Bear Creek Falls

Telluride / Bear Creek Preserve / Lincoln National Forest, Colorado, USA

About Bear Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 3 hours

Date first visited: 2020-07-23
Date last visited: 2020-07-23

Waterfall Latitude: 37.90624
Waterfall Longitude: -107.81194

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Bear Creek Falls was one of the more popular waterfalls in the Telluride area.

I suspect the main reason why was that its trail was conveniently close to the town itself so I didn’t need to find parking besides that found at the accommodation in town that we were staying at.

Bear_Creek_Falls_199_07232020 - Bear Creek Falls with some lower cascacdes as seen from its lush flower-filled ravine thriving on the waters from Bear Creek
Bear Creek Falls with some lower cascacdes as seen from its lush flower-filled ravine thriving on the waters from Bear Creek

It also didn’t hurt that this waterfall and trail sat in its own public reserve called the Bear Creek Reserve so we didn’t have to contend with private property issues.

Indeed, I saw numerous families on this trail, and that included parents rolling rugged strollers as well as those wearing child carrier frame packs.

With such popularity, I also made sure to get an early start before 8am to minimize any social distancing complications.

While the main feature of this hike was the roughly 70ft waterfall, which also featured a hidden upper drop and lower cascades through a lush flower-filled ravine, the trail itself was surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

Bear_Creek_Falls_062_07232020 - In my mind, Bear Creek Falls was one of Telluride's most popular trails because it afforded views of beautiful rocky mountains surrounding the trail itself
In my mind, Bear Creek Falls was one of Telluride’s most popular trails because it afforded views of beautiful rocky mountains surrounding the trail itself

In my mind, these craggy mountains were the kind of peaks that made me wonder if the Rocky Mountains got their name as a result of such peaks.

Overall, I earned my visit to this falls with a five-mile round-trip hike climbing about 1100ft over that distance.

At least half of the overall climb occurred in the first 0.4-mile or so before the trail followed along Bear Creek and continued its climb albeit more gradually.

Bear Creek Falls Trail Description

One thing I learned about Telluride in the Summer was that parking was really tricky, but this wouldn’t be a problem if we were staying in town (which was the case for us).

Bear_Creek_Falls_017_07232020 - Even with the early start, there were already quite a few people as well as dogs on the Bear Creek Trail
Even with the early start, there were already quite a few people as well as dogs on the Bear Creek Trail

So I’ll just do this trail description from The Victorian Inn, which was where we stayed both times we visited Telluride.

I basically walked the southern side of Telluride along Aspen Street towards West San Juan Avenue. Then, I followed West San Juan Avenue east towards South Pine Street passing by the Free Gondola Telluride Station along the way.

Once on South Pine Street, I then walked further south over the San Miguel River bridge before ascending the unpaved trail that began immediately after a gate with some signage declaring the Bear Creek Reserve.

At this point, the trail climbed moderately (roughly 500-600ft) for about the first 0.4 miles as the trail provided teasing glimpses of Telluride’s east side.

Bear_Creek_Falls_083_07232020 - Passing through an avalanche-affected area that a local here said had occurred a couple of years prior
Passing through an avalanche-affected area that a local here said had occurred a couple of years prior

At around the top of this initial climb, I then passed a sign board just as the trail veered to the right as it started to follow Bear Creek.

From there, the trail passed through a combination of groves of aspens interspersed with openings that allowed me to see the steep mountains flanking either side.

At around the half-way point of the hike, I encountered an avalanche-affected area where a lot of trees were flattened by the force of the tumbling snow.

At roughly 1.75 miles from the official trailhead, I reached an unsigned junction, where I kept right to continue on the Bear Creek Falls Trail.

Bear_Creek_Falls_225_07232020 - The circle of rocks placed at the former location of the Canton Mine at the end of an unsigned spur trail between the Bear Creek Falls Trail and Bear Creek itself
The circle of rocks placed at the former location of the Canton Mine at the end of an unsigned spur trail between the Bear Creek Falls Trail and Bear Creek itself

In case you’re curious, I did explore the left fork of this junction, which ended at the former site of the Canton Mine, which was nothing more than a circle of stones in an opening by Bear Creek.

Roughly 500ft beyond this unsigned junction, there was a signed fork for the narrower Wasatch Trail on the right, which would eventually continue past the Bear Creek Falls.

However, keeping left at the signed junction for another 0.1-mile eventually led me to an area with a giant squarish boulder and my first glimpse of the main drop of Bear Creek Falls.

The trail to its base resumed on a fork to the right while a wider informal trail went right into Bear Creek and offered more unusual frontal but distant views of the falls from there.

Bear_Creek_Falls_117_07232020 - Context of Bear Creek Falls as seen from an informal detour trail within Bear Creek
Context of Bear Creek Falls as seen from an informal detour trail within Bear Creek

Continuing on the narrowing trail, it climbed into a lush area thriving in the moisture of Bear Creek as well as other minor feeder creeks and streams.

Eventually at 0.4-mile beyond the signed Wasatch Trail junction, I reached the end of the Bear Creek Falls Trail, which climbed right up to the base of the main waterfall.

Overall, this pretty straightforward hike took me about 3 hours in total, which included walking the additional 10-20 minutes or so of walking on Telluride’s streets to reach the actual trailhead itself (and coming back).

Authorities

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

Bear_Creek_Falls_001_07232020 - Beautiful morning when I started walking through the quiet south side of Telluride towards the Bear Creek Reserve
Bear_Creek_Falls_007_07232020 - Looking back towards the Free Gondola Telluride Station, which was already operating though not many people were using it at this time in the morning
Bear_Creek_Falls_012_07232020 - Walking up this moderate climb into the Bear Creek Reserve, which continued further south beyond the end of South Pine Street
Bear_Creek_Falls_013_07232020 - A gate and some signage declaring that I was entering the Bear Creek Reserve
Bear_Creek_Falls_015_07232020 - The moderate initial climb on the Bear Creek Trail, which rose quickly above the town of Telluride and entered Bear Creek Canyon
Bear_Creek_Falls_016_07232020 - Looking towards the east end of Telluride from the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_020_07232020 - Still on the initial climb on the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_022_07232020 - This was the sign board where the Bear Creek Trail veered to the right and followed along Bear Creek in a more gradual climb
Bear_Creek_Falls_025_07232020 - The Bear Creek Trail continued to climb but it did so more gradually while also providing hints of the mountains that lie up ahead
Bear_Creek_Falls_034_07232020 - Looking down into Bear Creek from the Bear Creek Trail where there was an angler having an early morning start to his fishing activities
Bear_Creek_Falls_040_07232020 - Looking back at someone who had a very early start heading back to Telluride after having finished her hike to Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_050_07232020 - Getting passed by a trail runner going for a morning job in the high altitude on the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_070_07232020 - Closeup look at some of the wildflowers blooming alongside the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_075_07232020 - A friendly local who told me about the upcoming avalanche zone as he passed by me on the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_076_07232020 - Looking across Bear Creek up towards a notch in the mountains where there was apparently a thin cascade
Bear_Creek_Falls_077_07232020 - Context of the thin cascade against the impressive mountain backdrop as seen along the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_079_07232020 - Another closeup look at wildflowers blooming besides the Bear Creek Falls Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_080_07232020 - More beautiful mountain scenery as seen along the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_085_07232020 - Looking to the right at trees that had been flattened by the avalanche that hit a couple of years ago.  It seemed like the snow came from the rocky mountains to the left, then ran all the way to the other side of the valley well past Bear Creek
Bear_Creek_Falls_086_07232020 - Looking back at more hikers making their way back from Bear Creek Falls and returning to Telluride
Bear_Creek_Falls_008_iPhone_07232020 - The unsigned trail junction where the narrower trail on the left went towards the former site of the Canton Mine
Bear_Creek_Falls_099_07232020 - Even though the Bear Creek Trail was wide, it was a bit rocky so it was a good idea to wear sturdy shoes in case of the odd ankle twist
Bear_Creek_Falls_102_07232020 - Approaching the signed trail junction with the Wasatch Trail on the way up to Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_105_07232020 - Looking towards the Lower Bear Creek Falls though it was difficult to get a clean view of it
Bear_Creek_Falls_110_07232020 - Approaching a large squarish boulder along the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_112_07232020 - A split in the Bear Creek Trail where the narrower path on the right was actually the correct path leading closer to the base of Bear Creek Falls. The wider path on the left went to Bear Creek
Bear_Creek_Falls_113_07232020 - Looking downstream from the squarish boulder along Bear Creek Canyon in the direction of Telluride
Bear_Creek_Falls_120_07232020 - An unusual frontal view of Bear Creek Falls from within Bear Creek just past the squarish boulder
Bear_Creek_Falls_124_07232020 - Context of the Bear Creek Trail approaching the main section of Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_133_07232020 - The part of Bear Creek Trail going through a very lush and thick section where the vegetation thrived in the moisture of Bear Creek as well as some feeder springs and brooks
Bear_Creek_Falls_137_07232020 - Approaching Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_141_07232020 - Looking up from the base of Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_144_07232020 - Looking downstream from the base of Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_163_07232020 - Looking across Bear Creek Falls as seen from near its base
Bear_Creek_Falls_173_07232020 - Looking upstream at Bear Creek Falls from further downstream with some people showing up and providing a sense of scale
Bear_Creek_Falls_184_07232020 - When I reached Bear Creek Falls, the sun was playing peek-a-boo with the clouds so when the clouds blocked the sunlight, I then used the even lighting to try to take long exposure shots (without a tripod though)
Bear_Creek_Falls_200_07232020 - Looking towards a small alcove by the base of a lower drop of Bear Creek Falls, where a small bird was chilling out
Bear_Creek_Falls_216_07232020 - Looking down at some kind of relic or remnant of some kind of mining infrastructure, I'd imagine, near the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_230_07232020 - Hiking back through the avalanche zone on the way back to Telluride after having had my fill of Bear Creek Falls
Bear_Creek_Falls_242_07232020 - With large groups like this one, I knew I made the right decision to start early so social distancing was less of a challenge on the Bear Creek Trail
Bear_Creek_Falls_247_07232020 - The nice thing about the return hike from Bear Creek Falls was that it was pretty much a downhill hike on the way back
Bear_Creek_Falls_267_07232020 - Finally returning to South Pine Street in Telluride as I was leaving the Bear Creek Reserve
Bear_Creek_Falls_268_07232020 - Looking back up at even more hikers making their way up to Bear Creek Falls attesting to this trail's immense popularity
Bear_Creek_Falls_272_07232020 - Continuing to walk back along South Pine Street in Telluride as activity was picking up in town
Bear_Creek_Falls_278_07232020 - Now there was a fairly sizable queue in front of the Free Gondola Telluride Station
Bear_Creek_Falls_284_07232020 - Looking up South Aspen Street as I was heading back up towards The Victorian Inn to end my Bear Creek Falls hike and rejoin Julie and Tahia who got to sleep in

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


The Bear Creek Trail begins from the southern end of South Pine Street in the town of Telluride.

It’s pretty straightforward to route to the town, but finding parking can be a tricky affair.

The government of Telluride has provided a web page providing guidance on parking for visitors and commuters.

Bear_Creek_Falls_008_07232020 - Looking towards what appeared to be a paid parking lot on the south side of Telluride, which attested to how in-demand that parking was in town
Looking towards what appeared to be a paid parking lot on the south side of Telluride, which attested to how in-demand that parking was in town

This is less of a concern if you happen to be staying at an accommodation in town that also has permitted parking.

Each time that we’ve visited Telluride, we’ve stayed at the The Victorian Inn. So this write-up assumed that we started and ended from this accommodation.

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.

Deliberate downstream to upstream sweep along the cliffs opposite Bear Creek and then going back and forth along Bear Creek involving the waterfall


Back and forth sweep along the cliffs opposite Bear Creek from a more elevated position before ending at the downstream view


Downstream to upstream sweep of Bear Creek Falls from further downstream of the actual waterfall

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: telluride, colorado, san miguel county, rocky mountains, bear creek reserve, lincoln national forest



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.