lakeshore of gross reservoir on forsythe canyon hike near boulder

Forsythe Canyon to Waterfall and Gross Reservoir

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
bridal veil falls waterfall pouring over cliff face with waterwheel at base among green trees in idaho springs colorado

Bridal Veil Falls Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park

Atwenty foot waterfall hidden away in the northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park, Bridal Veil Falls makes for a great destination hike. Keep your eyes out for Elk in the meadows along this hiking trail in Colorado's favorite National Park. Get the hike information you need with our hiking snapshot for Bridal Veil Falls, and get more details by exploring the details and tips below.

Trail Snapshot: Bridal Veil Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bridal Veil Falls is a gem tucked away in the northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike is about 1hr 45 minutes from the Denver area and features expansive meadows, wildflowers, forest, and a little bit of a rock scramble. Bridal Veil Falls launches from a rock slab at a diagonal, making it a beautiful site. Most visitors to the National Park go to the center of the park, so you may find yourself alone on the trail on a weekday. I wouldn't expect that on the weekend though.

trail to bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park

Like most areas in the park, the wildlife is abundant. We often joke, calling it the zoo. Elk and deer, as well as eagles and other raptors can be seen along Cow Creek trail. The trail to Bridal Veil Falls begins at the Cow Creek Trailhead. You'll pass through meadows and see the cascades along Cow Creek. Eventually, you'll hike up in the forest, getting a bit of a break from the sun. Before the waterfall, you'll encounter some rocks to hike and scramble over, making this a more moderate hike.

bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park
Thanks to Catherine Kunst for the photos on this profile. You can read Catherine's trip report at her site here.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Bridal Veil Falls:

  • A Great View: Cross the stream then work your way up the area just left of the falls to the stream above. It's beautiful above the falls, just take care not to turn it into a rock climb. Remember that Water + Rock = Slippery.
  • Parking is a Limited: It's just a small area along the road near the ranch. You'll need to parallel park. Also, get their early for a space.
  • Not Much Shade: Bring the sunscreen. You'll be in the sun a lot along Cow Creek Trail.
  • RMNP Park Map: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: After the Hike: Poppy's Pizza

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alberta falls waterfall in granite canyon with cascades in foreground in rocky mountain national park

Alberta Falls Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is full of waterfalls and this hike takes you to one of the most accessible waterfalls in the park. Alberta Falls is one of the most popular, short destination hikes in the park, and for good reason. If you only have time for one short hike on the East Side of RMNP, this is a great choice. To get to Alberta Falls, park at at the Bear Lake Trailhead (see google directions below), then follow the signs south for Glacier Gorge and Alberta Falls. The waterfall is .8 miles down the trail from the parking area, make this a 1.6 mile out-and-back hike. Start early and hike the full 2.8 miles of trail in to stunning Mills lake inside Glacier Gorge.
Trail Snapshot: Alberta Falls

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Alberta Falls

  • Visitors and Vacationers: Alberta Falls is a great place to take visiting family and friends because it's not too difficult, and you have a lot of options if you want to explore the park
  • Bring a Lunch: Getting this far into the park, even just driving, is quite a trip from the outside world. We suggest packing a lunch so that you can stay longer. And food just tastes better outside anyway.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Maps: Maps Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Poppy's Pizza

waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.

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maxwell falls with waterfall and hikers above and at the base of the waterfall

Maxwell Falls Near Evergreen, Colorado

The Maxwell Falls hike is our most popular hike near Denver. Why? Because it's a perfect Colorado family hike with a variety of terrain, and the it takes you to one of the closest waterfalls to Denver. Below you'll find three different hike options: a one mile hike, a three mile loop, and a four mile trek--all taking you to Maxwell falls.

In the last few years, Maxwell Falls has become one of the most popular destination hikes near Denver, and it's having a negative impact. In other words, Maxwell Falls is being loved to death. Please read through the orange box for some of the basic trail etiquette that will help protect this beautiful place.

Trail Snapshot: Maxwell Falls Hike

When we were moving to Denver, we were looking for a great house and for great hikes, and our favorite hikes end with a waterfall. Waterfalls close to Denver, Colorado don't have a lot of wow-factor, but they make great for great destination hikes. There are 3 ways to hike to Maxwell falls. Our favorite is the Cliff Trail loop because it gives you the falls a reward at the end. The falls are more of a series cascades, but are worth the hike. If you want to explore more waterfalls near Denver, check out our Waterfall Hikes Near Denver page.

Hike Options for Maxwell Falls Trails.

1. The Short Version:

Less than 1 mile round trip - Begin at the Upper Trailhead and follow the signs to the falls. It's just under half a mile, one way.

2. The Cliff Trail Loop:

3 Miles - Start at the upper trailhead lot. The trail will split a couple times and you'll want to bear left, following the signs that point you down the Cliff Trail. You'll climb a bit to a rock promontory that gives you beautiful views of the valley below. You will begin a descent to the creek bed, then the trail will turn and head upstream. Follow it until you hear the falls. After the falls, follow the trail back up to the upper lot.

maxwell-falls-hiking-with-kids

3. Lower Maxwell Falls Hike

- 4 Miles Round Trip - Begin at the lower parking area and hike up the valley and along Maxwell Creek for about 2 miles. About 1.7 miles along the trail, you'll cross to the other side of the creek. Shortly after that, you'll hear the falls. Return the same way you came.

We've had some inquiries about whether or not there is camping at Maxwell Falls. Because this area gets so much traffic, we recommend camping elsewhere. It is permissible to camp on USFS land, but it's important to take into consideration our impact, and the Maxwell Falls area is getting loved to death. I'd recommend checking out Reserve America for other camping ideas.

So, strap on your hiking boots, grab a picnic lunch and your trekking poles, then hit the trail to Maxwell Falls.

Help Care for Maxwell Falls Area

Maxwell Falls and the surrounding trails get an incredible amount of traffic, and in recent years, hikers have really harmed the area. So, during your visit (and as always), follow Leave No Trace principles and the following:

  • Pick up trash on your hike (especially your own). There is no trash service at this trailhead.
  • Pack out dog droppings
  • Keep Dogs on a Leash
  • No fires or digging fire-pits. Fires pose an extreme danger to nearby residents.
  • If parking is full, come back later, or find a different hike. Roadside parking is causing erosion and safety hazards.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Maxwell Falls:

  • TIP: This trail gets a ton of use, so make an effort to pick up a few pieces of trash while you are making your trek to the falls.
  • TIP: Be on alert for the signage. It's easy to miss, and sometimes in disrepair. I'd recommend reading through the comments section below for details.
  • After the Hike: Beaujos Pizza in Evergreen
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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

Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.


Waterfall Hike in Castlewood Canyon State Park, Colorado

Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon

This may be the most accessible waterfall near Denver. If you hit the right parking lot, it's a 10 minute hike.So, grab a park brochure and find the Northernmost trailhead for the Creek Bottom Trail (Homestead Trailhead). This will add close to 1 mile to your hike. Then you can loop back via the Cherry Creek Trail for a total of about 2 miles.

Trail Snapshot: Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon

Tips & Resources for Hiking to the Castlewood Canyon Waterfall

  • Easy to Miss: The West Side entrance can be hard to find. Usually, Colorado state parks have brown signs indicating the park roads. The west side doesn't. But the name of the road you're looking for is "Castlewood Canyon" - easy to remember.
  • Shortest Access: The shortest way to access the falls is by parking at the Waterfall Parking Lot, then taking the Waterfall Spur to the Creek Bottom Trail. Head South, and you'll hear the waterfall in just a few moments.
  • Exposed: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen
  • Poison Ivy: We've been surprised how poison ivy flourishes in this park, often along the edge of the trail. Know how to identify it, so that you can avoid it. But don't let that deter you from the park. You just need to keep an eye out. See our post on how to identify and treat poison ivy.
  • Trail Map for Castlewood Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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

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