About Chasm Falls
Chasm Falls was a gushing 25ft waterfall on the famed Fall River, which was easily visited along the one-way drive on the Old Fall River Road.
There are actually quite a few ways to experience this waterfall depending on how much one would desire to hike here, but this may be beyond one’s control.
I managed to experience this waterfall both by the lazy way as well as a much longer hike throughout the Endovalley.
So I’ll describe the pros and cons of each of these options on this page.
The Easiest Way To Experience Chasm Falls
The most straightforward way to visit Chasm Falls was by driving up the Fall River Road towards the Endovalley Picnic Area.
Keeping right at the fork, I’d then drive onto the Old Fall River Road, which was a one-way unpaved road climbing out of the valley of Horseshoe Park.
Once on the Old Fall River Road, I pretty much would commit myself to finish driving this nearly 9-mile stretch of road that would end up at the Alpine Visitor Center at the Fall River Pass before rejoining the Trail Ridge Road.
However, the Chasm Falls parking area was only about 1.4 miles into this one-way road.
Once parked at the fairly extensive parking area for Chasm Falls, it was a mere 300ft jaunt to the lookout just downstream of the waterfall itself.
Of course, this option would only be available if the Old Fall River Road was open, which was said to be between late June through to late September depending on the snow situation.
While committing to this one-way drive might be seen as a negative (especially if you’re short on time), I found the Old Fall River Road to be quite scenic with some surprise cascades and waterfalls along the way.
Nevertheless, the next option would provide perhaps the greatest flexibility with minimal time commitment.
Hiking to Chasm Falls from the Endovalley Picnic Area
Instead of driving the Old Fall River Road and committing to the full 9-mile drive up to the Alpine Visitor Center high up the Continental Divide, it’s possible to hike to Chasm Falls from the Endovalley Picnic Area.
In addition to being able to hike back down the Old Fall River Road and then being able to drive back east on the paved part of the Fall River Road, doing the hike also gave me the chance to experience this section slowly.
Indeed, I not only got to pay closer attention to the Thousand Falls, which tumbled from a hidden Hanging Valley above the Endovalley Picnic Area, but I also noticed other surprise cascades tumbling beneath the Old Fall River Road.
Further along the Old Fall River Road, I also managed to scramble upstream from the first switchback towards some hidden cascades on the Fall River itself that might be easily missed by people driving past and not stopping at the limited pullouts here.
On the way back from Chasm Falls, I managed to get nice views of the valley comprising Horseshoe Park, which was something most motorists on the Old Fall River Road might easily miss since they’d be looking forward and not over their shoulder.
Overall, it was on the order of about 1.4 miles in each direction (or 2.8 miles round-trip) between the Endovalley Picnic Area and Chasm Falls.
I’d allow myself around 1-2 hours to exercise this option.
Unfortunately, the Endovalley Picnic Area seemed to be pretty popular so parking in that loop or even on some of the obscure pullouts along the Fall River Road may not be feasible.
Therefore, one would have to commit to hiking even farther in order to get the benefits of hiking to Chasm Falls and back.
Hiking to Chasm Falls from the Alluvial Fan area or Lawn Lake Trailhead
This was by far the slowest option to experience Chasm Falls, but it also meant having a pretty good deal of solitude and social distancing when the cars weren’t around.
Indeed, by doing this roughly 7-mile round-trip hike (from the Lawn Lake Trailhead), I had a chance to do a short detour to experience Horseshoe Falls at the Alluvial Fan, which would have been a bonus waterfall.
There was also parking at the West Alluvial Fan (which would shave off another mile round-trip to the overall hike) as well as the East Alluvial Fan.
However, during my visit in late July 2020, there was a lot of construction activity thereby closing both parking lots while also closing off access to the bottom of Horseshoe Falls.
Anyways, I also got to see lots of wildflowers and some wildlife along the Fall River Road, while also noticing a bit of private property, which I found to be very unusual in a national park.
Because most of this walk was along a paved road, it only took me 2.5 hours to complete (though it could have been even less time had I parked closer at the West Alluvial Fan).
In any case, I’d call this the fallback option considering there were three parking lots within a half-mile of each other (and this didn’t count some of the unmarked roadside pullouts that I spotted along the Fall River Road).
Chasm Falls resides in the Rocky Mountain National Park near the city of Estes Park in Larimer County, Colorado. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Chasm Falls was along the Old Fall River Road, which itself was at the end of the Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Since there were multiple parking lots or trailheads described on this page, I’ll describe how to progressively drive to each of these trailheads eventually progressing to the Chasm Falls parking area.
Note that if you’ve driven to the Chasm Falls parking area, then you’d have to commit to finishing the Old Fall River Road.
So from busy intersection where the US36 (N St Vrain Ave / E Elkhorn Ave) and US34 (Big Thompson Ave / E Wonderview Ave) intersect in Estes Park, I drove north on the US34 (E Wonderview Ave) for about 5 miles to the Fall River Entrance Station.
After the entrance station, I continued for another 2 miles to the Fall River Road, where I then turned right.
The Lawn Lake Trailhead was on the right shortly after turning onto the Fall River Road.
Continuing west along the Fall River Road, the East Alluvial Fan Trailhead Parking was just under a half-mile further.
The West Alluvial Fan Trailhead Parking was a nother 0.3-mile west of the East Alluvial Fan Trailhead Parking.
Continuing further west along the Fall River Road for another 1.2 miles, the Endovalley Picnic Area was on the left fork while the start of the one-way Old Fall River Road was on the right fork.
Committing to the one-way unpaved Old Fall River Road, I’d have to drive another 1.4 miles to the Chasm Falls Parking Area.
Beyond the Chasm Falls Parking Area, I’d then have to continue driving for another 7.4 miles or so to reach the Alpine Visitor Center at the Fall River Pass, where I could then rejoin the Trail Ridge Road (US34) right at the Continental Divide.
Overall, the 10-mile drive between Estes Park and Chasm Falls Parking Area would take around a half-hour without stops.
However, it would take about an hour to finish the 18-mile drive between Estes Park and Alpine Visitor Center via the Old Fall River Road without stops.
For context, Estes Park was about 37 miles (about an hour drive without delays) northwest of Boulder, 41 miles (over an hour drive) west of Fort Collins, 47 miles (about 90 minutes drive with tolls required) northeast of Grand Lake, 65 miles (about 1.5 hours drive without delays) northwest of Denver, and 173 miles (under 2 hours drive) southwest of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
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