After a quick stop at home — about 40 hours — the second leg of our summer road trip began with a drive to Salt Lake City in one day, one day exploring Dinosaur National Monument, dinosaur museums, and an awesome sandstone arch, and one day to get to Estes Park, Colorado. On the way to Estes Park, we drove through Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park, so of course we had to stop and do some fun things along the way…
By the time we arrived in Grand Lake, Colorado, we all were starving and ready to stretch our legs. So while the cute downtown of Grand Lake with its wooden boardwalks was calling to me, we instead headed to the East Inlet Trailhead for a tailgate picnic lunch and a short hike to a gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park waterfall: Adams Falls.
Named after Jay E. Adams, an early settler of Grand Lake, Colorado, Adams Falls is a stunning 55 foot waterfall on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park just east of Grand Lake.
The waterfall sits on the Adams Falls Trail, a short spur trail off the East Inlet Trail. Adams Falls Trail is an easy, 0.6 mile, loop trail along a wide dirt path that follows East Inlet Creek and has a 79 foot elevation gain. So really, if you’re hiking to Adams Falls, you’ll be hiking a lollipop loop (or spoon loop as Carter calls it), which means you’ll:
- Hike up the East inlet trail
- Turn onto the Adams Falls Trail and hike the short loop
- Hike back down the East Inlet Trail the way you came
Hiking to Adams Falls
The hike to Adams Falls starts at the East Inlet Trailhead and even though it’s a fairly easy and short hike, the trailhead sits at 8,409 feet elevation, so if you’re not used to the elevation, you’re going to be breathing heavier than normal!
Begin by following the East Inlet Trail along East Inlet Creek for about 0.3 miles to the Adams Falls spur trail. You’ll hike uphill, across a small bridge,and through a mixed forest of Aspen trees and Pine trees.
Turn right at the Adams Fall Trail junction and continue just a short distance over some stone steps to a stone viewing platform that looks upriver at Adams Falls. The beautiful waterfall plunges 55 feet through a narrow rock gorge over a series of steps and there are several viewpoints on the rocky cliffs to get great photos. Just be aware that because it is an easy hike close to Grand Lake, it is also a very popular hike and the trail is going to be crowded.
After enjoying the amazing views of this Rocky Mountain National Park waterfall, we continued our hike to the top of the falls for a different view of the waterfall, the observation platform, and Grand Lake beyond the trees. Then we hiked along the curving, babbling, and quickly flowing East Inlet Creek before rejoining the East Inlet Trail and heading back down to the parking area.
The entire round trip hike totals a little over 0.6 miles and is doable for everyone in your family.
About The East Inlet Trail
The East Inlet Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1913 to provide access from Grand Lake to a series of lakes 6 miles to the east of Grand Lake. The trail was developed further in the 1920s, but was still considered to be in poor condition. In the 1930s further improvements were made, and in 1934 workers from the Public Works Administration rebuilt the section between Lone Pine Lake and Lake Verna. In 1940 workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps improved 3.0 miles of trail beyond Adam Falls, building causeway sections through swampy areas. The trail was rebuilt again in 1970, and was improved between 2000 and 2003 with stone steps and handrails at Adam Falls.
Know Before You Go
- The Rocky Mountain National Park East Inlet Trailhead is located east of Grand Lake, Colorado 80447 near the Public Boat Launch.
- The trailhead is located outside the park’s entrance, so there is no fee to access this part of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is also free to park.
- To reach the East Inlet Trailhead, exit US 34 at the Grand Lake and Village turn off. Follow West Portal Road toward the boat launch until you see signs and parking for Adams Falls and the East Inlet Trail. The East Inlet Trailhead is well marked by signage.
- The 6.0 East Inlet Trail travels to Lone Pine Lake, Spirit Lake, and Lake Verna and provides access to the Adams Falls Trail, an easy, 0.6 mile, loop trail along a wide dirt path that has a 79 foot elevation gain and passes a 55 foot waterfall.
- The East Inlet Trail was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
- Be sure to wear sturdy tennis shoes or hiking shoes because parts of the trail have a lot of rocks and trees roots to navigate.
- Hiking to Adams Falls is one of the most popular activities in Grand County and at the top of the “best things to do in Grand Lake Village” lists, so expect the trail to be very crowded.
- Horses are also able to use most of this trail, but no dogs are allowed on trails at Rocky Mountain National Park.
- The Rocky Mountain National Park Grand Lake Entrance is the only entrance on the park’s west side. It is located 2.0 miles north of Grand Lake (a 10-15 minute drive) and 0.25 miles north of the Kawuneeche Visitor Center near the beautiful Kawuneeche Valley.
- Download the Kawuneeche Valley Trail Guide.
- Download the Grand Lake Travel Guide.