Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Sunday, April 7, 2013

West Creek Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

West Creek Falls
Rocky Mountain National Park

Date Hiked:  April 7, 2013
  • Distance:  4.6 miles (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 600 ft (each way)
  • Elevation Min/Max: 7,826 to 8,456ft
Rocky Mountain National Park Website (NPS)
West Creek Falls Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  This hike starts at a hidden gem, the Cow Creek Trailhead, in the northeast portion of the Park.  In Estes Park, take Hwy 34 (Fall River Road) north and make a right on Devil's Gulch Road.  Take Devil's Gulch Road past the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and make a left on McGraw Ranch Road.  This road ends at the McGraw Ranch which is where the Cow Creek Trailhead is situated.  There is no fee to enter the park here.

The northern portion of Rocky is a hidden treasure, barely anyone makes use of this area and while it is certainly less dramatic then Bear Lake or Trail Ridge Road, it has a charm all its own.  Rolling hills, warm forests, rivers, waterfalls, rock formations, not overlook this area.

This hike starts in the park but quickly leaves the park and passes through the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area of Roosevelt National Forest.  First, walk through the educational ranch and turn right at the trail junction, it is well signed.  The hike really starts by ascending a steep trail through a sparse pine and aspen forest with nice views looking back to Lumpy Ridge.  After a good climb you wind up on a saddle looking north.  From here, descend down to a creek crossing.  Follow the creek and wind though open meadows and pine forest.  Bear left at the trail junction following signs to West Creek Falls.  Soon after the trail junction you'll cross back into Rocky Mountain National Park, following West Creek.

Before you know it the banks of the creek grow more rocky and colorful and you come face to face with West Creek Falls.  The falls are lovely, there are cascades leading up to the falls and the falls themselves are about 20 feet high dropping down into a terrific swimming hole in the summer (if the water is high enough).  Explore the banks and relax in the solitude, but remember you need to climb back up to the saddle on the way back, so better get some rest...

This part of the park is a great area to explore in the spring time, while the rest of the park is still under multiple feet of snow, this area is hikeable without spikes or snowshoes.  You'll forget that summer is still months away while enjoying these trails.

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