While hiking any trail in Northern Colorado is rewarding, it’s the ones with lakes and waterfalls at the end of them that make all the effort truly worthwhile. Luckily, because Rocky Mountain National Park is nearby, there’s no shortage of opportunities to go waterfall hunting in the area!
We rounded up some of our favorite local waterfall trails. Each one of these trails leads to an awe-inspiring waterfall, complete with mountain views, vistas, lakes and more. Whether you want a quick trip just up the road or an adventure two hours away, every single hike on this list promises stunning sights, challenges and a breath of fresh air—just remember to wear waterproof shoes!
Our list is ordered by hiking distance, so keep that in mind as you’re scrolling through. To see the exact location of each waterfall, click on the city or park name next to each listing or check out our handy interactive map below!
Roundtrip: 100 Yards
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Boulder Falls in Nederland is a very quick hike with a big reward! This 100-yard hiking trail is just outside of Boulder and will lead you into a cliff-lined nook in Boulder Canyon where the creek gushes out to form one of the best waterfalls in the Front Range. Since it’s not a huge hike, consider adding another nearby hike to the itinerary like the Flatirons Vista Loop Trail, Rattlesnake Gulch Trail or Forsyth Canyon (which includes another waterfall!).
Roundtrip: 0.2 miles
While the hike to Soldier Canyon Falls isn’t a super long trek—it’s only about 0.2 miles roundtrip—it does make a fantastic addition to a few of the other amazing hikes in Lory State Park. The area is just 25 minutes from Fort Collins, making it the perfect afternoon jaunt or all-day exploration activity! The trail crosses over three bridges finally reaching the pool at the bottom of Soldier Canyon Falls. The view from the bridges is stunning, offering peeks of the Soldier Canyon Creek and Soldier Canyon.
Roundtrip: 1.7 Miles
For a leisurely waterfall hike, head to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Roughly eight-tenths of a mile from the trailhead, hikers will find one of the most popular hiking destinations in the park: Alberta Falls. This scenic, 30-foot waterfall thunders down a narrow gorge into Glacier Creek, offering a stunning (and rewarding) view. Because this hike is fairly short, we recommend packing a picnic lunch to enjoy near the waterfall!
Roundtrip: 2.8 Miles
For another rushing waterfall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, head to the Endovalley Picnic Area in Horsehoe Park—located just west of Estes Park. From the parking area at the trailhead, you’ll hike up the historic “Motor Nature Trail,” which was opened in 1920 and was the first road to cross over the national park! After 1.4 miles, you’ll reach the falls viewing platform, where you can comfortably watch the falls drop 25 feet through a narrow granite chasm. Because this trail has a short summer season and is very popular, we recommend checking the park website to make sure the road to the trailhead is open before visiting.
It’s no secret that Horsetooth Mountain Open Space in Fort Collins has miles and miles of outdoor adventure space, perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding. This particular trail only allows hiking, though, so you won’t have to be on the lookout for bikers or horseback riders during your 2.9-mile hike! At the end of your journey, you’ll be rewarded with views of the beautiful Horsetooth Falls. The entrance fee to the open space is $9 and can be paid at the machine at the entrance. The majority of this trail isn’t covered, so local hiking enthusiasts suggest wearing protective clothing and sunscreen to protect against the sun.
As you’ve seen throughout this article, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to a plethora of waterfalls. You could run into a watery cascade on pretty much any trail you walk! But one of the most beautiful and satisfying is the trek to Ouzel Falls. To get there, enter through the Wild Basin Entrance on the southeastern side of the park and head to the Wild Basin Trailhead. While you’re there, be sure to pay a visit to Copeland Falls, which are close to the parking area. After you’ve gotten several pictures, continue for 1.5 miles up a moderate grade to reach Calypso Cascades. Then climb the last, moderate trek of this journey to the 40-foot Ouzel Falls. Be sure to spend a while exploring the area! There are trails that lead to below and above the falls that you’ll definitely want to see.
This beautiful trail is pretty difficult, but we promise the view is worth it! Start off at the Fern Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and follow the relatively flat trail that parallels the Big Thompson River. Just 2 miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses the river (don’t forget to stop and admire the river view!) and the meandering trail starts to get pretty steep. After two large switchbacks, you’ll come upon Fern Creek Falls, a stunning, 60-foot waterfall that plunges down Fern Creek.
Black Lake Falls is another spectacular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park! This one is a bit of a doozy, offering almost 5 miles of tough terrain, to Black Lake and then another 5 back, but the views throughout the trail are well worth it. Along the way, you’ll pass Alberta Falls, Vale Brook, Glacier Falls, Mills Lake, Jewel Lake, Ribbon Falls, Blue Lake, Green Lake, Frozen Lake and so much more, making it the perfect trail to see almost everything in the national park. The Black Lake Falls aren’t the most spectacular falls on this list, but surrounding views and the stops on the way make it a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts! At the 3.5-mile marker, you’ll find Glacier Gorge Campground, the perfect place to stop for the night if you don’t want to tackle all 9 miles in one day.
Have you fallen in love with any of these waterfall hikes?
Let us know which you plan to embark on (or if you’ve hiked any of them before!) in the comments below.