Colorado’s snowpack is the lifeblood of the West. As it melts and makes its way down rivers and valleys, it makes some fine waterfalls, too. Late spring and early summer are the ideal times to make the most of the melt and see the falls gushing. Obviously, the falls are a grand sight to see, but they hit the other senses too. You hear the sound of water tumbling down the rocks. You feel the cool mist settling as the warm sun shines. Read on for our 7 Stunning Waterfall Hikes.
Some of these trails will hang on to spring hiking conditions for a while (even through June) – be sure to read up on our Spring Hiking Guide and How to Pack for a Spring Adventure to be sure you’re prepared.
Also, note, the falls are alluring but don’t get too close. A safety note from RMNP Public Affairs Officer Kyle Patterson, “Park waters are frigid. Powerful currents can knock you over and pull you downstream or underwater, where you may become trapped. Streamside rocks are often slippery, and nearby water may be deep. Always closely supervise children around all water but especially near rivers and streams.”
- Super-easy to Easy – A short set of stairs from the parking lot to 2.5 mi round-trip and 465 ft elevation gain
- The difficulty of this one can change! When Old Fall River Road is open for the summer (usually late-June or July), this “hike” is just short jaunt down a set of stairs from the road. Just because the road is not quite open to vehicles doesn’t mean you can’t put your legs to work. It’s a fairly mild incline, and not too long of a distance from the Endovalley picnic area.
- Easy – 1.6 mi round-trip, 250 ft elevation gain
- Distance and elevation are from Glacier Gorge Trailhead. This hike is also easily accessible from the Bear Lake Trailhead, where there is a larger parking lot, but adds about a mile to the round-trip distance and a decent elevation gain on the way back.
Copeland Falls – Calypso Cascade – Ouzel Falls
- Moderate – 5.3 mi round-trip, 921 ft elevation gain
- Listed as moderate, you can make your own distance and difficulty on this hike. With three different waterfalls along the trail, you can stop wherever you wish for a custom out-and-back.
- Moderate – 7.1 mi round-trip, 1453 ft elevation gain
- This distance and elevation gain is to Fern Lake – it’s closer to a five-mile round trip to the dramatic, 60-foot tall falls, but if you’ve got the energy you might as well check out the lake too.
- Difficult – 8.3 mi round-trip, 1852 ft elevation gain
- This distance and elevation gain is to Sky Pond. Timberline Falls is located just below Lake of Glass which is just below Sky Pond. To reach the upper lakes, you actually scramble next to Timberline Falls.
- Difficult – 9.6 mi round-trip, 1643 ft elevation gain
- This distance and elevation gain is to Black Lake. Ribbon Falls spills out of the edge of Black Lake as it turns into Glacier Creek headed downhill toward Jewel and Mills Lakes.
Isabelle Glacier Falls
- Difficult – 8.4 mi round-trip, 1660 ft elevation gain
- This trail is not located in Rocky Mountain National Park, but starts in the nearby Brainard Lake Recreation Area, about a 45-minute drive on the beautiful Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. This means dogs are allowed as long as they are on leash. There are falls located along the trail between Lake Isabelle and the Isabelle Glacier.
If you’re visiting on Memorial Day Weekend or later, Rocky Mountain National Park’s Free Shuttles will be running. This is a great way to not have to mess with parking at the trailhead.