Trail Snapshot: Windy Gulch Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Hike Distance: 1 miles Round Trip (from Fern Lake TH)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Duration: Approx 45 min
- Trail Type: Out and Back
- Starting Elevation: 8155′
- Elevation Gain: +400′
- Seasons: Spring through Fall
- Dogs: Dogs Prohibited in RMNP
- Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Fern Lake Trail in RMNP
- Recommended Trail Map: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
- Denver Drive Time: 1 hr 40 min
- Driving Directions to Fern Lake Trailhead: Click for Google Map
- Driving Directions to Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking: Click for Google Map
- Driving Directions to Park & Ride Trailhead: Click for Google Map
- Town Nearest Hike: Estes Park, Colorado
- Beauty: Sub-alpine lakes, mountain views, river, wildflowers, aspen trees, ponderosa pine, wildlife: Abert’s squirrel, elk, deer, moose, duck
- Activities: Picnicking, hiking trails, snowshoeing
- Fee: Park Pass Required
Parking & Trailhead Information for Windy Gulch Cascades in RMNP
The Hike: Windy Gulch Cascades in RMNP
Beginning at the Fern Lake Trailhead, the trail will lead approximately .4 mile to a point where the trail bears to the left, just after crossing a small footbridge. The falls can be heard from the trail. Here, on the right-hand side of the trail is a small, unmaintained, social trail that leads into the woods and up to Windy Gulch Cascades (see photo below).
Because this trail is unmaintained, be sure to hike on durable surfaces and stay on the discernable social trail. The trail soon gives way to a boulder field that leads up into the gulch. The way up to the cascade stays to the left side (west side) of the creek.
A small amount of scrambling is required, but no climbing. In fact, avoid any steep areas. Soon, the boulder field gives way to grass. From here, the lower cascades come into view (pictured at the top of this post). The upper cascades can be seen by looking further up into the gulch (which has essentially become a narrow canyon). At the top of the upper cascades, a 15′-20′ waterfall can be seen gushing over the the canyon wall (pictured below).
Travel beyond this point is not recommended as the terrain is steep, slick, and the rock is unstable.
After retracing the same route by descending the boulder field, then following the same social trail, hikers will arrive back at the main trail. The cascades can be enjoyed from a distance when hiking further up the Fern Lake trail. However, they are missed by most hikers because they are tucked away in the gulch. The photos and video of this hike were taken in the early summer whe the cascades are at their best.
Tips & Resources for Hiking to Windy Gulch Cascades in RMNP
- TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited. One may opt to ride a shuttle that drops you off at the trailhead.
- Bring some food: The rocks near the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
- Mosquitos: There were an unusually high number of mosquitos on this hike, so we would recommend wearing some mosquito repellant.
- Recommended Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: The trail maps provided by Rocky Mountain National Park are usually sufficient. However, if you plan to hike RMNP often, we recommend purchasing a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map. This map also notes the location of the Windy Gulch Cascades and gives an accurate depiction of the terrain.
- Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
- Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
- After the Hike: Baba’s Burgers & Gyros
Map & Driving Directions
Click for Driving Directions