Cascade Falls (Lower Cascade Falls)

Ouray / Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado, USA

About Cascade Falls (Lower Cascade Falls)


Hiking Distance: 1/4-mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2017-04-17
Date last visited: 2020-07-24

Waterfall Latitude: 38.02576
Waterfall Longitude: -107.6647

Cascade Falls was said to be the last in a series of seven waterfalls on Cascade Creek near the town of Ouray.

Of these waterfalls, I only know of two of these waterfalls that were accessible and named.

Cascade_Falls_Ouray_023_04172017 - Cascade Falls (actually, the Lower Cascade Falls) in the town of Ouray
Cascade Falls (actually, the Lower Cascade Falls) in the town of Ouray

For this reason, they sometimes refer to the waterfall you see pictured above as the Lower Cascade Falls.

It was said to drop over 200ft in a dramatic plunge that was already visible from the trailhead (see directions below).

Apparently, it was even possible to see this waterfall from other parts of the town of Ouray since the falls was in a pretty wide open part of Ouray’s southwest-facing cliffs and slopes.

During our visit in late April 2017, there was still quite a bit of snow in the higher elevations so I’d imagine that we saw the falls before its peak flow.

Ouray_001_04172017 - Cascade Falls was accessible from the town of Ouray
Cascade Falls was accessible from the town of Ouray

I’d imagine that its snowmelt would most likely max out in late May or early June.

Nevertheless, this was certainly one of the more impressive waterfalls that we had seen on our Desert Southwest Spring Break trip.

Moreover, its easy accessibility meant that Julie and Tahia could enjoy it without worrying too much about altitude sickness nor trail hazards.

Hiking up to Cascade Falls

The well-signed trail began next to some concrete flume that was built to funnel Cascade Creek and possible flash flood debris (e.g. boulders and uprooted trees) quickly away from the steep canyon.

Cascade_Falls_Ouray_028_04172017 - Tahia crossing the bridge over the creek to continue up towards the base of Cascade Falls
Tahia crossing the bridge over the creek to continue up towards the base of Cascade Falls

The trail was a little on the rocky side and pretty much moderately uphill, but it was very wide and easily walkable.

Less than five minutes up the trail, we encountered a sheltered viewing area providing a nice framed view of the Lower Cascade Falls between trees and backed by nearly vertical cliffs.

The Perimeter Trail continued going uphill to the right, while another trail continued across the bridge to the left.

We continued on the trail that crossed the bridge, where we went past another junction just on the other side.

Cascade_Falls_Ouray_040_04172017 - Looking up at Cascade Falls (or the Lower Cascade Falls) from its base. Notice the squarish hole (a mine?) on the lower right side of this photo next to the bottom of the falls
Looking up at Cascade Falls (or the Lower Cascade Falls) from its base. Notice the squarish hole (a mine?) on the lower right side of this photo next to the bottom of the falls

Then, we proceeded further uphill until we arrived at the steep and rocky base of the Lower Cascade Falls.

From this far up close to the falls, it looked smaller than it did back at the viewpoint.

I’d attribute that to the uppermost tiers of the falls being hidden by the forced perspective of the brink of the falls and the neighboring cliffs above concealing those uppermost parts of the falls.

There was also some squarish hole in the cliffs that appeared to be an old mine shaft or something.

Cascade_Falls_Ouray_057_04172017 - Julie and Tahia on the scenic return hike from Cascade Falls in the town of Ouray after having had our fill of the falls
Julie and Tahia on the scenic return hike from Cascade Falls in the town of Ouray after having had our fill of the falls

We didn’t scramble any closer for a deeper look (it was on the other side of Cascade Creek).

However, from what we could tell, the hole didn’t go very far anyways as we thought we saw its end even from our vantage point.

Anyways, when we had our fill of the Lower Cascade Falls, we got back to the parked car after spending barely less than 45 minutes away from it.

According to my GPS logs, the overall hiking distance was about a quarter-mile round trip.

Seeing Cascade Falls from the Ouray Overlook

Ouray_Overlook_015_07242020 - Looking towards the context of Cascade Falls as seen from the Ouray Overlook
Looking towards the context of Cascade Falls as seen from the Ouray Overlook

One thing we learned when we made a stop for the Ouray Overlook was that Cascade Falls was also visible from this higher vantage point.

Not only did we get a regal view of the town as well as the context of Box Canyon, but we also got to see part of Cascade Falls dropping above the east side of town.

We managed to get this view on a return visit in late July 2020, which indicated to us that the waterfall did have some staying power even though its volume was diminished compared to our late April 2017 visit.

Authorities

Cascade Falls resides in the town of Ouray in San Miguel County, Colorado. It is administered by the town of Ouray. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Ouray_Overlook_013_07242020 - On a return visit to Ouray in late July 2020, we managed to get a glimpse of Cascade Falls from the Ouray Overlook
Ouray_Overlook_020_07242020 - Even more contextual look at where Cascade Falls was compared to the rest of Ouray as seen from the Ouray Overlook
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_006_04172017 - The trailhead parking for the Cascade Falls Park, where you can already start to see the Cascade Falls. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery came from our first visit back in late April 2017
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_002_04172017 - Looking back from the trailhead parking for Cascade Falls towards the unpaved 8th Ave and imposing mountain on the opposite side of the valley
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_009_04172017 - Tahia starting on the wide and open trail leading up to Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_013_04172017 - This was the concrete flume or gutter at the start of the Cascade Falls hike that was built for flash flood debris and damage control
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_015_04172017 - This was the viewpoint of Cascade Falls, which was also next to a bridge as well as a trail junction with the Perimeter Trail
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_017_04172017 - Contextual view of the Lower Cascade Falls as seen from the viewpoint
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_019_04172017 - More focused look at the Lower Cascade Falls as seen from the viewpoint
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_026_04172017 - Looking upstream along Cascade Creek towards the falls from the bridge while showing the rocky terrain of its creek bed
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_027_04172017 - Looking back at the Perimeter Trail which we chose not to take
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_029_04172017 - After crossing the bridge over the creek, Tahia continued on the trail leading right up to the base of Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_031_04172017 - Tahia continuing up the steps on the way up to the Lower Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_032_04172017 - Tahia approaching the base of Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_035_04172017 - Looking right up at the Lower Cascade Falls from its base. Notice the squarish opening on the lower right side of this photo
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_044_04172017 - Looking up towards the brink of Cascade Falls from its base, where that squarish opening across the creek looks even more prominent. I believe that must have been one of the many mines in this part of Southwestern Colorado
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_046_04172017 - Looking at some sort of tunnel or mine shaft or something, which was next to the base of Lower Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_052_04172017 - Tahia and Julie making their way back to the trailhead after having their fill of Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Ouray_054_04172017 - Context of the bridge over the creek and the lookout on the other side of it as we were returning from the base of the Lower Cascade Falls

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Cascade Falls was in the town of Ouray.

Once we got to the town, we continued along Hwy 550 (Main Street) before heading east on 8th Ave.

Cascade_Falls_Ouray_008_04172017 - Looking back towards the unpaved 8th Avenue from the trailhead parking at the Cascade Falls Park in Ouray
Looking back towards the unpaved 8th Avenue from the trailhead parking at the Cascade Falls Park in Ouray

The pavement ended on 8th Ave and we had to drive uphill on the fairly steep road (it may require using lower gear) leading up a quarter-mile to Cascade Falls Park.

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.

Sweep checking out the falls from a viewing area near a footbridge that was downstream from the end of the trail


Sweep checking out the falls from the very end of the trail including a brief inspection of an apparent tunnel or mine entrance by the falls


Broad sweep of the Ouray Overlook with a distant look at Cascade Falls

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: ouray, colorado, switzerland, rocky mountains, waterfall



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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.
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