Thursday, May 19, 2016

Waterfall, moose await on west RMNP trail

Adams Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park, courtesy of Flikr.
Topo map for Adams Falls.

Adams Falls
tumbles 55'
over cascades

Day hikers can enjoy a 55-foot waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park on the Adams Falls Trail.

The 0.9-miles round trip is an easy walk on the park’s west side. Autumn marks a great time to hike the trail as aspen leaves have turned a brilliant yellow, though the waterflow at the falls will be low compared to May when at its peak.

To reach the trailhead, from Grand Lake, Colo., take West Portal Road east/south to the East Inlet parking lot. This is the national park’s West Portal. Because the trail starts outside of the park’s boundaries, there are no entrance fees.

The East Inlet Trailhead begins at the lot’s southeast corner. The National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the trail using rock, wood and dirt from the local area. There is a neat wood fence at the trailhead and impressive masonry near the falls.

The elevation is 8390 feet above sea level, so though the trail is easy, take your time. There really is less oxygen this high up, and altitude sickness can set in for those not acclimated.

Fortunately, the trail instantly relaxes you as it heads uphill through fragrant pines mixed with aspen. After entering the park, about a third of a mile from the trailhead, you’ll reach a side trail that goes to the waterfalls. Turn right/south onto the new trail.

In short order, you’ll come to an overlook of the picturesque falls, which drops 55 feet over several steps on East Inlet Creek. The falls is named for Jay Adams, one of the first white settlers of the Grand Lake area in the 1800s; it previously was called Ousel Falls.

From the overlook, the trail runs to the top of the falls. This vista not only gives another great view of the falls but the waterbody Grand Lake to the northwest.

The trail next goes north and rejoins the East Inlet Trail. From there, turn left/west, heading back to the parking lot.

If you have some extra energy, though, instead go right/east. In a half-mile, you’ll reach the point where East Inlet and Echo creeks merge. A large meadow with wildflowers – and sometimes even moose – can be found there. The hike from the parking lot Adams Falls to the creeks’ confluence runs 1.9-miles round trip.

Learn more about the park's day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at Rocky Mountain National Park guidebook.