Looking for a trail that will provide some shade on a hot Colorado day? This hiking trail has shade, plus a waterfall, a stream, a canyon, and lake. It’s hard to beat. Forsythe Canyon is just outside Boulder, Colorado (1hr 15min from Denver), and is an easy to moderate hike. Check out our full hiking trail profile for details and be sure to read the directions to this trailhead carefully.

Trail Snapshot: Forsythe Canyon Trail

The shade of a wooded canyon, combined with a waterfall, ending at a blue lake, make this hike near Boulder Colorado worthwhile. Though it’s probably 25′ high, the waterfall is not what I’d call spectacular. So, if you are going for this waterfall, I’d recommend going early in the season when the snowmelt is at its peak in May and early June.

The trail winds gently downhill through a canyon, beside a creek, sheltered beneath fir and spruce. In fact, of the hikes we have profiled, this trail may provide more shade than any trail near Denver. You’ll come upon the falls about 1 mile into the hike and the reservoir is just 200 yards further down the trail. In fact, reaching the clear blue water was the highlight for our kids.

We skipped rocks and hiked along the sandy and rock rim so that we could explore more of the lake. With the water levels being so low, and a large tree blocking the shot, I couldn’t get a good photo of the falls.

forsyth canyon at the gross reservoir

One important note. The trail is a bit difficult to find just above the waterfall, in fact, if you take the wrong route, it appears to lead you down a rock face – which is not a good idea, especially with kids. The correct route bears to the left of a cedar tree, will lead you up further above and away from the falls, then back down into the canyon floor. I’ve posted a photo below showing the juncture. Even in the photo, it’s hard to see the trail.

Correct route above Forsythe falls

Tips & Resources for Hiking Forsythe Canyon:

  • TIP: If you are coming from Denver, it’s quite a drive. The payoff is that the parking lot was almost empty on memorial day weekend. We recommend making a day of it and spending some time in Boulder before or after the hike.
  • TIP: The Reservoir is stocked with Kokanee Salmon, and this stretch of it is where they supposedly like to hang out. So, bring your fishing gear. Here is a link to a Dept. of Wildlife PDF with information on the stock on the lake and some links to the fishing regulations for Gross Reservoir.
  • TIP: Swimming and Wading are Prohibited
  • TIP: The Google Map & Directions: The trailhead parking lot is new, and really nice (with a restroom), and the directions above are accurate. However, I get a lot of email from folks who plug this map into their GPS and somehow miss it and try to drive down FR359. Remember, GPS is only accurate up to a point. Once you turn off of Magnolia and onto 68, drive for 2 miles then turn right into the parking lot just before FR359. Look for a gravel parking lot with a restroom and a wooden fence surrounding the perimeter. You can zoom in on the Google Map to get a feel for what it looks like. Google updated the satellite photos recently, so the parking lot now shows. You can check here for seasonal road closures of FR359. Or you can all 303-541-2500 (Boulder Ranger District) to check the road status before heading out on your adventure
  • TIP: Be sure to take the recommended route using Magnolia road. We’ve had a few emails from folks trying to reach the Forsythe Canyon Trailhead from Lakeshore Road. My understanding is that it’s not possible, or at least highly problematic.
  • After the Hike: After the Hike: Ozo Coffee
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
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      Map & Driving Directions to Forsythe Canyon Trailhead

      Click for Driving Directions

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Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson has been hiking in Colorado for over 20 years. The owner and editor of Dayhikes Near Denver, Aaron writes every trail profile as a local guide who has hiked hundreds of miles of trails along the Front Range and deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.