Hiking, Adams Falls, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA 

The hike to Adams Falls begins from the East Inlet Trailhead near the town of Grand Lake on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. After turning into the Grand Lake area from Hwy 34 / Trail Ridge Road, drive three-tenths of a mile on West Portal Road until you reach a split in the road. Stay left at this junction and continue on West Portal Road for another 2 miles to reach the trailhead.

The East Inlet Trail is an excellent example of National Park Service naturalistic design work. Both the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps built naturalistic designed trails that required the use of local materials, such as rock, wood and dirt, in order to harmonize with the local environment. It also required a maximum grade of 15%, a width of 3-4 feet, and has to meet sustainability standards through the use of stone steps, log checks, and log or stone culverts. As a result, the East Inlet Trail was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

As the trail proceeds towards Adams Falls it passes through a mixed forest of pine and aspens. After only one-third of a mile you’ll reach the Adams Falls Trail, a semi-loop that reconnects with the East Inlet Trail in less than two-tenths of a mile. Turn right at this adams fallsjunction and walk the short distance to an overlook of Adams Falls, a very impressive waterfall that drops roughly 55 feet in a series of steps through a narrow rock gorge.

From the overlook the trail climbs to the top of the falls where you’ll have another outstanding view from above. Looking off into the distance you’ll also be able to see Grand Lake from this vantage point as well.

Although you may assume that the falls were named after Alva Adams, the former Colorado Senator for whom the nearby Alva B. Adams Tunnel is named after, the falls, as well as nearby Mt. Adams, are actually named for Jay E. Adams, an early settler in the Grand Lake area who arrived in the late 1800s. Prior to receiving its current name the waterfall was known as Ousel Falls.

From the top of the falls the loop portion of the hike continues for a very short distance before linking up with the East Inlet Trail once again. Turn left at this junction to return back to the parking area. If you still have plenty of energy and wish to explore more of the area, you could turn right at this junction and travel about a half-mile to the confluence of the East Inlet Creek and Echo Creek. Here you’ll find a fairly large meadow with many wildflowers, and may even have an opportunity to spot a moose.

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