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The U.S. Forest Service this week issued the following press release urging hikers to use Town of Vail buses to access popular trailheads in the Vail area that have been overwhelmed with users in recent years:
With parking restrictions to address overcrowding and safety concerns beginning June 2 at popular trailheads in the Vail area, the Town of Vail and the White River National Forest encourage hikers to Bus It to Hike It.
The parking area for the Booth Lake Trailhead in Vail will be closed for the summer season. Parking at the Pitkin and Bighorn trailheads will be limited to three hours with no overnight parking. Visitors to the Gore/Deluge trailhead will see designated parking spaces and delineated no parking areas to address conflicts between vehicles and bicyclists on Vail Pass.
“We have an extensive free bus system in Vail, and hikers will be able to access all of these trailheads by parking in one of our parking garages and hopping on a bus with convenient service to East Vail every 30 minutes,” said Vail Town Manager Scott Robson.
Parking and bus route information is available at www.hikevail.net.
Use on these already-busy trails into the Eagles Nest Wilderness sky-rocketed last year. The trailhead changes are part of a pilot program between the Town of Vail and the White River National Forest to address safety issues and negative impacts of overcrowding at the trailhead, the surrounding area, and the Eagle Nest Wilderness.
“These trailhead parking changes will help us address illegal or inappropriate parking, difficult emergency vehicle access for the surrounding area, and speeding and heavy congestion along Booth Creek Road and these other trailheads,” said Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger. Traffic and parking violations will be strictly enforced, according to Henninger. Increased penalties have been authorized for illegal parking in the residential area surrounding the Booth Lake trailhead. Regulatory signs have been posted in the neighborhood to identify the additional no parking areas.
“We are seeing significant issues with overcrowding on these trails in the Eagle Nest Wilderness, which is resulting in trail erosion and a buildup of trash, dog waste and human waste,” said Leanne Veldhuis, Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger. “Use at the Booth Lake Trail alone increased from 30,637 users in 2019 to 50,560 users in 2020.”
Trail crews will be working throughout the summer to restore braided trails and improve drainage on all the East Vail trails.
There are many other great hikes in the Vail area, which are detailed at www.hikevail.net. Trail host volunteers from the Vail Welcome Centers and the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance will have a presence on the trails during busy days to answer questions, assist with Leave No Trace education and remind trail users about the importance of keeping dogs leashed.
The Town of Vail, Eagle County and other towns are providing additional funding this summer to expand the Forest Service Front Country Ranger Program, which provides critical patrols and education to people using the East Vail trails.
“Hikers in the Eagles Nest Wilderness – and any trail for that matter – can really help us out by staying on the trail, not short-cutting switchbacks or walking around mud and drainage structures, which causes braiding and erosion,” Veldhuis said. “And, of course, by packing out trash and waste.”
Hikers with dogs are encouraged to find a trail where nearby parking is accessible as only service dogs are allowed on town buses. Backpackers will be directed to free overnight parking at the Red Sandstone garage where vehicles are allowed for up to 72 hours. Paid overnight parking is available at the Vail Village and Lionshead garages. For details, visit or call the Vail Welcome Center at 970-477-3522.