Cascade Falls Park in Ouray, Colorado


Just a short jaunt from Ouray’s Main Street but invisible from town, Cascade Falls Park is a jewel hiding in plain sight. And a jewel it is: the waterfall—a breathtaking, 270-foot ribbon of spray—plummets down a cliff face banded with red sandstone and cream-colored quartzite. It’s the tallest of Ouray’s cascades, but it’s easy to miss if you don’t know where to look. 

That might be one of the reasons settlers didn’t discover the falls until 1874, long after mining camps had been planted across the San Juan Mountains. William Nunn, one of the prospectors scouring the creeks for gold and silver, stumbled upon the falls—and gave it its name. 

Today, Cascade Falls stands at the end of a well-maintained, quarter-mile trail. Stop to gawk or wade, but don’t feel obliged to stop here. Intrepid hikers can continue to the 5.6-mile Perimeter Trail, which circumnavigates the city of Ouray and offers views of the little town from every angle. Along the way, you’ll hug striated cliffs, cross clear mountain streams, and skirt the knees of 12,000-foot peaks surrounding Ouray.

Your other option: continue up the slopes of Cascade Mountain for an intense—but rewarding—waterfall tour. Cascade Falls is just one of seven cataracts that thread this narrow gully, and experienced hikers can tag both the topmost and bottommost falls in a 5.6-mile out-and-back. Follow the Upper Cascade Falls Trail uphill, climbing through scrub oak and evergreens. As you climb the switchbacks, you’ll gain views of 13,000-foot Hayden Mountain and Potosi Peak and, at long last, the plummeting, mist-wreathed spear of Upper Cascade Falls.





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