Cornet Falls

Telluride / Uncompahgre National Forest / San Miguel County, Colorado, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 2.5
Cornet Falls and an impressive snow cone at its base

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Cornet Falls was perhaps the waterfall that stole the show when it came to waterfalling the Telluride area. As you can see from the photo above, this 80ft waterfall had a lot going for it - the red rock cliff surroundings for contrast, the height and flow, and the snow cone that would even make Disney's Elsa proud. I was basically made aware of this falls by the receptionist at the Victorian Inn as an alternate to the more famous Bridal Veil Falls, which was not as accessible during our visit due to snow. That said, she made the hike seem easier than it turned out to be, even suggesting that Tahia could do the hike. But as you'll see shortly, perhaps the trail conditions had changed for the worse since the time the receptionist last did it as I was definitely glad Tahia nor Julie joined me on what turned out to be a trickier hike than I had anticipated.

From the nearest street parking (see directions below), I followed the street uphill just past some homes to its end as the surface became dirt just as I passed some trailhead signage for the "Jud Wiebe Memorial Trail". Not even a minute's hike beyond the sign, I then encountered a footbridge that continued the Jud Wiebe Trail. However, for Cornet Falls, I avoided crossing the bridge and continued up the right side of Cornet Creek along a much narrower trail. Barely another few minutes of hiking later, the trail then got to a pretty badly eroded section alongside what appeared to be intermediate cascades well downstream of the main falls. The trail actually was supposed to continue further uphill to the right slightly away from the creek, but I noticed footprints cutting straight for some wooden planks that were set up to try to slow down the trail erosion, and I made the precarious scramble alongside the creek. It turned out that the upper trail going around this eroded section had some dropoff exposure itself, and it still had to negotiate the eroded sloping section where the planks were. This was definitely a section of the hike where I had my doubts about whether this was a safe trail or not.

Beyond this eroded section, the narrow trail continued hugging ledges while going uphill alongside the Cornet Creek below. There were a few more steep and somewhat eroded uphill climbs as well as what appeared to be another little rockslide section, but it seemed to me that the worst part was over back at the first eroded section I encountered. Aside from some dirty snow sections and residual muddiness on the upper reaches of the trail, the narrow trail continued hugging ledges before finally approaching the Cornet Falls after about 15-20 minutes. The falls pretty much sat at what appeared to be the head of this mini-canyon carved out by Cornet Creek as I was pretty much surrounded by cliffs on three sides. The terrain around the base of the falls was also steep and slippery, but it did appear possible to scramble around the backside of the waterfall (if not for the snow cone that was there). That said, I didn't have to go that far just to get close enough to the snow cone to notice some interesting icicle formations on it. Who knows how much longer this snow cone would typically last before it'd completely melt away.

Anyways, after having my fill of the falls, I went back down the way I came (except I took a slightly longer way at the badly eroded section, which like I said before, was still scary) resulting in me spending about 45 minutes away from the car. Overall, this hike was about 0.3 miles in each direction (0.6 miles round trip), but with the very real dangers of dropoff exposure and some pretty bad trail erosion, I bumped up the difficulty score.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

The Rocky Mountain town of Telluride reminded Julie and I of the kind of scenery more typically associated with the Swiss Alps. Although it was dead when we were there, we anticipate coming backThe Rocky Mountain town of Telluride reminded Julie and I of the kind of scenery more typically associated with the Swiss Alps. Although it was dead when we were there, we anticipate coming back
It was about a two-hour drive from Mesa Verde National Park to Telluride, but the Anasazi ruins and artifacts were certainly the highlight of our time in Southwestern ColoradoIt was about a two-hour drive from Mesa Verde National Park to Telluride, but the Anasazi ruins and artifacts were certainly the highlight of our time in Southwestern Colorado
Apparently, Spring Break was a little early to do the guided tours to get closer to the main Mesa Verde ruins like the Cliff Palace, but we did do the self-guided Petroglyphs TrailApparently, Spring Break was a little early to do the guided tours to get closer to the main Mesa Verde ruins like the Cliff Palace, but we did do the self-guided Petroglyphs Trail
Durango was between 2-3 hours drive from Telluride, but it was a convenient base for Mesa Verde and some other Rocky Mountain attractions. Shown here was the historic and charming Strater HotelDurango was between 2-3 hours drive from Telluride, but it was a convenient base for Mesa Verde and some other Rocky Mountain attractions. Shown here was the historic and charming Strater Hotel
Looking back at North Aspen Street from where I found street parking to do the Cornet Falls hikeLooking back at North Aspen Street from where I found street parking to do the falls hike

Signage here stated that street parking was limited to two hoursSignage here stated that street parking was limited to two hours

There was trailhead signage at the end of the North Aspen Street pavementThere was trailhead signage at the end of the North Aspen Street pavement

This was the bridge where I kept right to follow alongside Cornet CreekThis was the bridge where I kept right to follow alongside the Cornet Creek

Looking upstream from the bridge where it was clear that there was a trail just to the right of Cornet CreekLooking upstream from the bridge where it was clear that there was a trail just to the right of Cornet Creek

This was the scary part of the hike where the trail was badly eroded and dropped off towards some intermediate cascades on Cornet Creek.  Even the wooden planks appeared like they had suffered from trail erosion as wellThis was the scary part of the hike where the trail was badly eroded and dropped off towards some intermediate cascades on Cornet Creek. Even the wooden planks appeared like they had suffered from trail erosion as well

Beyond the badly eroded part of the Cornet Falls Trail, I had to negotiate what appeared to be a rockslide areaBeyond the badly eroded part of the falls trail, I had to negotiate what appeared to be a rockslide area

This was one of the steeper uphill sections of the Cornet Falls TrailThis was one of the steeper uphill sections of the falls trail

Continuing further, the trail climbed and narrowed some more as it hugged ledges that were sloped towards Cornet CreekContinuing further, the trail climbed and narrowed some more as it hugged ledges that were sloped towards Cornet Creek

The uphill trail had some tricky spots like this muddy and icy section where the red dirt had concealed some of the dirty snowThe uphill trail had some tricky spots like this muddy and icy section where the red dirt had concealed some of the dirty snow

Another look at the narrow ledge that the trail followed along with Cornet Creek down belowAnother look at the narrow ledge that the trail followed along with Cornet Creek down below

Finally approaching Cornet Falls with some dirty snow patches on the narrow trail making the footing a little trickyFinally approaching Cornet Falls with some dirty snow patches on the narrow trail making the footing a little tricky

Looking up towards the brink of Cornet Falls as the canyon was boxing in around itLooking up towards the brink of Cornet Falls as the canyon was boxing in around it

Closer look at the really cool snow cone that had been building up at the base of Cornet FallsCloser look at the really cool snow cone that had been building up at the base of the falls

Looking up towards some icicle formations at the top of the snow coneLooking up towards some icicle formations at the top of the snow cone

Looking downstream at the steep terrain that I had to traverse to get closer to the snow coneLooking downstream at the steep terrain that I had to traverse to get closer to the snow cone

As I was headed back to the trailhead, even though it was pretty much all downhill, I still had to be mindful of the dirty snow and the slippery footingAs I was headed back to the trailhead, even though it was pretty much all downhill, I still had to be mindful of the dirty snow and the slippery footing

Back at the landslide part where I could see up ahead that the sun was about to set on Telluride ValleyBack at the landslide part where I could see up ahead that the sun was about to set on Telluride Valley

Approaching the scary eroded part of the trailApproaching the scary eroded part of the trail

Instead of taking the badly eroded path dropping off to Cornet Creek, I took what appeared to be a more sanctioned path above, but even this was a little on the dicey side as this photo showedInstead of taking the badly eroded path dropping off to Cornet Creek, I took what appeared to be a more sanctioned path above, but even this was a little on the dicey side as this photo showed

Looking back at the scariest part of the Cornet Falls hikeLooking back at the scariest part of the Cornet Falls hike

Making it back to the bridgeMaking it back to the bridge

Finally back on North Aspen Street, where just a few more paces down the hill would lead me to the parked carFinally back on North Aspen Street, where just a few more paces down the hill would lead me to the parked car


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep checking out the base of Cornet Falls and the big snow cone behind it as well as the immediate surroundings


Profile examination of the snow cone behind Cornet Falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Once you get to the town of Telluride, continue along Colorado Ave (the main drag through town) before turning left onto N Aspen St (about 0.4 miles east of the last roundabout before the Clark's Supermarket). Continuing north (uphill) on N Aspen St, I then drove about as far as its intersection with Dakota Ave. That was where I managed to find two-hour street parking along N Aspen St.

For context, Telluride was 111 miles (over 2 hours drive) north of Durango, 126 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) southeast of Grand Junction, 330 miles (over 6 hours drive) southwest of Denver, 132 miles (under 3 hours drive) east of Moab, Utah, and 322 miles (about 6 hours drive) northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.


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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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