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16 Best Waterfalls in Colorado

Written by Carri Wilbanks
Feb 18, 2020

There's no better reward at the end of a Colorado hiking trail than reaching a waterfall. Just listening to the rush of hydrogen and oxygen molecules cascading down into a pool is soothing, and if it is a hot day and you get misted by the spray, well that's an added benefit.

Colorado is home to hundreds of waterfalls and fabulous hikes to them. Some, like Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride, tumble down some 365 feet, while others, like South Mineral Creek Falls near Silverton, feature shorter drops but impressive turquoise pools or multiple cascades. And while some waterfall hikes are quite strenuous, gaining more than a thousand feet in elevation, others like Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs and Seven Falls in Colorado Springs, are accessible to everyone, even people in wheelchairs or parents pushing kids in strollers.

Plan your next day hike with our list of the best waterfalls in Colorado.

1. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Colorado's tallest free-falling waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls, drops 365 feet into a box canyon that is also home to the charming mountain town of Telluride, known for its epic skiing and festivals. Bridal Veil Falls can be reached via a short but steep 1.8-mile hike that gains 1,200 feet in elevation on rocky terrain. To access the trail, head east through Telluride on Colorado Ave. You'll pass the old Pandora Mill on the left, then look for the dirt road marked "County Road." The trail is also open to cyclists.

2. Seven Falls

Seven Falls

Just outside Colorado Springs, Seven Falls is one of the most touristy waterfalls in Colorado but none-the-less impressive. Here, the water tumbles 181 feet down a canyon in seven segments (hence the name). Seven Falls are also the most accessible of natural attractions — you can reach the top in an elevator built into the mountain!

Unless you have mobility issues, however, we recommend taking the more active approach that has you climb 224 steps to the viewing area at the top. From here, you also have impressive views of Colorado Springs and eastward to the beginning of the Great Plains.

3. South Mineral Creek Falls

South Mineral Creek Falls

In the southwest corner of Colorado near Durango and Silverton, South Mineral Creek Falls wows visitors by cascading down in two steps. The first step drops about 35 feet into a shimmering turquoise pool surrounded by craggy reddish peaks. From the pool, the water drops another 20 feet into a narrow gorge.

To reach the falls from Silverton, you'll take the Million Dollar Highway (US 550 north) toward Red Mountain Pass until you reach Road 7. From here, it is a 4.5-mile drive to the South Mineral Creek Campground where you pick up the hiking trail. The trail follows the south fork of the creek to the falls at an elevation of 9,950 feet.

4. Fish Creek Falls

Fish Creek Falls

Tumbling down 280 feet in the Yampa Valley near Steamboat Springs, Fish Creek Falls are easy to access regardless of age or athletic ability — a paved half-mile trail runs to the base of the falls and is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers alike.

The falls can be visited year-round, but seeing them in spring is most impressive. This is when the snowmelt reaches a peak, and the volume of water increases enough to create a thunderous roar.

For a proper hike, you can continue 2.5 miles past the base to Fish Creek's upper falls. The trail is quite strenuous, gaining more than 1,600-feet in elevation as it winds through the canyon. The hike takes about three hours round-trip.

5. Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls during the spring runoff

Located inside Rocky Mountain National Park near the Estes Park entrance, the waterfall hike to Ouzel Falls is one of the lushest walks in Colorado. Along the way, you'll pass plenty of greenery and a few small falls and cascades that keep you motivated on the way to the main attraction.

Ouzel Falls only tumbles about 40 feet, but it is a beautiful fall through a crack in a dark-grey rock wall. The drop is into a pool filled with boulders and fallen trees. To access the falls, you'll follow the Wild Basin Trailhead for 2.7 miles.

6. Zapata Falls

A hiker exploring Zapata Falls

Considered a Colorado hidden gem, Zapata Falls is a 25-foot waterfall that drops down into a sheltered rocky crevasse. The waterfall is just three miles south of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and getting to them requires some slippery adventure over wet rocks and through chilly river water. It's not a hike you do in cold temperatures!

That said, in summer it's a refreshing half-mile scramble to the falls, and the cool water actually feels good, as this part of the state can get really hot in summer. Also the view of the sand dunes from the waterfall hiking trail parking lot is breathtaking.

7. Box Canyon Falls

Box Canyon Falls, Ouray

One of the most dramatic waterfalls in the state is found in a visually stunning box canyon in the tiny mountain town of Ouray. Aptly named Box Canyon Falls, they tumble down 280 feet with a huge roar. The falls can be experienced from all angles thanks to a staircase, a short hiking trail, and suspension bridge, all three of which are accessible from Ouray's southwest corner in Box Canyon Falls Park, which has a small visitor center.

The lower trail is a 500-foot hike along a walkway and suspension bridge that takes you right into the belly of the falls. The sound of thousands of gallons of water rushing past you is an experience unto itself. There is also a short but steep hike from the visitor center to a bridge above the falls to see its energy from the top.

8. Helen Hunt Falls

Helen Hunt Falls, North Cheyenne Canon Park

Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs' North Cheyenne Canon Park can be accessed a few different ways. There is a super short hiking trail next to the Helen Hunt Falls visitor center or a longer out-and-back hike. Either way, the 35-foot waterfall cascading down a rock wall is magical, especially in late spring when it reaches full volume thanks to snowmelt.

In winter, the falls are also quite gorgeous when they freeze, although the trail can be quite slippery during the snowy season. To take the longer trail, you'll park at the Strasmore Visitor Center and follow the Lower Columbine Trail for four miles to Helen Hunt Falls. You will have to hike back out.

9. Hanging Lake

Waterfall at Hanging Lake

The hike to jade-hued Hanging Lake is one of the most popular in the state, so popular in fact, the parks department has had to start requiring reservations to hike it. Just outside of Glenwood Springs, Hanging Lake truly is a special place, with multiple waterfalls cascading off a cliff on one side. Not only is the lake itself an unexpected color for its location — it looks like it should be part of the sea in a tropical paradise — but it also gives the mirage of clinging to the edge of the mountain, creating a surreal environment all around.

10. Continental Falls

Upper Continental Falls

Rushing through cracks in the granite sides of the Mosquito Range's eastern slope just outside of Breckenridge, Continental Falls makes another great waterfall hike for those in relatively good shape. To reach the falls, you'll climb 1,070 feet in 2.5 miles at 10,380 feet starting elevation (yes you'll be huffing and puffing), but it's worth the effort.

The trail is beautiful, taking you past mountain lakes and an old mining camp. It is especially beautiful in fall when the leaves are glowing gold and orange. You'll have to hike out the way you came in, but it's all downhill on the way back. Dogs are allowed on leashes on the trail.

11. Rifle Falls

Beautiful Rifle Falls in Rifle Falls State Park

Inside Rifle Falls State Park near the town of Rifle in northwestern Colorado, Rifle Falls is another super accessible waterfall. Accessed via a 0.1-mile stroll along a handicap accessible paved walkway or a slightly longer 1.5-mile, out-and-back round-trip trail, the falls drop 70 feet down limestone cliffs in a triple drop that culminates in a cave hidden beneath.

From the base of the falls, you'll get misted with water, which feels great on a hot summer day. It also leads to a unique looking landscape with moss-covered rocks and flowers, not often seen in this arid portion of the state. You can also explore the caves via different hiking trails.

12. North Clear Creek Falls

North Clear Creek Falls

Definitely one of Colorado's most beautiful waterfalls, North Clear Creek Falls drops 100-plus feet into a gorgeous southwestern Colorado landscape near Lake City. To reach the falls, you'll take the Silver Thread Scenic Byway to Forest Road 510 — look for the turnoff just after Spring Creek pass. The falls are just a five-minute super easy walk from the road. It isn't exactly a hike, but it is a good spot to have a picnic, especially when the water is really gushing in early summer.

13. Forsythe Falls

Just outside of Boulder, the hike to Forsythe Falls is a good choice for families or anyone looking for a relatively easy hike. The hike to the waterfall is just a little over a mile — it's an out-and-back hike, so two miles round trip — and takes you through the wooded Forsythe Canyon.

The falls drop about 25 feet into a clear blue lake, but aren't the most prolific in the state, so to see them at more than a trickle, you'll want to go during peak snowmelt season in May or early June. Regardless of water pressure, however, this is a lovely hike, with decent shade on hot summer days and wildflowers in season.

14. Booth Falls

View from the top of Booth Falls

Between March and October, the waterfall hike to Booth Falls in the Eagles Nest Wilderness just outside of Vail is one of the most popular in the region. But it's no easy stroll. The 3.9-mile round trip (it is an out-and-back route) gains 1,358 feet on the way up to Booth Falls, making it quite a difficult uphill haul. Because of the high elevation, it is really best to do in the heat of summer, when the snow has begun to properly melt and the wildflowers are in bloom.

15. Bear Creek Falls

Bear Creek Falls, Telluride

The hike to Bear Creek Falls along the Bear Creek Preserve Trail is one of Telluride's most popular family-friendly hikes. Considered a must-do if you are going to lace up your boots, it is an easy-to-moderate, 2.5-mile one-way hike to the falls (you then have to hike out the way you came). The trail gains 1,050 feet as it meanders through woodland and past meadows strewn with wildflowers after a good rain, ending at Bear Creek Falls, which are a set of waterfalls tumbling off a series of craggy rocks into a pool.

16. Horsetooth Falls

Horsetooth Falls

In the Horsetooth Mountain Park just outside Fort Collins, the Horsetooth Falls Loop Trail is a 2.9-mile round trip that takes you past Horsetooth Falls, which tumble down a narrow rock chute. It is a good family hike for school-age kids, as it only gains 580 feet in elevation, and because it covers a loop, you don't get bored with the same scenery in and out. The trail can get hot in summer, however, due to a lack of shade, so it's best to go early in the morning or late afternoon.

On the plus side, during colder months, it stays warmer thanks to the lack of trees. A number of animals also call this area home, and you can spot everything from deer to coyotes in the tall grasslands.

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