Hiking to Waterfalls in Colorado

Waterfalls in Colorado come in all sizes and shapes. These are a collection of some you can walk or hike to, and they all have a waterfall picture for each one. That way, you can take a look at them and see whether you think you'd like to visit them or not.

I haven't always had that advantage, and Big Creek Falls is one of those waterfalls in Colorado with that distinction.

Big Creek Falls, Colorado

Big Creek Falls
One-way distance: 2.5 miles
Difficulty level: easy to moderate;
Approximate one-way hiking time: one hour and 10 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes, but dogs must be leashed or under voice control;
Entrance fee: yes
Restroom facilities: yes, at the trailhead;
Elevation: 9,230 feet at the falls.

Directions to Big Creek Falls trailhead: from the Denver area, take I-25 north to Fort Collins. Then, follow Hwy. 14 west through Poudre Canyon and continue on to the small town of Walden.

In Walden, follow Colorado 125 north until you arrive in the tiny town of Cowdrey. In Cowdrey, turn left, (west), onto 6W. It's tricky to find since it's not marked, but it's the only place you can turn left IN Cowdrey. (If you leave Cowdrey, you've gone too far and missed it.) You'll see a tiny post office just beyond the left hand turn, and that's your clue that you're going the right way.

Shortly after starting your drive on 6W, it turns to dirt but it's a fairly good dirt road all the way to the trailhead. (We saw pronghorn antelopes several times as we drove along this road, so keep an eye out for them.) Continue driving for what seems forever, then turn left, (south), onto FSR600. From that point, it's about 6 more miles until you arrive at the Big Creek Lakes Recreation Area.

Once there, go to the campground at the west end of Big Creek Lake, drive through it, then start looking for the trailhead sign which reads "Red Elephant Nature Trail". This is where you start your hike to Big Creek Falls. It took us about 45 minutes to drive the dirt road from Cowdrey to the Big Creek Lakes Recreation Area.

Of all the waterfalls in Colorado that we've seen so far, this one is by far the most remote. And we even had the trail to ourselves in both directions; what a surprise that was! Anyway, the trail starts out being easy until eventually, it becomes more moderate. You'll be hiking through the forest, but one downside of this trail was that there were a good number of chopped down trees across the trail. So, we had to go over, under, or around many of them.

We passed several small lakes along the way, and we even heard frogs croaking in them. At one point, we were lucky enough to see two western tanagers. Eventually, you'll reach a fork in the trail. The left fork goes to Upper Big Creek Lake, and the right fork goes to Big Creek Falls, so you want to follow the right fork. Of the many waterfalls in Colorado, this is one you might actually have to yourself, at least on a week day in June.

After following the right fork for a while, you will soon reach a sign that says: Mount Zirkel Wilderness. And before you even reach that sign, you'll be able to hear the pounding sound of the most remote of waterfalls in Colorado that we've seen so far. You'll see the falls just beyond the sign and on the left side of the trail.

Treasure Falls
One-way distance: ¼ mile
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate one-way hiking time: 10 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: yes
Elevation: 8,560 feet at the falls

Directions to Treasure Falls: from Pagosa Springs, go east on Hwy. 160 for about 14 miles. The falls is part way up Wolf Creek Pass and you’ll see a big sign on the right-hand side of the road saying “Treasure Falls”. Also, there’s a decent sized parking lot that probably holds at least 20 cars.

Anyway, this hike is pretty short, as you see. But since it does involve going up-hill at a good pace most of the way, I gave it a moderate rating. And some waterfalls in Colorado require a long hike to reach them, so take advantage of the easy access to this one :-).

So, the trail to Treasure Falls starts from the parking lot and is fairly well shaded. It climbs at a moderate level and just before you reach the falls, you’ll see a bridge. This bridge crosses the creek that comes down from the falls and from this point, you have a great straight-on view of the falls. This photo was taken in late June and it was a good time to see the falls with lots of water in it. (Earlier might be even better.) The first time we saw Treasure Falls was in mid July, and it didn't have as much water then.

Piedra Falls, Colorado

Piedra Falls
One-way distance: 0.6 miles
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Approximate one-way hiking time: 20 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: no
Elevation: 8,400 feet at the falls

Directions to Piedra Falls: from downtown Pagosa Springs, follow Hwy. 160 west to Piedra road. Turn right, (north), on Piedra road, (Forest Road 631), and go for about 17 miles to Middle Fork road, (which is also called Toner road or Forest Road 636.) Turn right onto Middle Fork road, and go for about 2 miles. Then turn right at the sign saying East Toner No 637, and go about 8 miles to the end of the road and the trailhead. (Several signs also say Piedra Falls.)

It took us about one hour to reach the trailhead from Hwy. 160, and the road turns to dirt soon after leaving Pagosa Springs. But it’s a pretty good dirt road and like many of the waterfalls in Colorado, it’s possible to reach this trailhead in a regular car.

Anyway, the trail starts at the end of the road, on your left. The first part of it is open and rocky, then you go up a fairly steep but short little hill that leads to an easier trail through the woods. It follows the river though not always closely. The last part of the trail before you reach the falls is narrow, with a drop to the river on one side. But it’s not that far down, and if you’re careful you’ll be fine.

One thing to know about these waterfalls in Colorado is that some are best seen in the morning, and some are best seen in the afternoon. We saw Piedra Falls in the morning, and as you see, it was shaded. So if you have a sunny day, I would suggest visiting it in the afternoon.

Some waterfalls in Colorado are hard to get to, but Piedra Falls is fairly easy to get to, once you reach the trailhead. And the scenery on the way to the trailhead is pretty good too!

Falls Creek Falls, Colorado

Falls Creek Falls
One-way distance: 3.0 miles
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate one-way hiking time: 1 hour and 45 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes but they must be leashed or under voice control;
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: yes
Elevation: 9,600 feet at the falls

Directions to Falls Creek Falls: from downtown Pagosa Springs, go east on Hwy. 160 and turn left on 5th Street/Lewis Street. Then make an immediate left onto 5th Street, (heading north), which turns into Fourmile Road. Fourmile Road is also Road # 645. Follow Fourmile Road to the sign that says “Fourmile trailhead”, and turn right at that fork. Follow this road to the end of the road and the trailhead.

Of the many trails to waterfalls in Colorado, this one starts out differently than most, because you’re heading downhill, instead of up. You go through a pine forest for a good distance, then you cross a creek and start going uphill. The trail opens up at this point with nice views of the surrounding mountains. And you also have aspen trees along the side of the trail.

Eventually, you get back into the pine trees again but you go back and forth between the trees and open areas. Many parts of the trail are rocky or gravel-like, so take your time. You cross a couple of small creeks, then when you’re maybe about ¾ of the way to the falls, there’s a fairly tricky stream crossing. There’s a log across it but it’s not completely solid so it’s a good idea to have a hiking stick or pole, for balance.

Shortly after that, you’ll come to a point where you can see Falls Creek Falls streaming down a cliff, off to your left. Keep going though, for the best view. Just follow the trail, and in a short time, you’ll reach the cliff from which the falls tumbles down. This is one of the few waterfalls in Colorado we’ve seen, that you can look at from that angle, and I think it’s neat!

(By "that angle", I mean it's one of the few waterfalls in Colorado we've seen where you have to crane your head up to see the whole thing; it's tall.)

Bear Creek Falls, Colorado

Bear Creek Falls
One-way distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Approximate one-way hiking time: one hour and 15 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: no
Elevation: 9,800 feet at the falls

Directions to Bear Creek Falls: in Telluride, Colorado Ave. is the main road through town. So, from Colorado Ave., walk south on Pine street and cross the bridge over the San Miguel River. This will lead you to the end of the road and the trailhead.

Of the many waterfalls in Colorado we’ve seen, the trailhead to this one starts right from town, which is very convenient. Anyway, the trail follows an old road for probably three quarters of the way to the falls, so it’s relatively easy in that sense. But it does climb steadily, (though not steeply), for most of the way, and some parts of it are quite rocky.

Along the sides of the trail are lots of aspen trees so this is another one to remember for fall color. There are also lots of pine trees along the trail, as well as lots of other “greenery”, (and wildflowers), which makes it all look very lush, almost like a rain forest. (Not really something you would expect when visiting any waterfalls in Colorado!)

Eventually, (at around the ¾ point), you’ll reach a fork in the road, with nothing telling you which way to go see this very popular waterfall, of the many existing waterfalls in Colorado. You want to go right, (straight), on the main road. Shortly after that, you’ll be able to see the falls ahead of you, in the distance.

Next after that, the road you were following ends, and there is a narrow trail that leads to the base of the falls. Some waterfalls in Colorado seem to require that you negotiate somewhat of an obstacle course to reach them, and this is one of those. Once you reach the narrow trail, you’re walking through a jungle-like area with some rocks and a couple of logs to climb over. Luckily, this part of the trail isn’t long, and soon, you’ll break out of the “jungle” and out into the open area where you’ll see Bear Creek Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado

Bridal Veil Falls
One-way distance: 1.2 miles from Pandora Mill to base of falls;
Difficulty level: moderate
Dog friendly: yes
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: no
Elevation: 10,000 feet at the falls

Directions to Bridal Veil Falls: in Telluride, follow Colorado Ave. east, through town and out of it. Shortly after leaving town, the pavement ends and you’ll be driving on an O.K. dirt road. You’ll pass the Pandora Mill, (on your left), and soon after that, the road gets very bumpy and rocky so you really need a high clearance vehicle. If you don’t have one, you can park on the side of the road and hike up to the falls.

Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest, (over 300 feet), of all the known waterfalls in Colorado. So it’s impressive and definitely worth seeing. The most common number I’ve seen is 365 feet, and it could easily be that, but I don’t know what the correct number is.

You may have noticed that I didn’t give you the approximate one-way hiking time. That’s because it's one of the few waterfalls in Colorado you can drive to, which we did; and it took us about 20 minutes. Anyway, the road to the falls is bumpy and rocky, as I mentioned, and takes you through a number of switchbacks. On the way, you’ll see Ingram Falls, (on your left), which is more of a cascade.

Shortly after Ingram Falls, you’ll see Bridal Veil Falls on your right. The road takes you near the base of the falls, and once there, you won’t find much place to park. So just park on the side of the road as best you can. Then get out and enjoy one of my favorite waterfalls in Colorado :-).

Waterfalls in Colorado that are just a short walk from parking area:

North Clear Creek Falls, Colorado

North Clear Creek Falls
One-way distance: short walk from parking lot;
Difficulty level: easy
Approximate one-way hiking time: just a few minutes;
Dog friendly: yes but dogs must be leashed;
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: yes
Elevation: 10,000 feet at the falls

Directions to North Clear Creek Falls: from Denver, follow U.S. Highway 285 to Salida. Then from Salida, follow U.S. Hwy. 50 west over Monarch Pass and on into Gunnison.

From Gunnison, follow Hwy. 50 west to Hwy. 149 south at the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Turn left, (south), on Hwy. 149 which is also called the "Silver Thread Scenic Byway". Follow this road to Lake City. (It took us about one hour from Gunnison to reach Lake City.)

In Lake City, continue south on Hwy. 149. Go up and over Slumgullion Pass, and shortly after that, up and over Spring Creek Pass. A short time after that, start looking on your left for the sign for North Clear Creek Falls. When you see it, turn left onto Forest Road 510. From there, it's about a half mile to the parking area, (on your left), for the falls.

North Clear Creek Falls is one of those waterfalls in Colorado that doesn't require a hike to see it; only a short walk from the parking area. It has an impressive drop of a little over 100 feet and is believed to be the most photographed waterfall in Colorado.

There's a viewing area from which you can see it, and if you want, there's a little trail you can follow along the edge of the canyon. It gives you different viewpoints of the falls, but it's a pretty long ways down, so watch your step. Even if it is considered to be the most photographed of all waterfalls in Colorado, you need to be careful when you're taking pictures.

South Clear Creek Falls, Colorado

South Clear Creek Falls
One-way distance: 900 feet
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Approximate one-way hiking time: about 5 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes but dogs must be leashed
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: yes
Elevation: 9,650 feet at the falls

Directions to South Clear Creek Falls: first, follow the directions to North Clear Creek Falls, (above). Then, instead of turning left onto Forest Road 510, continue south on Hwy 149. After a short distance, you’ll see a big brown sign on your left saying: Rio Grande National Forest Campground, Silver Thread. Turn left into this small campground and drive to the far end of it where you’ll see a small sign saying “falls”. There’s a small parking lot here that holds maybe four or five cars.

The trail starts just behind the parking lot, and it’s only about a five-minute walk down-hill on an easy to moderate trail to this great waterfall. Of all the waterfalls in Colorado I've seen so far, I had the most trouble finding directions to this one. So when I finally found it, I was so glad I did because it’s such a nice one! And by the way, there’s a viewing area for the falls, or if you want to, you can go down to the base of the falls.

Whitmore Falls, Colorado

Whitmore Falls
One-way distance: short downhill walk to observation point;
Difficulty level: easy
Approximate one-way hiking time: just a few minutes;
Dog friendly: yes but dogs must be leashed;
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: no
Elevation: 9,800 feet at the falls

Directions to Whitmore Falls: first, follow directions above, (in North Clear Creek Falls description), to Lake City. Then, in Lake City, follow Second St. which turns into the Engineer Pass Road. The road soon changes to dirt, and although it's probably better to do it with a high clearance vehicle, it's possible to reach the falls with a regular passenger car. We know because we did it :-).

Anyway, it's about 10 miles from Lake City to this relatively lesser known waterfall in Colorado. The road is rocky and narrow in spots but the scenery is wonderful. You'll see mountains all around you and lots of aspen trees. Eventually, you'll reach the old town site of Capitol City. When you do, you'll be getting close to Whitmore Falls.

Keep following the road and in a short time, you'll see the sign for Whitmore Falls on your left. There is no parking area here, so just park along the side of the road. Like Big Creek Falls, this is one of a few waterfalls in Colorado that take some time to get to. But it's worth it!

Near the sign for Whitmore Falls, you go down some steps which lead to the trail. Follow the trail as it zig zags a short ways down the side of the mountain. You'll soon reach the overlook which is on the edge of a cliff. But the fence is solid and the view is great :-). So if you love waterfalls, this is another waterfall in Colorado to add to your list.

The following waterfall, (Rough Creek Falls), is more than just a short walk from the parking area, but it's in the same general geographic area as the above three waterfalls, (as well as being a fairly short hike), so I'm including it here.

Rough Creek Falls, Colorado

Rough Creek Falls
One-way distance: 1.3 miles
Difficulty level: moderate to moderately difficult;
Approximate one-way hiking time: 40 minutes;
Dog friendly: yes
Entrance fee: no
Restroom facilities: no

Directions to Rough Creek Falls: from Antonito, (which is about 29 miles south and/or 30 minutes from Alamosa), drive about 22 miles west on Colorado Hwy. 17 to Forest Road 250, which follows the Conejos River upstream. At FR 250, turn north and drive about 7.7 miles to a short side road that turns west, where you’ll see a sign for the Ruybalid Trail. Follow this short side road west across the bridge and to the trailhead which is only 0.25 mile further, on the right side of the road. You’ll see a sign there that says: Ruybalid Trail, (among other things), and another one that says: Rough Creek Waterfall. Also, there isn’t much parking there, so just do the best you can.

Some waterfalls in Colorado are more remote than others and this is one of those. In fact, if you hike this trail, you’ll be close to the New Mexico border. Anyway, if you plan on being in the general area of Alamosa, then the hike to Rough Creek Falls is a good one to do.

And by the way, don’t be put off by the “moderately difficult” rating that I’ve given this hike. Although the trail can be a little steep, it’s not bad and anyone who’s in relatively good shape can do it. In fact, if you like hiking to waterfalls in Colorado, you're probably in fairly good shape anyway! And the first part of the trail is fairly easy, so don't be put off.

Soon after starting up the trail, you’ll pass through a thick stand of aspen trees. After that, you’ll mostly be surrounded by pine trees although you’ll see more aspens along the way. After one mile, (or about 30 minutes hiking time), you’ll see a side trail going off to the left, along with a sign on the tree saying “falls”.

Take this side trail, and you’ll soon reach the falls, (which is about 80 feet tall), in about ten minutes. The side trail is narrower than the main trail and is rocky in some places, so take your time. It’s not as well maintained as the main trail but is definitely do-able. Enjoy it when you get there...it's one of a few waterfalls in Colorado you might have to yourself :-).

Rough Creek Falls is a waterfall in Colorado that I would never have known about if not for the kindness of one of my site visitors who told me about it. So if you know of any waterfalls in Colorado that aren’t on this website, do feel free to let me know about them so we can all enjoy them :-).

Return from waterfalls in Colorado to main Colorado waterfalls page. 

Return to Colorado Hiking Vacations home page.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Copyright © 2017 Colorado-Hiking-Vacations.com 
This site was last updated on March 17, 2017.


Powered by SBI!