Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado  by Susan Joy Paul

Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado Guide Book

by Susan Joy Paul (Falcon Guides)
Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado  by Susan Joy Paul
Greetings, and welcome to the wet and wild world of Colorado waterfalls! You’ll travel through a variety of ecosystems, hike the grasslands and prairies, climb gentle foothills, meander through montane forests, reach lofty heights in subalpine zones, and top out on mountain vistas. Along the way, you’ll take in views of high summits and crystal lakes, wander across desert canyons and through dense, dark forests, and cross rushing rivers and babbling creeks. You’ll enjoy the sights and smells of the Rocky Mountain maple, Colorado blue spruce, and ponderosa pine. Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, cottonwood, and aspen trees rise above you on the trails; while sagebrush, juniper, willow, prickly pear cactus, and Mormon tea lie below, at your feet. You’ll hear the sounds of the Colorado wilderness: the whir of the hummingbird, rat-a-tat of the woodpecker, gobble of the wild turkey, chirp of the lark bunting, clicks and clucks of the ptarmigan, and descending warble of the cany

© 2013 Susan Joy Paul/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 84.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 84.

Cascade Canyon Creek sweeps down from rocky crags and bounces off pink granite in a dramatic horsetail spray before settling into a creek bed cascade. Wedged in Cascade Canyon between 14,197-foot Mount Princeton to the north and 14,269-foot Mount Antero to the south, Agnes Vaille Falls holds its own. Follow the Agnes Vaille Trail north as it climbs gently through the forest and into the canyon. Take time to read the interpretive signs along the trail, detailing the lives of falls namesake Agnes Vaille, and Mount Antero namesake Uintah Ute Chief Antero. To the south, enjoy views of sprawling Mount Antero; popular with rock hounds for its deposits of aquamarine and other gemstones, the peak is known as “the highest gem field in North America.” Pass two benches to your right, then follow the trail as it leaves the creek and turns left into the trees. Emerge from the trees and follow the creek to the base of the falls. Carefully make your way up social trails and over boulders for a closer look, taking care to avoid falling, wet, or icy rocks.
Colorado Springs, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
Nestled deep in the moist and mossy South Apache Creek drainage amid the Wet Mountains, Apache Falls stretches from skyline to trail, pouring over a ledge more than 100 feet high, and splashing and streaming over pink and gray boulders in a shimmering horsetail spray. This hike is more strenuous than it first appears. Although the net elevation gain from trailhead to falls is just 900 feet, you will first climb about 1,685 feet to a saddle, then drop 1,175 feet down to the creek bed before climbing 385 feet back up to the falls, for a round-trip elevation gain of more than 3,245 feet, with the ups and downs along the trail.
Florence, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 11
Bear Creek runs north from Lena Basin and into Bear Creek Canyon, south of Telluride. Cool waters slip down the cliff face and splash over red-brown rock in a translucent sheet of light and mist at Bear Creek Falls. The hike to Bear Creek Falls begins in town, and climbs steadily up an aspen-lined road south of Telluride, in the Bear Creek Preserve. Spruce and fir keep most of the hike in the shade, but you’ll soon have distant views of a waterfall cascade in the cliffs to the east, and mountaintops ahead. A faint, intermittent trail crosses the road and connects Bear Creek Trail with Bridal Veil Trail, and it’s marked with numerous cairns in the preserve.
Silverton, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6
Big Creek Lakes attracts boaters, hunters, hikers, and fishermen from Colorado and nearby Wyoming, and the wetlands here attract a variety of wildlife. Big Creek pours through the nearby wilderness and tosses its waters over calico slabs at Big Creek Falls.
Steamboat Springs, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.8
Big Dominguez Creek sweeps through Big Dominguez Canyon and tumbles its waters in three distinctive falls. The first waterfall you’ll see, “Lower Dominguez Falls,” slides over slickrock in a wide and frothy sheet and splashes into a pool below the trail, while the second waterfall, “Middle Dominguez Falls,” pours through a scenic viewing area in a series of four horsetail leaps and cascades. The final waterfall, Big Dominguez Falls, is tucked into the creek bed among vertical rock walls below the trail. Here, the creek drops abruptly over south-facing slabs in a fantastical sparkling horsetail spray. A plunge pool and a convenient, flat rock at the base provide a delightful, private setting, interrupted only occasionally by passersby on the trail above the falls.
Silverthorne, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
South of the Gore Range, snowmelt and rainfall slip down mountainsides and pool in scenic lakes, then careen into Vail Valley and Gore Creek. On high, Booth Lake flows into Booth Creek, pours over rock in a long cascade, and cuts through a trailside chasm in a frothy horsetail at Booth Creek Falls. The hike to Booth Creek Falls is a steady climb, so take your time and enjoy the views. You’ll pass into Eagles Nest Wilderness and cross an aspen forest, where 12,136-foot Bald Mountain appears to the north. The trail crosses several avalanche paths, so winter and spring travel should be prefaced with that in mind. At the 1.8-mile mark, there is a trail sign where you’ll begin the final push, and the steepest part of the hike.
Vail, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
North Boulder Creek flows east just north of Boulder Canyon, then wends its way south through a granite-walled gorge to Middle Boulder Creek. Along the way, it spills its waters in a dramatic, segmented plunge and splashes its way to the creek bed in a grandiose horsetail spray. Park at the small lot on the side of the road at Boulder Creek and cross the highway to the trailhead. There’s a kiosk with many warnings about the dangers of wet, icy, and falling rocks. “Picture Rock” is also here, a boulder that was moved from the creek bed, and which now provides an unusual backdrop for photo opportunities for visitors to the trailhead.
Boulder, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.2
Canyon Creek roars through the Ouray Fault and plunges into a narrow, quartzite canyon at Box Canyon Falls. The creek thunders on, in a bubbling cauldron of cold, dark water, and fills the air with a turbulent mist. A visit to Box Canyon Falls is a great way to begin or end a drive up Camp Bird Road, to view all the roadside falls there, which are outlined in the Camp Bird Road Waterfalls hike. You’ll pay to get in to Box Cañon Park from May to October, so grab a map at the visitor center and take advantage of other hikes while you’re there, including one that goes over the top of the falls.
Ouray, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.1
Waterfall lovers will delight at this combination fall that tumbles down from on high as a cascade, slips along low-angle rock as a slide, and finally spreads its waters in a frothy veil. The hike follows Cow Creek and offers splendid views of 9,794-foot Sheep Mountain in the northeast quadrant of Rocky Mountain National Park. From the trailhead at McGraw Ranch, hike past the gate and up the gravel road and follow the bend to the left past cabins. At the first trail junction, go straight to stay on the Cow Creek Trail. Pass a privy to the right of the road and ascend timber steps. Ahead in the distance you will see 10,859-foot Dark Mountain, and to the right of the trail you will pass Sheep Mountain rising nearly 300 feet from the valley floor. Pass the trail junction to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and continue straight.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
The East and West Forks of Dead Horse Creek topple south into Glenwood Canyon, leaping off moss-covered rock in two bridal veil plunges at Hanging Lake. The hike is steep, but the reward is mesmerizing: an emerald pool, a tropical scene, a cliffside hidden gem at Bridal Veil Falls. This is a popular hike, and parking is limited, but if you go early enough you’ll likely get a parking spot and perhaps even have the falls to yourself for a bit. Begin on a paved walkway along the north side of the Colorado River, and head northeast to Hanging Lake Trail. Leave the walkway and turn left up the winding trail that climbs through the canyon.
Ouray, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6
Soda Creek slips over a high cliff on the south side of I-70 and flows into Clear Creek. It’s a short hike on a paved trail from downtown Idaho Springs to the historic Charlie Tayler Waterwheel and this long, horsetail waterfall. Begin at the corner of the park, near “Old Smoke and Cinders,” a retired narrow gauge railroad train engine that was built by the Rhode Island Locomotive Works in 1886. The paved trail leads south, along Clear Creek and under a bridge and the interstate highway. There are mine shafts visible across the creek, and in minutes you arrive at the falls. A waterwheel sits at the base, a nineteenth-century artifact once used to power a stamp mill, and a plaque at the viewing area states that its builder, gold miner Charlie Tayler, attributed his health to the fact that he “never kissed women or took baths.”
Idaho Springs, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.2
Dazzling waters shimmer and splash in a multi-stepped curtain of liquid brilliance, while shallow pools—waterfall-fed, yet calm and soothing—tempt the forest bather. Browns Creek flows east through the mighty Sawatch Mountain Range and provides a hidden treasure in this secluded spot just off the trail at “Browns Creek Falls.” From the trailhead, hike past a large sign with a map and directions for Browns Creek Loop, Fourmile Creek Loop, and Mount Antero. Bear right to stay on the nice trail and avoid the rocky section on the left—both join up ahead at the gate. Reach the gate and close it behind you.
Colorado Springs, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.8
At the northern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the three pools of Bushnell Lakes feed three waterfalls before pouring their waters into Stout Creek. Breathtaking views of 13,105-foot Bushnell Peak—the highpoint of Fremont County—provide a complementary backdrop for the horsetail and cascade waterfalls, making this difficult journey a worthwhile adventure. The last mile of road to the trailhead is not maintained in the winter, but there is a pullout at the barrier, at Coaldale Campground, so you can park there and hike up the road. Be sure to get on the Rainbow Trail #1336 on the right (north) side of the road, or you will be headed in the wrong direction.
Florence, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 11.8
Rainfall and snowmelt filter down the mountainside, pour into Yankee Boy Basin, and flow through the Sneffels Creek drainage along Camp Bird Road, in Ouray. Six roadside waterfalls—fed by the creek from the west and hillside water sources from the north and the south—make this a pleasant drive with peak views all around.
Ouray, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 14.4
Chalk Creek meanders west to east for more than 27 miles from the Continental Divide to the Arkansas River, passing through Chalk Creek Canyon. White kaolinite cliffs grace the canyon’s east entrance, remnants of the hot springs that pervade this area. The creek pauses just once, at Cascade Falls, tumbling its waters over granite blocks in a roadside cascade.
Colorado Springs, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.1
In Rocky Mountain National Park, Fall River Road climbs west from Endovalley to Fall River Pass before joining Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved roadway in the United States. At the eastern end, in a roadside chasm, Fall River pours its bounty in a dramatic chute fall of subtle resplendence at Chasm Falls. Descend short, steep switchbacks from the road to a platform near the base of the falls. The viewing area is small, and usually quite crowded in the peak summer season when Old Fall River Road is open to the public. In the off -season, Old Fall River Road may be closed as far back as the West Alluvial Parking area, so plan on a longer hike—about 2.4 miles in each direction.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.1
Cherry Creek flows northwest through Castlewood Canyon in the Black Forest region, cutting a wide swath through the gorge. Sheer rim rock draws the eye upward, while the sight and sound of rushing waters falling deeper into the canyon cast the focus below the trail to this scenic cascade.
Denver, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
On the eastern slopes of the Mosquito Range, Mohawk Lakes fuel Spruce Creek and tumble down a series of marble steps in brilliant tiers at Continental Falls. This airy, sunlit site affords stunning views to the south of 13,822-foot Mount Silverheels. There’s a trail and a 4WD road at the parking lot, and you can take either one to the falls, but the trail is more scenic and is the route described here. Take Spruce Creek Trail #58 into the forest, cross Spruce Creek on a narrow footbridge, and enjoy glimpses of 13,164-foot Mount Helen to the west. At the junction with Wheeler Trail—to the left and the right—continue straight on Spruce Creek Trail, and head back into the woods. A large meadow to the right of the trail offers mountain views.
Breckenridge, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Cornet Creek flows south to Telluride, and jumps a cliff in one single, lofty leap at Cornet Falls. Cotton candy–colored rock provides a unique backdrop for this lovely fall, just a short walk from town.
Silverton, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
Rainbow Trail hugs the ramparts of 10,749-foot Beck Mountain to the west, while offering Wet Mountain Valley views to the east. Tucked into an overgrown hideaway just off the trail at Crystal Falls Creek, a segmented cascade splashes and splays in a playful show of waterfall wonder at Crystal Falls. This section of the Rainbow Trail is popular with ATVers, dirt bikers, and hunters, so expect to share the trail. You will see trailhead postings in regard to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area and Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, but the hike to Crystal Falls does not cross the boundaries into those areas.
Florence, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.4

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