Are you wild for waterfalls? Crazy for cascades? Who isn't fascinated by the feel of cool waterfall mist, the sound of rushing currents, the sight of rainbow arcs in the sunshine, and the simple awe of falling water? Even science says there’s a reason that people are drawn to waterfalls: the negative ions released can enter our bloodstream and boost serotonin production.
If you’re chasing waterfalls on vacation, we’ve got your guide to some great waterfall hikes within an hour of Boulder, and some have scenic drives to boot.
Best Boulder Waterfall Hikes
Drive time: 20 min
Location: Near Boulder
Trail length: .1 mile round trip
Boulder’s own waterfall is just a few miles up Boulder Canyon and accessed via a very short and relatively flat (although be prepared for a series of stairs) hike across from the parking area on Hwy. 119. This 70-foot waterfall is a scenic gem that has been popular since the 1880s and was once called the Yosemite of Boulder Canyon.
Eldorado Canyon Falls
What these gentle cascades lack in drama, they make up for in setting. They’re located inside the stunning Eldorado Canyon State Park, a haven for rock climbers and hikers. They can be accessed by the 6.6-mile out-and-back Eldorado Canyon Trail. Alternatively, you can reach them from outside the state park on a shorter, 2.5-mile out-and-back path from Walker Ranch, starting at the Ethel Harrold Trailhead.
Forsythe Canyon Falls
Drive time: 35 min
Location: Near Nederland
Trail length: 3.4 miles round trip
This family favorite, out-and-back trail that takes you to these falls is mostly mellow, traveling alongside the trickling creek and often beneath a short canopy of trees. A final scramble over some rocks gets you to this picture-perfect waterfall, which descends, veil-like, into a narrow, water-smoothed canyon.
There are more than 30 waterfalls in the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, a bucket-list destination for many Americans that’s just an hour from Boulder. Ouzel Falls Trail packs a punch with four water features along the way: Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, an unnamed waterfall and the impressive, 40-foot-high Ouzel Falls.
If it’s drama you want, then head out for a bit of a drive and a longer, more difficult trek to these gorgeous falls that drop over a sheer rock face. You’ll get a great view from an overlook, and now newer trails can get you up close and personal with Elk Falls, though it will take a difficult hike to do so. Stop and ask for a trail map and directions at the park entrance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a waterfall in Boulder’s Flatirons?
Nope, just gorgeous pine forests, trails, rock formations and trickling streams.
Are there waterfalls you can swim in?
Not that we know of. The water in the Rocky Mountains is snowmelt, so it’s very cold, and most of the waterfalls near us are rocky and don’t have large pools like you might find elsewhere.