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Fern Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fern Falls tumbles down through the forest casting a fine mist across the trail. It's a perfect place to stop, cool off, and take in the sights and sounds of the falls before hiking on to Fern Lake. Explore the full Fern Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Fern Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fern Falls in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the road side and vehicles are ticketed. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

The Hike: Fern Falls in RMNP

The hike to Fern Falls offers several beautiful sites along the way as it follows the Big Thompson River. The first is a side-trail cascade, Windy Gulch Cascades, which can be seen to the North (right) about 1/2 mile in. At 1.5 Miles in, the trail will weave through several house-size boulders at Arch Rocks.

Just a bit further at 1.7 miles, a bridge crosses the Big Thompson River near the spot of its confluence with both Spruce and Fern Creeks. This area is know as The Pool. After crossing the bridge at The Pool, Fern Falls is another 1 mile up the trail.

Shortly after The Pool, an unnamed set of cascades can be heard and seen to the right of the trail (pictured below). The remaining mile journey follows a set of switchbacks that make a steady climb through the forest to Fern Falls.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Fern Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • TIP: It is advisable to arrive early as parking is limited.
  • Trekking Poles & Traction Devices are Recommended in Spring and Winter: During this time of year, there can be patches and even longer segments of snow and ice on the trail. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail.
  • Bring A Snack or Picnic Lunch: The rocks and shore near the Big Thompson River can be a great place for picnics.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to John B. Kalla for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Fern Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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Windy Gulch Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Windy Gulch Cascades is a hidden cascade waterfall less than half a mile into Fern Lake Trail system in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though a short hike, the final 1/10th of a mile segment is off the main trail and in steep terrain. For that reason, we've noted this as a moderate difficulty hike. Explore the full Windy Gulch Cascades hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Windy Gulch Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Windy Gulch Cascades in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the roadside, and vehicles will be ticketed. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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Whitmore Falls Near Lake City Colorado

Whitmore Falls is a lesser known waterfall deep in the mountains of Colorado. But, it just a 1/10th of a mile hike from the pull-off along Engineer Pass Road. It's a great destination hike for those vacationing in the Lake City area and are looking to combine a scenic drive with a short waterfall hike. Explore the full Whitmore Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure near Lake City, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Whitmore Falls Near Lake City, Colorado

Directions, Parking, & Trailhead Information

Whitmore Falls is off the beaten path, located about 1hr west of Lake City, Colorado along the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. From Lake City, take 1st Street northwest, then a left onto the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway/20/Engineer Pass Road. This dirt road which follows Henson Creek is closed December through May. It may be closed or difficult to navigate depending on weather and how recently its been graded. Typically, it is navigable for 2WD passenger cars up to Whitmore Falls, but SUVs will fair best on this stretch of road.

Beyond Whitmore Falls, the road requires higher clearance vehicles more suitable to the difficult terrain, and drivers who possess off-road driving experience. See the Colorado BLM site for more information on the Loop. Whitmore Falls is located approximately 11 miles West of Lake City, and about 2 miles after passing the Capitol City Landmark, a set of restored historic buildings. Take your time, the drive and the scenery is half the adventure.

The parking area for Whitmore Falls is a small pulloff on the right/west side of the road. The falls trail should be marked with a sign on the opposite side of the pulloff. Because of the limited cell service in this part of Colorado, we advise that drivers not rely on phone-based map services that require a cellular connection. Take care in crossing the road to the other side where you can make your way down to the waterfall.

The Hike to Whitmore Falls

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Whitmore Falls

The drive to Whitmore Falls is more harrowing than the hike. It's just a short 1/10th of a mile from the roadside down to the falls. However, it is steep and the terrain is mostly gravel, much of it talus and loose scree. So, take care making your way down to the falls. Trekking poles will be a great aid in making it down the switchback trail to the overlook and to the falls. The trail can be located near the Whitmore Falls BLM sign.

Whitmore Falls is a plunge waterfall that launches over 40' from the rock cliffs surrounding Henson Creek. Depending on the flows of Henson Creek, the base of the waterfall provides close access for viewing the falls.

  • TIP: Bring trekking poles to assist the short hike down the steep, gravel path.
  • Take Your Time: Pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy the scenic drive. Hikers can stop and explore the Capitol City historic site before or after their visit to Whitmore Falls.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Dan Parker for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.
  • After the Hike: Lake City Cafe

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Zapata Falls Hike Colorado

The hike to Zapata Falls is a perfect family adventure. The 30 foot waterfall is back an easy .4 mile trail, and requires wading through Zapata creek to gain the best views under the shower of the falls. Because it's quite a drive from Denver, we recommend camping at the nearby campground and adding a visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park to your adventure. Explore the full Zapata Falls hike profile below for driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this unusual Colorado waterfall.

Parking & Trailhead Information for Zapata Falls Trail

Like most of the best hikes in Colorado, the trailhead for Zapata Falls is out in the middle of nowhere--well, almost. It's about 8 miles south of Great Sand Dunes National Park and 29 miles from Alamosa, Colorado. Parking is limited, so arrive early in the morning to guarantee a space--or visit on a weekday. Memorial Day weekend is the busiest time of the year for Zapata because so many families visit the neighboring Great Sand Dunes and stay at the campground during that weekend. If the parking lot is full, the road leading into the trailhead lot offers roadside parking; just park with care. The trailhead has toilet facilities.

The Hike to Zapata Falls

The hike to Zapata Falls is short and refreshing. The trail is well-constructed with benches along the way for hikers who need to take a breather. However, it's a very popular trail and you'll want to hit the trail early to avoid waiting in line to see the falls (and to avoid the midday heat). Along the way, you'll take in the scent of juniper trees and gain views of both the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the larger San Luis Valley of Colorado.

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Views to the Great Sand Dunes courtesy of Patrick Mitchell

At the falls, many hikers opt to wade across Zapata creek to gain the best views and experience of the waterfall. Zapata Falls is unusual as it is tucked back in a short tunnel in the rock where the water funnels 30 feet down from the creek high above. Though a small creek, after heavy rains, the current can become very strong. Exercise great care on the slippery rock, and be sure to bring your water shoes if you opt to explore the base of the falls.

Zapata Falls is accessible in the winter when it turns into a frozen masterpiece of ice and snow.

Camping Near Zapata Falls

It's quite a drive to hike Zapata Falls, and you may want to do more than just hike. Camping is an option! There is a USFS campground next to the Zapata Falls Trailhead. It's a popular spot with 23 sites, all non-reservable. On weekends these campsites fill up by Friday at noon. On holiday weekends, they are at capacity before Friday. For fees and more details, see the official USFS campground page for Zapata Campground.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Zapata Falls

  • Pathfinder: We would like to thank, Dayhikes Pathfinder, Patrick Mitchell for hiking this trail, providing a report, and photos of his hike to Zapata Falls.
  • Oasis General Store: This place is the only store for miles and just outside the National Park off of Highway 150 North.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ben Flasher for sharing such an amazing photograph of Zapata Falls.
  • After the Hike: The Roast Cafe in Alamosa, CO

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Treasure Falls Near Pagosa Springs Colorado

Treasure Falls is a 105 foot, plunge waterfall just 15 miles outside of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It's just a 1/2 mile hike in to the falls where you can get close enough to feel the spray and mist from the falling water. It's a sight that kids and adults alike will remember. Explore the full Treasure Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details you need to enjoy this adventure near Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Treasure Falls Near Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Treasure Falls in Colorado

Treasure Falls is located about 15 miles northeast of the town of Pagosa Springs, along highway 160 near Wolf Creek Pass. Driving from Pagosa Springs, the parking area and trailhead for Treasure Falls are located on the right (east) side of the road. Parking can accommodate about 18 vehicle and 3 RV/trailers. There are restrooms at the site. Because parking is limited, it fills to capacity often during the summer months. Though the trailhead is open year round, sometimes the entrance gets blocked by plowed snow. Some have noted Treasure Falls as a handicap accessible hike, but it is not. However, the waterfall can be viewed--at a distance--from the parking area.

The Hike: Treasure Falls in Colorado

Treasure Falls is a 105 foot plunge waterfall with a horsetail spray. This hike is approximately 1/2 mile to the two different observations decks. The complete journey down to the falls and back (includes both observation decks) is a total of 1 mile. Along the way, hikers learn the history of the area and the story of how Treasure Falls got its name: a legend that a treasure was buried near the sight. Kids (adults, too) will love this short hiking trail, the history, and the captivating site of one of Colorado's highest waterfalls. While short, the hike is steep, and older folks and those who have difficulty walking, may find the journey beyond their ability.

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Landscape Near Treasure Falls courtesy of Tobias Haase

The first observation deck, named Blowout, takes the trail to the right. The second observation deck, which is closer to the waterfall--so close that you can feel the spray from the falls--is called Misty Deck, and can be reached by going back to the main trail and following the signs.

The trail to Treasure Falls is steep and can become quite muddy with the spring snowmelt and rains. In the Winter, the waterfall freezes over into an aqua stream of ice. During these months, when the parking lot is not plowed or snowed in, Treasure Falls can be accessed by snowshoeing or hiking in with traction devices or microspikes--much depends on the amount of snowfall. Ice can compound with the snow to make the trail very difficult.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Treasure Falls, CO

  • Hot Cocoa: After the trip, drive up the the Wolf Creek ski area and get hot chocolate at the lodge.
  • Wear Good Footwear: The hike up to treasure falls can be slick in places, and muddy in the spring. Be sure to have durable and gripping boots or shoes. Looking for good boots? Check out our hiking boot reviews.
  • 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: Alley House Grill in Pagosa Springs
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Tobias Haase for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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Monarch Lake Loop Hike

The Monarch Lake Loop is a perfect family hike that leads 4 miles through shaded forest, across creeks, and along the shore of the lake. It's one of the more diverse, but easy, hikes in the area. Monarch Lake is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and access to the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Explore the full Monarch Lake Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Grand County, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Monarch Lake Loop, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Monarch Lake, Colorado

Following the driving directions in the above trail snapshot for Monarch Lake, the road will end at the Monarch Lake Trailhead. Here, you'll find parking spaces for about 40 vehicles. The parking area fills fast and cars and trucks often line both sides of the road to the trailhead. An Arapahoe National Recreation Area day use pass is required and can be purchased at the kiosk at the Arapahoe Bay Pay Station. This pay station is located shortly after you turn onto County Hwy 6 and before crossing over the dam. While Monarch lake is open in the winter, and Hwy 6 is plowed, the approximately 1 mile final segment of road that leads into the trailhead is closed from Nov. 15 to June 15. Because of this, hikers will have to park and snowshoe, cross-country ski, or hike in to the trailhead.

The Hike: Monarch Lake, CO

From the trailhead, a shaded tunnel of trees leads down a short gravel path to the Wilderness Information Cabin. Here you can pick up trail maps and information about hikes up into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. The trail description here is of hiking the Monarch Lake Loop in a clockwise fashion. Begin on the Cascade Creek trail #N1. This will follow the shoreline of the lake and soon enter the forested area along the Northern end of the lake. After approximately 1 mile, the landscape changes and enters a wetland marsh. Keep your eyes peeled for moose and other wildlife here.

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Wilderness Info Cabin at Monarch Lake

After 1.5 miles on the Cascade Creek Trail, the loop will be continued by taking a right onto the Arapaho Pass Spur Trail. This will head south, crossing Buchanan Creek, then Arapaho Creek. Here, after .8 mile, the spur trail ends and the Arapaho Pass trail begins. This last segment on the Arapaho Pass trail #N6 is 1.7 miles long.

Because of the pine beetle kill, there are many dead trees throughout the Monarch Lake Loop hike. Be alert for falling trees, especially when gusts of wind blow through. Hikers may also encounter deadfall across the trail. Be careful going under any fallen trees as they are often unstable and may only be supported by a few small, dead branches.

The hike continues on the south shore of the lake, passing an old, rusty steam engine. These "steam donkeys" were used to pull logs down out of the mountains back in the logging camps of the 1800's. After the steam engine, the trail will cross two more creeks, and finally make its way across the dam at the northwestern end of the Lake.

Because this hike is so perfect as a family outing, or for visiting family and friends, we recommend the following day trip:
1) Leave early (take breakfast with you) and arrive at the trailhead at or before 8AM (better chance of seeing wildlife and better parking)
2) Hike Monarch Lake
3) Drive over Trail Ridge Road (fee required--but worth every penny)
4) Eat a late Lunch in Estes Park (so bring snacks)
5) Head back home or drive in to Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Monarch Lake Loop

  • Fishing: Monarch Lake is a popular fishing spot for trout. Colorado State fishing regulations apply.
  • Falling Trees: Because of the amount of dead trees in this area, hikers should be on alert for falling trees.
  • Trail Map for Monarch Lake Area: Trail Map Link
  • 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: Mavericks Grill in Granby, CO

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helen hunt falls waterfall pouring over granite rock face with bridge in background along hike near colorado springs

Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs

Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs is a 35 foot waterfall requiring only a short walk from the parking area. For a longer and more demanding hike, visitors can take the 4 mile Columbine Trail from the bottom of Cheyenne Canyon to Helen Hunt Falls. This strenuous option affords and experience of the rich ecosystem of this canyon at the base of Pikes Peak. Explore the full Helen Hunt Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this waterfall in Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Helen Hunt Falls

Parking & Trailhead Information for Helen Hunt Falls

Helen Hunt Falls is located in the upper reaches of North Cheyenne Canyon in Colorado Springs. The driving directions and map in the trail snapshot (above) direct hikers to the small parking area nearest to the waterfall. However, this lot is often full, so visitors will need to drive further up into the canyon to additional parking. The Helen Hunt Falls area is a trailhead to several hikes in the canyon, so the parking areas do fill quickly on weekends and during the busy vacation season. Go early to park close. In case you or a friend are unable to make the short hike to the falls, they are visible along the road from your vehicle. Drive with care through the canyon as there are many cyclists on this stretch of road.

The longer hike begins near the Strasmore Visitor Center at the entrance to Cheyenne Canyon. Click for Driving Directions.

The Hike: Helen Hunt Falls

Helen Hunt Falls is a 35 foot waterfall that cascades over the rock in North Cheyenne Creek. The falls are most beautiful when Cheyenne Canyon's water volume is at it's peak in the late Spring to early Summer, or after a good rain. It's not much of a hike to Helen Hunt Falls because the base of the falls can be accessed just a few steps from the Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center. The visitor center is open only in the Summer and has snacks and gifts for sale. The waterfall access is open year-round and there is no fee.

In the winter, the frozen falls have a beauty of their own, but be advised that the trails can be very slick and icy.

There is short, but more strenuous trail just after the bridge and to the left. The trail has a set of stairs built into the side of the canyon that lead to an overlook and another perspective on the waterfall.

If you prefer a longer, creekside hike to the Falls, then park at the Strasmore Visitor Center at the entrance to the Canyon. Near the visitor center, you can locate the Lower Columbine Trailhead. This creekside trail weaves through Cheyenne Canyon all the way up to Helen Hunt Falls. It's 4 miles one-way to the Upper Columbine Trailhead near the falls, and about 1000+ feet of elevation gain. Because the trail follows the creek and over a lot of rocky surface, be prepared for slick surfaces, and be sure to wear a solid pair of hiking boots. Trekking poles will be exceptionally helpful on this stretch of trail. About midway up the Columbine Trail, it abandons the creek, crosses the road, and begins a significant climb that includes a set of demanding switchbacks. Eventually, the trail nears Tunnel #2 along Gold Camp Road, then terminates at the Helen Hunt Falls area.

Helen Hunt Falls is named for reformer, activist, and writer, Helen Hunt Jackson, who fought for Native American Rights in the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Helen Hunt Falls

  • Explore More: Hike further to Silver Cascade Falls to take in a second waterfall. It's less than 1/2 mile from Helen Hunt Falls with an elevation gain of approximately 250 feet.
  • Pack a Picnic Lunch: Helen Hunt Falls and Cheyenne Creek are great places to enjoy a picnic lunch.
  • Bear and Mtn Lion Activity: Like many areas along the Front Range of Colorado, Bear and Mtn. Lions live in Cheyenne Canyon and the surrounding countryside. Dispose of food in the proper containers. Be alert. And keep together as a group. It's best that children don't run ahead, but stay with your group. Dogs should be leashed at all times.
  • Trail Map for North Cheyenne Canyon: Trail Map Link
  • 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: Urban Steam Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Mike Sinko for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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Rifle Falls Hike Colorado

Rifle Falls is a 70 foot, triple waterfall in Rifle Falls State Park. It's just .1 mile hike to the base of the falls along a paved, handicap accessible trail. The caves hidden along the waterfall beckon those looking for more adventure. Explore the full Rifle Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details you need for this short waterfall Hike in northwestern Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Rifle Falls Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Rifle Falls, Colorado

Because Rifle Falls State Park is one of the more popular State parks to visit in Colorado, it often has very limited parking. We highly recommend that you arrive when the park opens at 7AM. If you do not have a Colorado State Parks pass, then you will need to pay the access fee for the park at the kiosk. If the lot is full, visitors will be turned away. As with almost all trailheads in Colorado, Monday through Thursday are the best days for avoiding traffic. However, in the busy summer season, when the weather is amazing and vacation season is in full swing, the park is often at capacity.

The Hike: Rifle Falls

The base of the waterfall can be accessed via 1/10th mile hike on a paved trail that is considered ADA accessible. The falls launch 70 feet over a limestone cliffside, reminiscent of Hanging Lake, near Glenwood Springs. It is a segmented waterfall, breaking into three distinct waterfalls. The spray and mist from the falls makes the surrounding scenery unique. Moss covered rock, flowers, brush, trees, and the roar of the falls make this a real oasis in the oft dry landscape of western Colorado.

The Coyote Trail crosses the creek and leads hikers on a 1.5 mile loop that includes both caves and the area above the waterfall. Following the loop counter-clockwise, the caves will soon become visible on the left-hand side of the trail. After the caves, the loop continues back towards the top of the waterfall area and crosses the creek before making its way back to the shaded picnic grove and parking area.

Rifle Falls in Winter

Rifle Falls State Park is open all year round. It's Colorado, so expect snow and ice on the trail in the late Autumn through late Spring.

Camping at Rifle Falls

There are 20 camping spots at Rifle Falls State Park. Thirteen are drive-in camping and seven are walk-in sites. All are along Rifle Creek. A number of the sites are reservable from May 1 to Oct. 31, and others are available on a first-come basis. Weekdays have better availability than weekends, and the campsites are in less demand November through April. Because Rifle Falls State Park is open year-round, camping is available year-round as well. Pets are allowed, but must be kept on a 6' leash.

Weddings at Rifle Falls

The Waterfall is also a popular place to tie the knot. The Mountain Mist Amphitheater is reservable and has a capacity of 50. All arrangements must be made ahead of time with the parks office (970) 625-1607. All vehicles must pay the fee or have a Colorado State Parks Pass. Because of the limited parking, those coming for a wedding should plan to car pool or be dropped off at the park.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking at Rifle Falls State Park

  • Go Early: Rifle Falls State Park is small and very popular. The park opens at 7AM, and we recommend that you arrive early for parking.
  • Bring a Flashlight or Headlamp: If you plan to explore the caves, you'll need a light. Bring a flashlight or headlamp to light up some of the chambers you'll discover in the caves.
  • Trail Map for Rifle Falls State Park: Trail Map Link
  • 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: Oliver Ridleys Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jimmy Thomas for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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Fish Creek Falls Near Steamboat Colorado

A 284 foot waterfall! Need we say more. Fish Creek Falls is a 1/4 mile hike located just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado--about 3.5 hours from Denver. The Fish Creek Falls Overlook trail is handicap accessible, and a second trail takes hikers down to the base of the falls. Explore the full Fish Creek Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many the details you need to enjoy this adventure near Steamboat, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fish Creek Falls

The trailhead for the waterfall is about three miles outside of the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Stop at the pay station to purchase the day use fee. There are two parking areas: one will be on your left driving in, and the larger lot--which is closer to the trailhead--at the end of the road.

The Hike: Fish Creek Falls

Fish Creek Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls in Colorado, perfect for families with small children who are not yet able to hike longer distances. It's also wheelchair accessible via the Falls Overlook Trail. There are three different options detailed below.

  1. Fish Creek Falls Overlook Hike:

    This 1/4 mile (one-way) hike leads to the Falls overlook. The trail is paved and handicap accessible. The most direct access to the overlook trail is from the northeast end of the larger parking area, near the interpretive signs and the small shelter.

  2. Fish Creek Falls Hike:

    This second option is also a 1/4 mile (one-way) and leads to the bridge at the base of the falls. The trail is gravel and dirt--not paved like the overlook trail. This trail begins at the far east end of the same parking lot.

  3. 1 Mile Loop:

    Both the overlook and the Fish Creek Falls hikes can be combined to form a kind of 1 mile loop by hiking first to the overlook, then returning through the shaded picnic area to the Fish Creek trail below. After hiking to the bridge, return the way you came.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Fish Creek Falls

  • Bring a Picnic Lunch: The picnic area at Fish Creek Falls is one of the best in the State of Colorado. It's extensive and the trees provide a ton of shade.
  • Springtime is Best: The waterfall roars with the late Spring meltwater.
  • In Winter: The trails to the falls are open year round. You may need snowshoes when the snow gets thick.
  • Explore More: There is another waterfall. A short, but demanding, 2.2 mile (one-way) hike to Upper Fish Creek falls follows the trail beyond the bridge and another 1,100+ feet above the trailhead.
  • 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: Creekside Cafe in Steamboat Springs
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Greg Hamilton for sharing the photograph of this hike.

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waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado


Arch Rocks Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Along the way to The Pool or Fern Falls, you'll run into this towering waypoint of nature in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Arch Rocks. These are boulders as huge as cottages where the trail passes through. The trail is quite flat and hikers get to enjoy the sound of the running waters of the Big Thompson River. Explore the full Arch Rocks hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Arch Rocks in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Arch Rocks in RMNP

Parking is more limited in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park, and you'll likely have to park at the Park & Ride then take the shuttle to the Fern Lake Trailhead. You'll find driving directions above to The Fern Lake Trailhead (closest to this hike), the Fern Lake Bus Stop Parking area (very limited parking), and for the Park & Ride lot. See the RMNP Shuttle page for dates and times of service. Avoid parking along Fern Lake road as this damages the road side. If you park or are dropped off at the Fern Lake Bus Station, the hike from the station to the trailhead will add and additional .8 mile, one-way, to your hike.

The Hike: Arch Rocks in RMNP

It's a short destination hike along the Big Thomspson river to Arch Rocks. Arch Rocks was actually my very first destination on my very first hike in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2004. I camped at the backcountry site that is just a bit further up the trail, nestled back in the aspens and boulders that are so characteristic in this valley.

At approx 1.5 mile a huge rock, the size of a house, arches over the trail. In centuries past, this rock sheered off from the towering cliffs above and tumbled down to this spot. It's difficult to get a good photo of Arch Rocks and to really capture it's size. If you can get down-trail, and a bit below it, you'll have a better chance.

If you want to make your hike a bit longer, the next destination along the Fern Lake trail is The Pool--just .2 mile further--where Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River collide.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Arch Rocks in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • 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.
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Charlie Stein for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Arch Rocks in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Baba's Burgers & Gyros

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elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park