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Bighorn Creek

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (8) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

10.3

Miles

16.6

KM

Out and Back

12,330' 3,758 m

High

8,681' 2,646 m

Low

3,631' 1,107 m

Up

3,649' 1,112 m

Down

13%

Avg Grade (8°)

99%

Max Grade (45°)

Dogs Leashed

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

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.

At 3.8 miles the trail emerges from the forest and ends. 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 8 votes

#4

in Vail

#1059

Overall
  4.6 from 8 votes
5 Star
63%
4 Star
38%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#4

in Vail

#192

in Colorado

#1,059

Overall
381 Views Last Month
8,934 Since Jan 31, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Bighorn Pass, looking west towards Mount of the Holy Splotch
Feb 4, 2015 near Vail, CO
Looking west from Bighorn Pass towards Mount of the Holy Cross.
Feb 4, 2015 near Vail, CO
Looking west down Bighorn Creek towards Mount of the Holy Cross.
Feb 4, 2015 near Vail, CO
Panorama looking west from Bighorn Pass.
Feb 4, 2015 near Vail, CO

Weather


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Check-Ins

Jun 25, 2020
Lucy R
6mi — 2h 00m
Sep 21, 2019
John Oberlin
Aug 11, 2019
Brandon Snacks
May 25, 2017
Andy Loseman
Up 2, down 2. Cool view 4mi
May 24, 2017
Jacob Samuels
4mi