From I-70, take exit 180 (East Vail). At the stop sign, make a right, then a quick left onto the frontage road. Watch your speed; I spotted the 25 mph speed limit sign as a state trooper went by. Take the frontage road about .8 of a mile to Booth Falls Road, turn right. From here it’s about a quarter mile to the trailhead parking lot.

Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star) Boulder: Caribou Ranch*, Mallory Cave*, Marshall Mesa,Heil Valley Ranch* Forsythe Canyon*, South Boulder Peak*, The Boulder Flatirons*, Walker Ranch*, Bear Peak*, Rabbit Mountain*, Bald Mountain*, Betasso Preserve*, Wonderland Lake* Golden area: Forgotten Valley, Chimney Gulch*, Apex Park* Jefferson County: Mt. Falcon*, Elk Meadow* I-70 area: Herman Gulch, Chicago Lakes, Chief Mountain Rocky Mountain National Park: Granite Falls, Twin Sisters, Bierstadt Lake, Chasm Lake, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone, The Loch, Andrew's Glacier, Sandbeach Lake Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness: King, Bob & Betty Lakes, Forest Lakes, Arapaho Lakes, Mitchell & Blue Lakes, James Peak Area, Heart Lake Northern Colorado: Homestead Meadows, Devil's Backbone*, Lake Agnes Summit & Eagle Counties: Missouri Lakes, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls Grand County: St Louis Lake, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby Ranch Other: Exploring Fulford Cave, Our Favorite Hikes, Our Favorite Bike Rides

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