Sometimes the best satisfaction at the end of a tough hike, besides that “ah, I’ve made it!” moment, is being greeted with amazing views. And nothing quite adds to the views of stunning mountain valleys and peaks like a tall, cascading waterfall. Colorado is filled with beautiful mountain waterfalls that are not to be missed. From one of the state’s most visited waterfalls, Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, to the tallest free falling falls in Colorado, Bridal Veil Falls, here is a sampling of some local favorites that are well worth the trek.
Bridal Veil Falls (Telluride). At 365 feet in length, Bridal Veil Falls are the tallest free falling falls in Colorado. To add to the scenery, the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plants sits on top of the falls. The power plant was originally built in 1907 to power the Smuggler-Union Mine. To access the hike from Telluride, head to the east side of box canyon, and park at Valley View Area Parking. From there, the easy to moderate hike is 1.8 miles each way. Take in the stunning views next to the privately owned power plant then, continue on to Bridal Veil Basin, see the gate just before the power plant to find the trailhead.
Hanging Lake (Glenwood Springs). Known as one of Colorado’s most famous hikes, Hanging Lake gains its beauty from the flourishing hanging garden plant community and crystal clear waters. The lake can be reached in one short, steep mile. Although the hike is steep, the view at the top will not disappoint. Located 10 miles east of Glenwood Springs, the hike includes dramatic views of Glenwood Canyon, smaller waterfalls and lush greenery. Once to the top, don’t forget to hike just a bit further to see Spouting Rock, a waterfall that pours through a natural hole in the cliff.
Zapata Falls (Alamosa). Zapata Falls was formed when South Zapata Creek wore a groove into the rugged rocks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Today, this 30-foot waterfall has become one of the most popular hiking spots in the San Luis Valley. The hike begins at the Zapata Falls Campground entrance. The campground sits at an elevation of 9,000 feet and boasts a stunning panoramic view of the valley below. Guests can walk into the cavern to get an up close look at the falls, but are encouraged to do so with caution as the rocks are quite slippery. With views of the Great Sand Dunes from the parking lot and the waterfall just a short 1.5-mile walk up, this is a hike not to be missed.