Adams Falls

Rocky Mountain National Park / Grand Lake, Colorado, USA

About Adams Falls

Hiking Distance: 0.6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-07-28
Date last visited: 2020-07-28

Waterfall Latitude: 40.23652
Waterfall Longitude: -105.79781

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Adams Falls was a very popular waterfall that gave me my waterfall excuse to spend a little more time around Grand Lake in the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was essentially a tumbling cascade with a cumulative drop of around 50-60ft on the East Inlet, which was one of the major streams feeding the namesake Grand Lake.

Adams_Falls_025_07282020 - Adams Falls
Adams Falls

I suspect that a big reason for this waterfall’s popularity was that it only required a short hike (just under a half-mile; or under a mile round-trip) to reach.

The hike started from the spacious East Inlet Trailhead Parking Lot (see directions below), where I then followed a fence-lined trail as it climbed gently.

The trail then passed ditched the fences and passed between trees and rocks defining the path as it continued its gentle climb.

After about 0.3 miles, I reached a signed trail junction where I kept right to go straight to the busy overlook of Adams Falls in another 250ft or so.

Adams_Falls_005_07282020 - Following along the East Inlet Trail, which began as this wide path flanked by tall fencing
Following along the East Inlet Trail, which began as this wide path flanked by tall fencing

From the sanctioned lookout, I was able to peer directly at the tumbling cascade as it then twisted and tumbled some more to the right.

I noticed that it was possible to scramble in that direction around the end of the fencing of the official lookout to get a more angled and comprehensive look at the twisted part of the cascade.

After having my fill of these vantage points, I then continued on the short loop that followed the East Inlet further upstream before veering left and rejoining the main East Inlet Trail.

From that junction, I then headed back to the East Inlet Trailhead Parking Lot to complete this nearly one-mile round-trip hike.

Adams_Falls_036_07282020 - Looking back at the context of the lookout area for Adams Falls, including the unsanctioned viewing area to the left of it
Looking back at the context of the lookout area for Adams Falls, including the unsanctioned viewing area to the left of it

Overall, it took me about 30 minutes to complete this hike, but my pace was hastened due to the onset of some pretty heavy rain when I was at the overlook.

One thing to note about this part of Rocky Mountain National Park was that there was no entrance booth before this trailhead.

So technically, the COVID-19 reservation system didn’t apply to this trail as of my late July 2020 visit.


Adams Falls resides in the Rocky Mountain National Park near the city of Grand Lake in Grand County, Colorado. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Adams_Falls_010_07282020 - Beyond the initial fenced part of the East Inlet Trail, the trail then entered a more forested area flanked by trees
Adams_Falls_012_07282020 - The East Inlet Trail continued to climb as the path was lined with rocks
Adams_Falls_014_07282020 - The signed trail junction where the East Inlet Trail continued on the left while the Adams Falls Lookout was on the path to the right
Adams_Falls_016_07282020 - It got quite crowded at the Adams Falls Lookout, which attested to this place's popularity
Adams_Falls_022_07282020 - Partial look at the main drop of Adams Falls in long-exposure (where I used the stone railings as a makeshift tripod)
Adams_Falls_028_07282020 - View of Adams Falls from the unsanctioned outcrop below the main lookout
Adams_Falls_031_07282020 - After having my fill of Adams Falls from the main lookout, I then continued further upstream along the short loop trail just to see what else was up there
Adams_Falls_034_07282020 - Looking back downstream towards the main lookout area for Adams Falls as I continued on the short loop in a counterclockwise manner
Adams_Falls_035_07282020 - Another look back at the main lookout area for Adams Falls
Adams_Falls_039_07282020 - Further upstream of Adams Falls along the East Inlet, I noticed this jumble of deadfalls and boulders at this rapid, where I couldn't tell if this was aided or built by beavers or if this was just a random jumble
Adams_Falls_041_07282020 - Veering on the short loop back towards the East Inlet Trail
Adams_Falls_043_07282020 - As I was hiking back to the East Inlet Trailhead, I got these misty views of Grand Lake in the distance, but as you can see, I was already caught in the rain by now so it was hard to see the lake

Adams Falls was just east of the town of Grand Lake. So in order to reach this town, it’s pretty straightforward to route to here using your favorite routing app or software.

The only catch is that if you’re intending to drive between Estes Park and Grand Lake via the Trail Ridge Road, you may need advanced reservations to go on that road if restrictive measures are in place (like the COVID-19 system that started in June 2020).

Adams_Falls_001_07282020 - At the spacious unpaved parking lot for the East Inlet Trailhead
At the spacious unpaved parking lot for the East Inlet Trailhead

Anyways, assuming you’re at the junction of US34 and Road 278 (West Portal Road) to the west of Grand Lake, you just have to drive about 2 miles to the East Inlet Trailhead.

While going east on West Portal Road, there’s a potentially confusing fork in the road where Grand Ave split with the West Portal Road about a quarter-mile in.

I learned that it was best to keep left at this fork because Grand Ave would take you right into the heart of the town of Grand Lake.

So assuming you stay on the 278 by keeping left at the split with Grand Ave, there’s another tricky part at the intersection of West Portal Road with Garfield Street.

Adams_Falls_047_07282020 - Another contextual look back at the busy yet spacious unpaved East Inlet Trailhead Parking Lot
Another contextual look back at the busy yet spacious unpaved East Inlet Trailhead Parking Lot

At this intersection, eastbound traffic (i.e. going to Adams Falls) actually has to stop because traffic to and from Garfield Street have the right-of-way (i.e. they don’t stop).

Other than these potential pitfalls, reaching the East Inlet Trailhead was actually quite straightforward.

For context, Grand Lake was 69 miles (about 90 minutes without traffic) north of Idaho Springs, 101 miles (over 2 hours drive without traffic) northwest of Denver, about 47 miles (about 90 minutes drive with tolls required) southwest of Estes Park, 83 miles (about 2.5 hours drive without delays) northwest of Boulder, 88 miles (2.5 hours drive) west of Fort Collins, and 134 miles (over 3 hours drive) southwest of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Sweep along the creek for Adams Falls from the main overlook

Sweep of the falls from an outcrop below the main lookout

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Tagged with: grand lake, colorado, rocky mountain national park, grand county

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Johnny Cheng

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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