Adams Falls is a picturesque waterfall tucked away in the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park. This guide aims to provide you with all the essential information to help you plan and enjoy a memorable hike to one of Colorado’s most enchanting waterfalls. Adams Falls is an ideal destination for hikers of all levels, families, and nature enthusiasts seeking a relatively short and accessible trail with a spectacular payoff.
In this guide, we’ll cover the trailhead location, route description, map, weather and difficulty info, nearby camping and lodging, and important safety tips. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure to Adams Falls in the heart of the majestic Rocky Mountains.
Adams Falls Hike | Fast Facts
Adams Falls Hiking Guide
From Grand Lake, Colorado:
Head east on Grand Ave toward Ellsworth St
Drive 0.2 mi. Turn left at the 2nd cross street onto Garfield St. In 0.2 mi turn right onto W Portal Rd. Continue for 1.4 mi and turn left onto E Inlet Trailhead Rd. Park in the large lot.
NOTE: During summer months, you can cut across Rocky Mountain National Park to reach the trailhead more quickly from many areas of the norther front range. However, Trail Ridge Road closes each fall until the following spring.
This family-friendly hike is less than a one-mile round-trip and follows a well-defined hiking trail the entire way. You must pay a fee to enter RMNP and you may need a permit depending on when you visit. Click here to learn more.
Park at the East Inlet Trailhead – there is a bathroom and plenty of space for your vehicle or RV. The trail gets slippery in freezing conditions and microspikes are recommended. Start out along the well-marked East Inlet Trail and follow it for approximately one-quarter mile until you reach a fork in the trail.
You can head either direction – if you take a left, then take a right in 0.1 miles to make a loop. If you take a right, then take a left in 0.2 miles to make the same loop. There is a short additional trail section here to get closer to falls. Beware of entering the water to swim. The rapids are rough and the water is freezing cold and death or serious injury is likely.
When you’ve had enough time by the falls, continue along the way you came one quarter-mile to return to the East Inlet Trailhead.
Variation: If you want a longer hike, continue along the East Inlet Trail for another half-mile to visit the meadows above Adams Falls. This is a common spot to see moose and other wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can continue along this trail for as long as you want and are prepared before turning back in the same direction.
Never rely 100% on a digital map. Phones break and batteries die – especially in alpine environments. Print out a paper backup copy or purchase a waterproof version and keep them with you at all times while hiking to Adams Falls.
Always check the weather forecast and plan accordigly before you visit Adams Falls. Here is the most up-to-date information from the National Weather Service. Scroll down further to see the area’s weather forecast completely. If your hike is several days away, check again the night before as things may change considerably.
Just because you can hike in a pair of sneakers and jeans does not necessarily mean you should. The right gear and clothing will help you stay safe and comfortable so you have a more enjoyable hike. Here’s what I recommend bringing with you while hiking to Adams Falls and other areas in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Hiking Boots: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX Boots
Power through uphills and descents in any weather with Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX men’s hiking boots. They give you the stability and grip you need, plus a higher cut for extra ankle support.
Backpack: Osprey Talon 22 Pack
The Osprey Talon 22 is the perfect size for day trips and hikes at Rocky Mountain National Park. It includes a pocket for a hydration system, lots of pockets of varying size, and a suspension system to go easy on your back.
Trek Poles: REI Co-op Traverse Trekking Poles
Trek poles provide stability while hiking and help you use your upper body strength while moving to give your legs a break. These award-winning poles from REI are lightweight, strong, and adjustable for rugged terrain.
Always Pack the Ten Essentials
The ten essentials are the most important pieces of gear you need to survive in an emergency in the backcountry. They empower you to actively respond to a crisis instead of passively waiting for search and rescue to respond. You should tweak the specific equipment you bring on each hike according to conditions, but you should always have something for each of these ten categories.
1. Navigation Gear
I recommend bringing a map and compass. If you want to use GPS, get a dedicated unit. Phone batteries die quickly in the cold on a 14er.
2. Headlamp and Batteries
Even if you don’t plan to be out until dark, you can’t plan for everything. If you’re running behind, having the ability to see – and be seen – is everything.
3. Emergency Shelter
When bad weather strikes without warning or someone falls and is injured, a shelter to get out of the elements can save your life.
4. Extra Water
Bring 2 liters of water per person on your hike – if not more. You also want to bring a purification system to get more if you get stuck outside. That could be purification pills or a life straw.
5. Extra Food
I recommend packing 1,000-2,000 extra calories while hiking. If you do get stuck out there longer than expected, some extra power gel or energy bars will make a big difference.
6. Knife or Multi-tool
The benefits of having this around in an emergency are self-evident: You can prepare firewood, create a shelter, fix gear, and solve other problems. I recommend a leatherman multitool, which is so much more helpful than just a knife.
7. Sunglasses and Sunscreen
The solar radiation is powerful when you are above the tree line. Bringing strong sunscren (60+ SPF) is recommended to avoid sunburn. Bring a pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes too.
8. Fire-Starting Kit
If you get stuck outdoors in the mountains, the cold is one of the biggest immediate threats to your life. Being able to start a fire can keep you alive through a cold night. Bring a small kitthat includes matches and tinder for starting an emergency fire.
9. First Aid Kit
For hiking Adams Falls you don’t need to go overboard. Some bandages, moleskin, and pain relief medication is more than enough to deal with falls and scrapes, blisters, and altitude sickness.
10. Extra Layers
Bring one layer beyond what you expect to wear. In summer, that usually means bringing an extra coat or jacket you keep packed away in your bag. If you end up stuck outside overnight with a broken ankle, you will very happy you brought it with. Nanopuff jackets from Patagonia are lightweight but provide a ton of warmth.
Satellite Messenger/SOS Device: Garmin InReach Mini
When something goes wrong out on the trail, it is immensely helpful to be able to contact search and rescue teams quickly. Many areas in the National Park do not have dependable cell service. A satellite messenger or personal locator beacon allows you to call for help in an emergency in almost any location. They are expensive and require a subscription, but they have saved many lives.
I recommend the Garmin InReach Mini 2, which also offers premium GPS mapping in addition to text and SOS features.
Camping near Adams Falls:
- Morain Park Campground (In RMNP)
- Timber Creek Campground (In RMNP)
- Hermits Hollow Campground (east of Estes Park)
- Meeker Park Overflow Campground (south of Estes Park)
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along the forest roads surrounding Estes Park. Learn more about nearby dispersed camping by talking to a ranger at the National Park visitor centers.
Lodging near Adams Falls:
- Grand Lake Lodge (Grand Lake)
- Gateway Inn (Grand Lake)
- Murphy’s River Lodge (Estes Park)
- Blue Door Inn (Estes Park)
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Estes Park and Grand Lake. They’re a prefect solution for hiking Adams Falls if you do not enjoy camping.
Here are some common questions related to Adams Falls and nearby hiking and camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Q: What is the best time of year to visit Adams Falls?
A: The waterfall is most impressive in the spring when the snow melt causes water runoff levels in the creek to rise and the volume of the waterfall is at its maximum. The Falls are also interesting to visit in winter when it becomes encased in ice – a cascade frozen in time.
Q: Is the trail to Adams Falls family-friendly or suitable for beginners?
A: This is one of the best hiking trails in the parks for families with young children because it is very short, has a great water feature to view, and is not located deep within the park. If you are new to hiking it is also a good choice to get started.
Q: Are dogs allowed on the trail to Adams Falls?
A: Dogs are not allowed on trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, including the East Inlet Trail leading to Adams Falls. Check out a hiking trail on Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land – these are usually more dog-friendly areas.
Q: Are there restrooms or facilities available at the trailhead or along the trail?
A: There is a large public latrine available for use at the trailhead. There are no bathrooms along the trail itself, so go while you can or you may regret later on.
Q: Can I swim in the pool below Adams Falls?
A: Do not swim in the waterfall or creek. The current is very swift and the water is cold year-round – the result of melting snow and ice. Many have died by jumping into a stream or lake in the national park and being shocked by the cold water temperature. It isn’t the fall that will kill you – it’s the cold.
Q: How long is the hike to Adams Falls, and what is its difficulty level?
A: The hike to Adams Falls is less than a half-mile and takes less than 5-10 minutes for most people to complete. It is an easy, beginner-level hike, perfect if you are still adjusting to the higher elevation and thin air in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Help protect Rocky Mountain National Park and Adams Follow by practicing these Leave No Trace practices before and during your hike.
- Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
- Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
- Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
- Urinate off trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
- Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
- Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.
Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.
Adams Falls is named after an early resident of Grand Lake, Colorado, Jay E. Adams. He built a log cabin on the shore of the lake in 1889, one of the first to do so, and in 1907 during a party on the lakeshore, the guests decided to name the falls after their host. For whatever reason, the name stuck – Adams Falls is the result.
The waterfall has a drop of approximately 55 ft as it descends through a channel cut into the rocky gorge. It feeds Grand Lake, which is the largest natural body of water in the state of Colorado. It is located just within the border of Rocky Mountain National Park, just east of the town of Grand Lake.
Hiking Adams Falls is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back below tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Adams Falls and other mountain trails is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with hiking in the mountains and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these hiking trails at your own risk.
Here are some additional websites, links, and resources, that might help you plan your visit to Adams Falls. If you have a suggestion for something to add to the list, leave a comment below so we can share it with the community. Thank you for your help!