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.
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 run. 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).
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 runners, 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!
Shared By: Thomas David Kehoe
by Stephen Taylor