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Boulder Waterfalls

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.

Leave It As You Find It

Help protect Boulder's natural beauty by remembering these Leave No Trace principles, and before you go, check here for trail closures due to trail conditions.

Best Boulder Waterfall Hikes

Boulder Falls

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.

Enjoying a picnic at Boulder Falls

Eldorado Canyon Falls

Drive time: 20 minutes
Location: Eldorado Canyon State Park (park pass purchase and seasonal timed-entry reservations required)
Trail length: 6.6 miles round trip

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.

Important Entry Information

Timed-entry reservations are required in Eldorado Canyon State Park on weekends and holidays from May 15-Sept 15. Passengers who ride the free weekend Eldo Shuttle (available Memorial Day to Labor Day) do not need reservations and are guaranteed entrance to the park (park fees still apply).

Eldorado Canyon State Park

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. 

Know Before You Go

There is no cell service in the area of the Forsythe Canyon Trailhead, so download your directions before you go. Four-wheel drive is recommended, and you'll want to check for road closures.

Photo by Gwen Gray

Forsythe Canyon Falls

Ouzel Falls

Drive Time: 1 hour
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park (park pass purchase and timed-entry reservation required)
Trail length: 5.4 miles roundtrip

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.

Important Entry Information

You will need an advance reservation to enter Rocky Mountain National Park from late May through mid-October. Passengers who ride the Bustang to RMNP bypass the reservation system (park fees still apply). 

Elk Falls

Drive time: 1 hour
Location: Staunton State Park (state park pass purchase required)
Trail length: 12 miles round trip

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