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Bighorn Creek

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (11) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A beautiful valley, a pleasant trail, good campsites, and few people.


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Map Key

7.0

Miles

11.3

KM

Out and Back

10,726' 3,269 m

High

8,679' 2,645 m

Low

2,079' 634 m

Up

2,072' 632 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

36%

Max Grade (20°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overnight parking is not allowed at the Bighorn trailhead. Backpackers can park for free at the Gore Creek or Red Sandstone parking garage and take the bus to the Pitkin trailhead. The alternative is to pay $35 to park overnight in the Vail parking structure and use the free bus to reach the trailhead.

Overview

Bighorn Creek is the least popular trail from Vail, possibly because it doesn't have a lake. But it's one of the prettiest valleys and is an easy day hike. With several excellent campsites it's a good choice for backpackers. Likely the only people you'll see are climbers, as Bighorn Creek is the access to Grand Traverse and Solitude Peak. Another adventurous option is Bighorn Pass, which is 500 feet of 50% grade Class 3+ climbing. From the pass you can easily summit the peak to the north.

Need to Know

The trailhead is hard to find. Exit I-70 at East Vail, Exit 180. Drive east of Bighorn Drive 0.75 miles. Turn left on Columbine Drive. Drive under I-70 through a one-lane tunnel. The parking lot has spaces for six cars, and a dozen more cars can park on the street (park on street at own risk...parking tickets may be issued by city of Vail).

Description

From the trailhead, the trail climbs up through aspen forest. At 0.7 miles and 1.3 miles side trails go down to the creek, possible to campsites? At 1.4 miles a campsite is next to the trail and the creek.

At 3.4 miles there is a an old cabin and a campsite. The cabin is on a private mine claim and dates to the early 1900's. It was rebuilt by the owners in 2017. The door remains unlocked and you are welcome to explore, but please take good care of this generous gift from private owners.

This is the end of the official trail, and it's a beautiful spot with a meadow, and creek access.

But you can continue on: the rest of the valley is open country above timberline. An intermittent mountain goat trail can be followed.

Look for a cairn at 4.0 miles. If you're looking to camp, the best campsite is at 4.1 miles, above some large ponds.

The base of Bighorn Pass is at 4.8 miles. Bighorn Pass is reached at 5.1 miles. The pass should only be attempted by experienced hikers, without backpacks.

Flora & Fauna

You may see a herd of mountain goats. A party of climbers said they were the most aggressive mountain goats they'd ever encountered. The mountain goats chased the climbers off Solitude Peak!

Contacts

Shared By:

Thomas David Kehoe with improvements by Stephen Taylor

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 11 votes

#4

in Vail

#846

Overall
  4.6 from 11 votes
5 Star
64%
4 Star
36%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#4

in Vail

#164

in Colorado

#846

Overall
189 Views Last Month
10,695 Since Jan 31, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
11%
56%
33%
0%

Photos

As you clear the last big up, the view of the gore opens up.
Nov 21, 2020 near Vail, CO
Picturesque trail through aspens.
Nov 21, 2020 near Vail, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 3 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Jul 4, 2021
stephen sklarow
I submitted a corrected track. The existing track on hiking project is wrong at the beginning and end. 7.4mi — 5h 44m
Jun 17, 2021
Kon Matsuaki
Very nice hike. The middle portion is quite steep though. Cabin and surrounding are wonderful. — 6h 00m
Jun 8, 2021
Matthew Davila
2.4mi — 1h 20m
Nov 7, 2020
John Oberlin
Aug 21, 2020
Nick Wilder
7.5mi — 1h 57m
Aug 15, 2020
Ryan Whiteside
The GPS track for this trail is correct up to the cabin and about 1/2 mile past the cabin. After that its incorrect.
Jul 14, 2020
Nick Wilder
To the end of the meadow at 2.1 miles 4.2mi
Jul 14, 2020
Mike M