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.


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.


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


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

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