The East Inlet Trail is our own little gem here in Grand Lake, Colorado on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. With Adam’s Falls sitting at just less than a mile in to the East Inlet Trail, most tourists flock to the falls and then turn around – but I’m about to let you in on a little secret – while Adam’s Falls is cool and all, there are stunning views and wildlife to be seen all along this 7.9 mile long trail!
Even if you only have a few hours, it’s worth hiking further along on the East Inlet Trail to get away from the crowds at Adam’s Falls and enjoy classic Rocky Mountain meadows, streams and craggy mountain views.
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Or if you have a couple days and can snag a campsite reservation, the East Inlet Trail makes for a lovely backpacking trip.
East Inlet Trail specs:
Length: 7.9 miles one way
Elevation: 2,170 ft
Best time of year: Summer
Permits: Required for camping. Technically, this trail is in the National Park, so you should have a parks pass, however, the entrance/parking area is not in the National Park.
Dogs: Not permitted.
Day Hiking on the East Inlet Trail
This is an out and back trail and is sort of choose your own adventure when it comes to how far you want to hike. You can go as short and easy as Adam’s Falls, which is 0.9 miles one way, or 2-3 miles in for some beautiful meadow views with rocky mountain backdrops, or even further for some more challenging elevation gain and views of Grand Lake.
Always make sure to pack everything you need for the day and keep in mind this trail is at higher elevation, starting at 8,420 ft. If you’re traveling here from sea level or lower elevations, let your body adjust by giving yourself plenty of rest and lots of water and electrolytes to help prevent altitude sickness.
Also be aware, the weather changes real fast around here and can be cold and snowy – even in the summer! Pack warm layers and rain gear on every hike.
Backpacking the East Inlet Trail
You do need to reserve your campsite ahead of time with Rocky Mountain National Park, which serves as your permit to hike in and camp.
You’ll also need a hard sided bear canister to stay overnight in the park – I was shocked that there actually was a ranger way out there in woods who physically checked our packs to make sure we had a bear canister, which we did, but I hear you get a hefty fine if you don’t.
There are only a handful of primitive campsites on the East Inlet trail and there are very spaced out very well, so you won’t be right next to people which makes it feel like a wilderness area – as it should be!
Other than your permit and bear canister, make sure to pack all the overnight hiking gear you need to keep yourself safe out there. I recommend erring on the side of warmer clothes, sleeping bags and pads than not because we still saw some patches of snow when we backpacked it in early July.
Getting to the East Inlet Trailhead
Getting to the East Inlet Trail trailhead is very easy – from US Highway 34, turn onto 278/West Portal Road towards Grand Lake. Stay on 278/West Portal Road for 2.5 miles until the road ends and the trailhead is on the left, a boat ramp is on the right.
East Inlet Trail Review
I’m not going to lie – backpacking this trail and hiking up to the Upper East Inlet campsite with a fully loaded pack on was hard. The entire trail is uphill and some sections are steeper and hard then others. But with lots of breaks and taking our time, we got there just fine and did actually enjoy this trail quite a bit. It was just harder than I expected, so consider that your warning.
We did explore a little past our campsite at Upper East Inlet, but not too far and decided to just enjoy the evening at camp.
I do love this trail as a day hike and usually only go 2-3 miles in at a leisurely pace and then turn around. But as I said earlier, it’s a choose your own adventure situation where you can hike (almost) as far as your heart desires before turning around.
We hope you enjoy hiking the East Inlet Trail as much as we did, bring bug spray, take a million pictures, and leave any questions in the comments below.
For more hiking tips and trail recommendations in Colorado, check out:
- Visiting Bowen Lake in Grand Lake, Colorado
- Visiting Columbine Lake in Fraser, Colorado
- Hiking around Monarch Lake in Granby, Colorado
- How to Hiking the Manitou Incline