Get Outside: Explore These Ten Waterfall Hikes Near Denver

Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Abigail Bliss
Summer is nearly here, and that means it's the time of year when Colorado waterfalls are at their fullest from the snowmelt. So don't stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to; ignore TLC and go chasing waterfalls before they turn to a trickle in July.

The Mexican poet Octavio Paz wrote that "the sound of water is worth more than all the poets' words," so revel in the majesty of nature at these ten great waterfall hikes below. Note that these hikes can be the most popular, so endeavor to get there early or (depending on the hike's length) in the late afternoon, when the crowds have died down. And if the hike is located in Rocky Mountain National Park, remember that you'll need a timed-entry pass to get in.

Adams Falls

Grand Lake
Easy, 0.8 miles out and back

Adams Falls is found along the East Inlet Trail, which leads deep into the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a seasoned backpacker to enjoy this waterfall, a feature found less than a mile from the trailhead. And while the hike itself takes an average of twenty minutes to complete, according to AllTrails, you'll find yourself staying to snap pictures of the panoramic views and admire your surroundings.

Alberta Falls
Estes Park
Easy, 1.6 miles out and back

The short, relatively flat trail to Alberta Falls is a favorite in Rocky Mountain National Park. After driving along the scenic Bear Lake Road, hikers begin their journey at the popular Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead. During peak season, you’ll likely need to ride the free shuttle to the area, and remember to book your timed entry to the park to include a pass through Bear Lake Road. Those who plan ahead will be rewarded with views of this thirty-foot waterfall.

Boulder Falls
Easy, 0.3 miles out and back

Boulder Falls is more of a pull-off than a hike, but the 0.3-mile trail is a great addition to any afternoon itinerary. The drive down Boulder Canyon is stunning itself, though it can be quite busy on weekends. Parking for the falls is found across the street, so be careful crossing. To extend your time at Boulder Falls, enjoy a picnic and take lots of pictures. If you’re itching to hike farther, head to the nearby Canyon Loop, one of the best wildflower trails near Denver.
Bridal Veil Falls and the Charlie Taylor Waterwheel.
Shutterstock/Neil Lockhart
Bridal Veil Falls
Idaho Springs
Easy, 0.2 miles out and back

Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs is another waterfall that requires just a short walk, and it's ideal for those with strollers and wheelchairs. From the parking lot at 17th and Walter streets, the paved path is less than a quarter of a mile, leading to the historic Charlie Taylor Waterwheel. After admiring the falls, leave your car parked and stop in at Westbound & Down, one of the best breweries to visit near hiking trails.

The Broadmoor Seven Falls
Colorado Springs
Moderate, 3 miles out and back

With a height of 181 feet, Seven Falls ranks as the tallest waterfall near Denver. A private attraction associated with the five-star Broadmoor resort, Seven Falls is only open at select hours and comes with an admission price of $17 per adult. View the falls by climbing the 224-step staircase to Inspiration Point, or simply ride the elevator to the top of the Eagle’s Nest platform.

Catamount Falls
Green Mountain Falls
Moderate, 6.4 miles out and back

Located near Woodland Park, the picturesque Catamount Falls Trail offers many outdoor activities such as biking, climbing, trail running, birding and more, but the major draw is its beautiful waterfall views. On this hike, you’ll trek past three falls and into the “Garden of Eden” meadow, where you’ll find granite rock formations that are perfect for bouldering. At the end of the trail lies South Catamount Reservoir, a great place for fishing and one of the most peaceful places to paddleboard in Colorado.

Elk Falls
Difficult, 10.8 miles out and back

From the Lazy V parking lot, the base of Elk Falls is about four miles out, offering a variety of terrain along the way. Those willing to take on the additional elevation gain can push to the waterfall overlook, providing panoramic views of the beautiful Staunton State Park. If you’re a rock climber, don’t forget your gear on this hike. Chimney Rock, found along this trail, offers both trad and sport routes.

Forsythe Canyon Falls
Easy, 3.2 miles out and back

Found between Boulder and Nederland, Forsythe Canyon Falls is one of the least-visited waterfalls on this list. It may not be the most impressive, especially late in the season, but the surrounding area is well worth exploring. Similar to Catamount Falls, the trail ends at a large body of water, Gross Reservoir, a great spot for fishing, picnicking and paddle sports.

Lower Wild Basin Falls
Moderate, 5.9 miles out and back

Along this segment of Wild Basin Trail, you’ll spot Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. Located in a quieter region of Rocky Mountain National Park, the 5.9-mile trek makes for a great day hike, but it’s also one of Colorado’s best backpacking routes. Camp overnight to enjoy two can’t-miss attractions in one trip. Also found on the trail is Sandbeach Lake, one of Colorado's mountain beaches you won’t want to miss this summer season!

Maxwell Falls
Moderate, 4.4 miles out and back

Like all Colorado waterfalls, Maxwell Falls is more impressive during early-summer snowmelt, but note that this shady Evergreen hike is enjoyable year-round. With an 830-foot elevation gain, it’s a favorite among families and those with dogs, offering a moderate challenge. If you’re feeling adventurous, extend the trip via the Cliffside Loop, where you’ll find some of the best views near Denver. Those seeking an easier experience can drop the round-trip distance to 2.4 miles by parking at the upper trailhead.
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Emily Ferguson is Westword's Culture Editor, covering Denver's flourishing arts and music scene. Before landing this position, she worked as an editor at local and national political publications and held some odd jobs suited to her odd personality, including selling grilled cheese sandwiches at music festivals and performing with fire. Emily also writes on the arts for the Wall Street Journal and is an oil painter in her free time.
Contact: Emily Ferguson

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