What goes up must come down, right? In Colorado, that means where there are mountains, there must also be equally as stunning waterfalls.
Colorado is home to 81 different officially named waterfalls, plus countless unnamed ones — and some of the best in the world. You might see waterfalls trickling or roaring down the mountain from the road; others are only accessible by trail. A waterfall hike is one of the most rewarding outdoor activities in the state, and many of these aren’t too difficult and are appropriate for hikers of all abilities.
Due to Boulder’s proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, you can find an amazing selection of waterfall hikes within a short drive.
Here are some of our favorite waterfall hikes in Boulder County and less than two hours away.
Less Than 30 Minutes Away
Boulder Falls, one of the most popular attractions just outside of Boulder, is a quick and easy hike (that barely qualifies as a hike; it only takes 10 minutes) with a lovely waterfall reward. The falls themselves aren’t huge (about 70 feet high) but what they lack in size they make up for in splendor. The scenic Boulder Falls spill down a narrow canyon, surrounded by trees.
Bonus: The short, 100-yard trail was recently repaired and widened to make it even easier to access. Even with dogs. They’re allowed on leash here.
Because the Boulder Falls are so short, pair them with a longer trek like Mount Sanitas to make an afternoon out of it.
In the Boulder County Region
Devil’s Thumb Pass
Head here if you are looking for the best place to visit in Boulder for a long, full-day waterfall hike near Boulder. Devil’s Thumb Pass, near Nederland, will take you all the way to the Jasper Creek Waterfall, a peaceful, not-too-busy waterfall emerging from Jasper Creek. It tends to be less packed than other waterfall hikes due to the difficulty. First, this hike is 13 miles long. Second, it’s considered moderately difficult, climbing more than 2,400 feet in altitude. It’ll take you all day, but there are many other stunning views along the way, in addition to the waterfall. Pack a picnic to enjoy at Jasper Lake.
1-1 1/2 Hours Away
Bridal Veil Falls
Head to Idaho Springs, near the beginning of the I-70 canyon, for this stunning waterfall. Again, this is more of a walk than a hike. It’s super easy to access, and you can view it from the Water Wheel Park. Take a stroll from historic, downtown Idaho Springs (after grabbing lunch at Tommyknockers), or park at the Harold Anderson Park and follow the concrete walkway about 15 minutes to the park. It’s easy and short: less than a quarter mile round trip. Big bang for little effort.
Calypso Cascades (to Copeland Falls)
Many of the waterfall hikes near Boulder are located in Rocky Mountain National Park. This includes Calypso Cascades. This easy, 3.6-mile hike starts near the Wild Basin Trailhead, in the southeast region of the park. Right away, you’ll pass upper and lower Copeland Falls. If all you want is the waterfall, you can stop here (about a third of a mile down the path). Or continue for the two- to three-hour round-trip adventure, and take in the amazing calypso orchid flowers that line the creek in the late spring and early summer.
Black Lake Falls
Again, head to Rocky Mountain National Park for this waterfall hike, which will take you on a tough, 10-mile round-trip hike through Glacier Gorge. If you’re conditioned for it, this difficult hike is worth it, though. It’ll take you past multiple waterfalls and lakes, but the highlight is the Black Lake Falls waterfall, spilling down granite cliffs on the western side of Black Lake. With an elevation gain of about 1,430 feet, this hike will take about six hours to complete. Pack accordingly.
Not all Rocky Mountain National Park waterfall hikes have to be extreme. Chasm Falls is a quick and easy adventure with an impressive view. It’s arguably the most accessible waterfall in the park. If you get a close parking spot, you can simply walk about 100 yards off Old Fall River Road on the easy trail to where Fall River bursts through a narrow gorge for about 25 feet; it’s not huge, but it’s still breathtaking. However, the chance of landing one of these nearby parking spots is slim, especially in the busy season. You may have to park in another nearby parking area, which can extend the hike. If you take Old Fall River Road to Chasm Falls Trail, the out-and-back trail shouldn’t be too busy. Keep your eyes open for the Chasm Falls Trailhead and follow the paved pathway to your waterfall destination.
Alberta Falls, also in Rocky Mountain National Park, is another easy and highly accessible waterfall hike that’s only about 1.2 miles long. While you may be tempted to visit this popular waterfall in the summer, we recommend waiting until the fall. You will hike through a forest of aspen trees as they transform into glowing gold. The colorful leaves are just as impressive as the waterfall at the end. The Alberta Falls trail is considered moderately difficult but you should be there and back within two hours, including time to gawk and take pics. If you have time, extend the adventure by hiking down to Bear Lake.
Chaos Canyon Cascades
If you’re looking for a waterfall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park that’s not too busy, head to Chaos Canyon Cascades. The trail starts at the popular Bear Lake Trailhead (it can be hard to find parking here). Keep going past Nymph Lake and up to Dream Lake; both of these alpine waters are worth a pit stop.
The hike isn’t short (it’s more than four miles round trip) but it’s easy to moderate in difficulty, and you should be able to get there and back within a few hours. The highlight of this hike is the waterfall formed by Chaos Creek pouring off Lake Haiyaha. To access it, you will have to follow a small bridge and find an unmaintained trail just east of the main trail. It’s a bit remote and adventurous, and that’s why we love it.
Around 2 Hours Away
Helen Hunt Falls
This waterfall hike in Colorado Springs is about as easy as it gets, although you can add on more connecting trails if you want more of a challenge. This short walk is only about 0.1 mile long, although expect stairs and a slight altitude climb. At the end, prepare to be awed by at 35-foot waterfall that’s open year-round. Here, you can look out over the city and across Cheyenne Canyon. Unlike the waterfalls in the national park, which has an entrance fee, this one is free to access. Helen Hunt Falls can get busy, so head out early before the crowds.