With 81 official waterfalls, Colorado is the 11th most waterfall-abundant state in the U.S. (Oregon tops the list with 226). So there’s no shortage of waterfall hikes to choose from in the Centennial State. Here are four of our favorites.
Fish Creek Falls – Steamboat
This 280-foot behemoth is one of the most jaw-dropping waterfalls in Colorado, and it’s just a quarter of a mile from the nearest trailhead. For hikers seeking a more of a challenge, a 2.5-mile intermediate out-and-back trail continues to the smaller Upper Fish Creek Falls.
If you go: Parking at the trailhead costs $5 per day. Dogs are welcome. After the trip, we recommend a beer and burger at Sunpie’s Bistro in Steamboat.
Getting there: From Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs, go north on 3rd Street and then take a right on Fish Creek Falls Road. It’s four miles to the trailhead parking lot.
Judd Falls – Crested Butte
This easy out-and-back trail is about half a mile to the falls, and another five miles to Copper Lake (a beautiful turquoise lake with mountain views). When you get to the falls, walk down to the right and take a seat on the engraved bench to enjoy the sights and sounds of the waterfall.
If you go: There is no entrance or parking fee, but be sure to fill out a permit if you take the trail to Copper Lake: it helps the rangers keep track of how many people are using the trail.
Getting there: From Crested Butte, take Highway 135 north until it becomes Gothic Rd. Follow the road past the ghost town of Gothic and follow the signs for Judd Falls; it’s about 0.3 miles from Gothic to the trailhead.
Photo courtesy Go Hike CO
St. Mary’s Falls – Colorado Springs
With many smaller waterfalls along the way, this intermediate out-and-back trail offers plenty of opportunities to get your feet wet and enjoy the lush green summer foliage. A 1.6-mile trek takes you to the main waterfall, featuring a breathtaking view of water cascading 250 feet down a solid granite wall.
If you go: There are no entrance or parking fees for St. Mary’s Falls, and dogs are allowed. After your hike, check out the Ivywild School in south Colorado Springs.
Getting there: From Colorado Springs, take W. Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard to Old Stage Road, which turns into Gold Camp Road. Follow Gold Camp Road past Helen Hunt Falls until it dead ends at a locked gate: the trailhead is 1.2 miles past the gate, to the left of an abandoned tunnel blocked off by a fence.
Bridal Veil Falls – Glenwood Springs
Suspended on the edge of a limestone cliff, the 1.5-acre Hanging Lake, fed by Bridal Veil Falls, is a hidden oasis of crystal-clear water and lush hanging gardens. This intermediate out-and-back trail is 1.2 miles one way, but it’s a steep, rocky climb to reach the falls. Most of the trail is shaded and runs parallel to Dead Horse Creek.
If you go: Arrive before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to avoid the crowd. There are no parking or entrance fees. Swimming, fishing, and dogs are not allowed. Wash the adventure down with a beer at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company.
Getting there: Go 22 miles west of Eagle on I-70, to the Grizzly Creek exit in Glenwood Canyon. After exiting, get back on the highway going eastbound to the Hanging Lake exit. The trail is 1/4-mile east of the rest area on the left just before the bridge.
This issue of Bootprints provided by Molly McCowan.