Shared from the 6/8/2016 Woodman Edition eEdition

NORTHWEST NOTES

My addiction to waterfalls

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June is a fine time to be alive in Colorado. Dozens of commercial hot springs are open and soaking is in full swing. Snow is melting off the mountains and climbers are putting away their snowshoes and crampons and getting out their lighter boots. That snowmelt also makes June the best time of the year for waterfalls. I spent a year of my life researching waterfalls, hiked to 150 of them and even wrote a book about it, “Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado.” There are about 500 known waterfalls across the state, and while some of them have been rendered off-limits since I first hiked them — due to the 2013 floods and to privatization — there are still plenty you can get to from here. In North Cheyenne Cañon, drive up to Helen Hunt Falls, formed by North Cheyenne Creek, then take a short hike from the base up to Buffalo Creek’s Silver Cascade (Spoon) Falls. There are lots of pretty cascades along the trail, and an overlook at the top offers views of Mount Muscoco to the northeast and the city beyond. Saint Mary’s Falls is also formed by Buffalo Creek and is a longer hike of about 6 miles roundtrip. The trail starts at the top of North Cheyenne Cañon Road, three quarters of a mile past Helen Hunt Falls, where you park and then hike Gold Camp Road — an old railway bed — from the northwest side of the lot, and get on the trail at a mile and a quarter, on the right. Undine Falls is nearby, too, formed by North Cheyenne Creek and accessed from Gold Camp Road. Instead of continuing to the Saint Mary’s Falls Trail, cut off the road just after crossing the creek at about three-quarters of a mile and go right onto the Seven Bridges Trail. Undine Falls is about a mile up the trail, after the seventh bridge. To the north, Bear Creek forms Josephine Falls, accessed from the Bear Creek Trailhead, and slightly east at Section 16 a small waterfall called Intemann Falls makes an occasional appearance this time of year. In South Cheyenne Cañon, the Mount Cutler Trail takes you to the top of the peak, and at about a mile up the trail you can look out at Seven Falls, to the south. A lot of work is being done on the roads and trails through the canyons, so keep this in mind as you venture out. Some days you can get there, and some days you can’t. Be patient and consider making a donation or volunteering with Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, a nonprofit that works to keep the area safe, sustainable and accessible to visitors. Are you ready for a little more adventure? Get on U.S. 24 and head west to Rainbow Falls at Fountain Creek, then on to Green Mountain Falls for a stunning hike above town on the Thomas Trail to Crystal Falls and Catamount Falls. The local falls will whet your appetite for mightier waterfalls at Rocky Mountain National Park — I found 40 waterfalls in the park — and in the southwest at Ouray, Pagosa Springs, Lake City and Creede. South of the Springs, Zapata Falls is a nice hike near Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and longer hikes take you to Venable Falls, Macey Falls, and Apache Falls. There are waterfalls that will take your breath away to the north off I-70 at Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs and Rifle, and if you’re planning a trip to Grand Junction, hikes through Big Dominguez Canyon and No Thoroughfare Canyon take you past fall after fall. I get excited just thinking about all the waterfalls out there I have yet to discover. Staunton State Park, home to Elk Falls, opened in 2013 and didn’t make it into my book, so it’s on my list of waterfalls this year; so are the many falls of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and Holy Cross Wilderness, East Fork Falls on the Roan Plateau, and Lean Creek Falls in Pagosa Springs. That will leave just 340, or so, more waterfalls for me to hike before my feet give out. Does that sound crazy? Hike to a waterfall this weekend. You will begin to understand my problem. Waterfall hiking is a highly addictive sport, but unlike most addictions, it will leave you feeling happier, healthier and more grateful than ever before for June in Colorado.

Susan Joy Paul is an author, editor, and freelance writer. She has lived on Colorado Springs’ northwest side for nearly 20 years. Contact Susan with comments and suggestions for her column at woodmennotes@ gazettecommunitynews.com.

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