Bear Creek Falls

Ouray, Colorado, USA

About Bear Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2020-10-16
Date last visited: 2020-10-16

Waterfall Latitude: 37.99989
Waterfall Longitude: -107.66017

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Bear Creek Falls was an impressively tall waterfall hidden in plain sight underneath the famed Million Dollar Highway just to the south of the scenic town of Ouray.

Ironically enough, just on the other side of Telluride Peak by the town of Telluride (about 10 miles as the crow flies) was another Bear Creek Falls, but they are not the same.

Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_012_10162020 - Full context of Bear Creek Falls tumbling beneath the Million Dollar Highway with some hint of Fall colors
Full context of Bear Creek Falls tumbling beneath the Million Dollar Highway with some hint of Fall colors

Anyways, according to the contour lines on my Gaia GPS map, this waterfall featured a 120ft drop beneath the Hwy 550 before joining up with the Uncompahgre River.

The picture that you see above was how we saw this waterfall late in the season in mid-October 2020.

We actually had an opportunity to stop and experience this waterfall on a road trip three months earlier where it would have had much better flow as evidenced by the number of people we saw around there.

Unfortunately, for some reason, we didn’t bother stopping for it, and it was one of my regrets on that trip.

Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_034_10162020 - Looking towards the seasonal and thin waterfall on Ralston Creek directly opposite the Uncompahgre Canyon from Bear Creek Falls
Looking towards the seasonal and thin waterfall on Ralston Creek directly opposite the Uncompahgre Canyon from Bear Creek Falls

We didn’t even have an excuse not to do it (other than we hadn’t planned on stopping for it since we weren’t aware of it prior to the trip), especially since it was roadside with a fairly spacious pullout next to the overlook.

Next to the fairly spacious pullout were some interpretive signs as well as an overhanging lookout peering right down at the Bear Creek Falls.

This lookout also yielded us a view further along the steep Uncompahgre Canyon towards Abrams Mountain as well as a seasonal waterfall on Ralston Creek directly opposite the canyon.

As far as lighting is concerned, I’d imagine that afternoon would be the best time since this waterfall faces west, but our visit happened in the early morning so we didn’t have to look against the sun.

Authorities

Bear Creek Falls resides in the Uncompahgre National Forest just south of the town of Ouray in Ouray County, Colorado. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_003_10162020 - Looking towards the seasonal Ralston Creek Falls, which was opposite Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_007_10162020 - Context of the pullout for Bear Creek Falls along with some interpretive signs, railings, and sidewalks
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_009_10162020 - Looking towards the overhanging lookout above Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_010_10162020 - Looking down at a memorial for Otto Mears next to the overhanging lookout for Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_011_10162020 - Looking towards the end of the overhanging lookout platform above Bear Creek Falls with Abrams Mountain in the distance
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_016_10162020 - Looking down at Bear Creek Falls and its plunge pool deep at the floor of the Uncompahgre Canyon
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_018_10162020 - Context of the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy 550) crossing over Bear Creek with some hint of Fall foliage. Notice that drivers whizzing by over the bridge might miss the Bear Creek Falls like we did back in Summer of 2020 when we first passed by here
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_021_10162020 - Semi-long-exposed shot of Bear Creek Falls as seen from the overhanging lookout deck
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_031_10162020 - Looking back towards our parked rental car from the overhanging lookout platform by Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_046_10162020 - Long exposure look at the entire drop of Bear Creek Falls seen together with some Fall foliage and the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy 550) bridge traversing the creek
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_051_10162020 - Looking further south along Uncompahgre Canyon towards Abrams Mountain in the distance
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_057_10162020 - Looking up above Ralston Creek Falls to where the early morning sunlight was starting to strike the very top of the mountains flanking Uncompahgre Canyon
Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_060_10162020 - Last look at the top of Uncompahgre Canyon opposite Bear Creek Falls just as the early morning sun's light was growing by the minute


Bear Creek Falls sits about 3 miles south of Ouray along the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy 550).

Basically, we’d look for a pullout on the right side of the road not long after passing through a small arch or road tunnel as we headed south from Ouray (pronounced “YOUR-ay”).

Bear_Creek_Falls_Ouray_008_10162020 - The pullout adjacent to the lookout for Bear Creek Falls
The pullout adjacent to the lookout for Bear Creek Falls

The pullout itself may have room for about a half-dozen cars or so.

It seemed like this was the most obvious parking spot, and I’d imagine it can easily get full.

I’d imagine that most visitors who stop at this pullout only check out Bear Creek Falls for a few minutes and then leave. Therefore, the turnover should be high.

However, there’s also the Bear Creek Trail nearby, which can be pretty lengthy. And if people use this pullout for that trail, then I can imagine how that can limit parking for this waterfall even more.

Hwy_50_Road_Shot_004_iPhone_10162020 - This was the small arch or road tunnel just before the pullout for Bear Creek Falls as we headed south on the Hwy 550 (Million Dollar Highway)
This was the small arch or road tunnel just before the pullout for Bear Creek Falls as we headed south on the Hwy 550 (Million Dollar Highway)

For context, Ouray was about 50 miles (a little over an hour’s drive) northeast of Telluride (though it was far less distance as the crow flies). Ouray was also 71 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Durango, 97 miles (about 2 hours drive) southeast of Grand Junction, 301 miles (under 6 hours drive) southwest of Denver, 150 miles (about 3 hours drive) east of Moab, Utah, and 286 miles (over 5 hours drive) northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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long video from the main lookout over the falls and the surrounding mountains and canyons


another long video starting from the signs and then moving towards the overhanging lookout above the falls

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Tagged with: ouray, colorado, switzerland, rocky mountains, waterfall, million dollar highway



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

tributary creek falls to Uncompahgre River south of Ouray December 22, 2020 8:16 pm by Philipp Merillat - This waterfall is among several on the "Million Dollar Highway" south of Ouray. It can be seen a few miles south of Ouray from the highway looking across the Uncompahgre River canyon to the west. Along this route of highway Bear Creek Falls plunges within yards of the highway crossing Bear Creek. ...Read More

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