About Bear Creek Falls
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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