18 Waterfalls in Colorado You Need to Visit

During the early summer months, the waterfalls in Colorado come to life. With the onset of melting snow from the high peaks, these columns of water cascade down cliffs creating magical scenes across the state. The best way to visit these wonders is to head out on one of the many waterfall hikes in Colorado.

Easy to difficult trails exist for every kind of hiker to enjoy the waterfalls in Colorado. Sometimes the falls are the main event, while other times there is another attraction, such as an alpine lake, along the trail too.

One thing is for certain, enjoying waterfall hikes in Colorado takes a little bit of planning, since falls tend to be highly seasonal. 

But don’t fret – I’m a local of 12 years and I know a thing or two about enjoying the best waterfall hikes in Colorado. As a pro writer for the outdoors, I literally get paid to go do this stuff.

You won’t find any better info about waterfall hikes in Colorado on the web. So if you’re looking to experience amazing Colorado scenery like a local, not a tourist, then you’ve come to the right place.

About this Guide to the Best Waterfall Hikes in Colorado

Looking to enjoy the lovely waterfalls in Colorado? Inside this guide you’ll find:

  • The best time for viewing Colorado waterfalls
  • Incredible waterfall hikes near Denver
  • The best waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Must-see falls on the Western Slope
  • More of the best waterfalls in Colorado
  • Important info such as mileage, elevation gain, and difficulty for each waterfall hike
  • Additional Colorado hiking adventures

When to Embark on Waterfall Hikes in Colorado

A lot of people flock to the waterfall hikes in Colorado expecting the thundering falls found along iconic areas such as the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. But here’s the thing: Colorado’s waterfalls don’t flow at full-force year-round.

In fact, after late July, many of the best waterfalls in Colorado become mere trickles.

The absolute best time to embark on a waterfall hike in Colorado is between the months of June and July.

Yup. It’s a short window.

The short season is due to the rapid snowmelt in the mountains. As alpine streams swell, waterfalls in Colorado flourish.

May can sometimes be alright, but if you’re headed to the high country (above 10,000 feet) expect to encounter a lot of snow. Winter hiking isn’t easy so be prepared with proper traction, footwear, and avalanche knowledge if you choose to head out.

best waterfalls in colorado

Waterfall Hikes Near Denver

If you don’t want to travel far from the city check out these waterfall hikes near Denver for a splashing impact. Typically these trails are great by mid-spring, barring any late-season snowstorm. 

1. Boulder Falls

Located up Boulder Canyon just outside of downtown Boulder, Boulder Falls is probably the most easily accessible of all the waterfall hikes in Colorado. Park in a pull off along the canyon, then make your way just a few hundred feet along the trail to Boulder Falls. Don’t expect seclusion as you enjoy the rushing water – since this hike is so short, it is one the most popular Boulder hikes.

  • Mileage: 0.3 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: None
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  15-30 min
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

2. Cascade Falls

Located along the Cascade Creek Trail – the route to the famous Lone Eagle Peak – the Cascade Falls are a delightful half-way stop to Mirror Lake and Lone Eagle Peak (an additional 6 miles, each way). 

However, if you’re not up for a grueling hike, then simply stop at the falls. A deep cut alpine creek gives way to the Cascade Falls – which really do live up to their namesake. 

Local Tip: Be on the lookout for moose, especially if you’re traveling early in the morning.

  • Mileage: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 675 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  3-4 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes
Colorado waterfalls

3. Seven Falls

A classic Colorado Springs hike, Seven Falls is found on the Broadmoor property. Accessing Seven Falls does require an admission fee ($16.50 for adults), but it is so worth it to see these spectacular waterfalls.

You have several different hiking options at Seven Falls. You can simply take the 0.8 mile trail to the base of the falls to see the water rushing down to you, then head up the 224 steps to the top of the falls for a different perspective. From there, you can choose to head back down or continue on to Midnight Falls and Inspiration Point.

  • Mileage: 1.5 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 208 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  30 min-2 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

4. Horsethief Falls

Not too far from Colorado Springs, Horsethief Falls makes a great moderate hike for all ages to visit a waterfall. This hike is very popular, but the wide trail makes it easy to navigate. As you meander through a lovely forest, the trail narrows and up towards the falls. Spend some time basking in the beauty of Horsethief Falls then head back the way you came.

  • Mileage: 2.6 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 551 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  1-2 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is home to an amazing array of cascading falls. Fortunately, the best time to visit Rocky Mountain NP includes the summery waterfall season.

Local Tip: You’ll need an America the Beautiful Pass or $25 to enter the park. In 2021 advanced reservations are required.

5. Alberta Falls

An easy intro to the hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, Alberta Falls is a quick but worthwhile waterfall hike. At just over a mile and a half round trip with a minimal 200 feet of elevation gain, this is a great trail for families, which makes it very popular. You pass through aspen groves, which are stunningly gorgeous when they turn to gold in autumn, to get to the beautiful 30-foot waterfall.

  • Mileage: 1.6 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 232 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  1 hour
  • Dog Friendly: No

6. Ouzel Falls (Wild Basin)

Bonus points for covering three fantastic falls on just one trail. Follow the St. Vrain Creek along the Wild Basin Trail past several waterfalls. First, you’ll come to the small Copeland Falls just a third of a mile into the hike. Then make your way another mile and a half to the taller 200-foot Calypso Cascades. Finally, head to Ouzel Falls, where you can sunbathe on rock slabs and have a picnic lunch before heading back to the trailhead.

  • Mileage: 5.3 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 954 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  3-4 hours
  • Dog Friendly: No
waterfall hikes in Colorado

7. Bridal Veil Falls

You’ll meander through a meadow on the way to Bridal Veil Falls, which makes this hike one of the best wildflower hikes in Colorado. Start at Cow Creek Trailhead, and follow that trail through the meadow to the junction that takes you toward the falls.

As you get closer to Bridal Veil Falls, the trail gets steeper and very rocky, and eventually you’ll have to do some scrambling to get to the top. It’s not too difficult, but the rocks can be slippery when wet. You’ll be rewarded by the stunning waterfalls as well as views of the meadows below.

  • Mileage: 6.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 964 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  3-4 hours
  • Dog Friendly: No

8. Ribbon Falls (Black Lake)

While you can find many mellow waterfall hikes in Colorado, the hike to Ribbon Falls and Black Lake provides more of a challenge and is truly one of the best Estes Park hikes. Start at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in RMNP and head up past Alberta Falls and several alpine lakes, including Mills Lake and Jewel Lake.

Appreciate the splendor of the splashing Ribbon Falls, but don’t miss the final section of the trail to Black Lake itself. The breathtaking views there will prove that this is one of the most incredible alpine lake hikes in Colorado.

  • Mileage: 9.7 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1.643 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Estimated Time:  5-6 hours
  • Dog Friendly: No

Waterfall Hikes on the Western Slope

They call it “West Sope, best slope” for a reason. This fantastic landscape hosts several waterfalls in Colorado that you’ll want to add to your bucket list.

9. Box Canyon Falls

Located in Ouray, the hike around Box Canyon Falls showcases why the town is known as the “Switzerland of America.” You’ll hike over a suspension bridge and through a tunnel to explore the different tiers where you can watch the 285-foot waterfalls crash down. As one of the top things to do in Ouray, Box Canyon is well worth a visit. If you come to Box Canyon Falls in the winter, you’ll see the unique frozen waterfalls which make Ouray a mecca for ice climbers.

Local tip: There is a $5 access fee to explore Box Canyon Falls. You can even opt to take the Via Ferrata route across the falls.

  • Mileage: 1 mile out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  1 hour
  • Dog Friendly: No

10. Rifle Falls

Take the Coyote Trail for an easy loop around the gorgeous landscape of Rifle Falls State Park ($9 day pass per vehicle required for entry). You’ll find surprisingly lush greenery in this area, thanks to all the water. Along with the three stunning waterfalls, you can also explore the cool limestone caves that are common in the area. Don’t forget to bring a headlamp or flashlight if you want to do some spelunking!

  • Mileage: 1.5 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 70 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  1 hour
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash
Waterfall hikes in Colorado

11. Judd Falls

This hike offers more than just an awesome waterfall – you’ll also encounter excellent views of Mt. Crested Butte, Mt. Baldy, and Gothic Mountain. Depending on the season, you can find wildflowers or golden aspens along the way. After you reach Judd Falls, you have the option to turn back or continue on to Copper Lake if you want more time on the trail.

  • Mileage: 2.2 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 462 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  1-1.5 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

12. Bridal Veil Falls

As one of the top hikes in Telluride, you’ve got to check out Bridal Veil Falls. Between you and me, this is the most impressive waterfall in Colorado. It’s a tall ribbon of water that you can explore from down below or above. 

Located right near the start of the Telluride Via Ferrata along Black Bear Pass Road, you can hike from the main parking lot in Telluride or opt for a quick stop along one of the most scenic drives in Colorado. 

Local Tip: Parking is exceptionally limited along the road, it’s better to hike the trail up to the falls.

  • Mileage: 4.8 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,368 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  2-3 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

Other Amazing Waterfall Hikes in Colorado

Still not satisfied with your Colorado waterfall lust? Check out these trails that lead to ribbons of rushing water. Did you see that rainbow in the early morning light?

13. Hanging Lake

You’ll find the incredible Hanging Lake hike on the western side of the Continental Divide – just outside of Glenwood Springs. As one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, Hanging Lake is a must-see destination.

And the best part? It’s not only one of the most beautiful lake hikes in Colorado, but it’s also got two fantastic waterfalls. The first is at the lake proper – it’s a lot bigger than the photos would have you believe. The second is the Spouting Rock falls, where water literally spews from a hole in the middle of a cliff. 

Local Tip: For the best chance at seeing the power of flowing water, visit Hanging Lake during April and May.

  • Mileage: 3.1 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,187 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  2-3 hours
  • Dog Friendly: No
  • Cost: $12 per person advanced reservation permit required.
waterfall hikes in Colorado

14. North Clear Creek Falls

While this is really more of an overlook than a hike, North Clear Creek Falls is absolutely breathtaking and a must-visit if you’re in Lake City or Creede. Bring your camera and be sure to wander around a bit to check out the different vantage points of the roaring water.

  • Mileage: 0.3 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: None
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  15 minutes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

15. Treasure Falls

The Treasure Falls Trail is a little loop that lives up to its name. Although this waterfalls in Colorado are not exactly a hidden treasure – you probably won’t find yourself alone at this popular spot in Pagosa Springs – the 100-foot waterfall is a visual feast for the eyes. And you can even walk onto the Misty Deck to delight your other senses and feel the spray hit your skin.

  • Mileage: 0.6 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 196 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time: 30 minutes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

16. Booth Falls

Along one of the most beautiful Vail hikes, Booth Falls is beautiful wooded waterfall that gets quite a bit of love. Best seen in early July, this hike is a real butt buster. Climb your way up and out of the trailhead valley with varying steepness to reach the falls.

Continue onwards another mile (and 1,600 feet of gain) to reach Booth Lake or enjoy the sounds of the rushing water.

Local Tip: Parking here fills up fast, so either get there early or be prepared to add a half-mile of paved road walking to your trip.

  • Mileage: 4.2 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,358 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time:  2-3 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash
waterfall hikes near Denver

17. Zapata Falls

This easy, quick trail takes you to a large (by Colorado standards) waterfall nestled in a dense, rocky canyon. Let the sound of rhe roaring water rush into your ears as it echos off of the granite canyon walls. Many people opt to walk into the creek here, just be sure of your footing and be prepared for numbingly cold water!

  • Mileage: 0.9 miles out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 213 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time: 30 min-1 hour
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

18. South Mineral Creek Falls

The turquoise water of South Fork Mineral Creek spills down the falls just a half mile from the South Mineral Campground, where you can spend the night if you want to make your waterfall hike into a longer adventure. From the campground, you’ll cross Clear Creek and follow a trail where you’ll find many small waterfalls and aquamarine pools, as well as an awesome double waterfall.

  • Mileage: 1 mile out & back 
  • Elevation Gain: None
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Estimated Time:  1 hour
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

Additional Colorado Hiking Resources

Hike like a local, not a tourist with these incredible Colorado hiking resources:

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Colorado is home to several beautiful waterfalls that you'll definitely want to see! If you're wondering where to go in Colorado, these are the most beautiful waterfalls you should definitely check out on your Colorado itinerary!

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.