Chasm Falls

Rocky Mountain National Park / Estes Park, Colorado, USA

About Chasm Falls


Hiking Distance: almost roadside
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-07-28
Date last visited: 2020-07-28

Waterfall Latitude: 40.41671
Waterfall Longitude: -105.67248

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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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_086_07282020 - Chasm Falls
Chasm Falls

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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_092_07282020 - Descending the short walk to the lookout for Chasm Falls
Descending the short walk to the lookout for Chasm Falls

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.

Chasm_Falls_028_iPhone_07282020 - Looking towards one of the surprise cascades along the one-way, unpaved Old Fall River Road beyond Chasm Falls
Looking towards one of the surprise cascades along the one-way, unpaved Old Fall River Road beyond Chasm Falls

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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_026_07282020 - Approaching the fork where driving on the unpaved Old Fall River Road straight ahead would commit you to going one-way for the full distance to the Alpine Visitor Center by the Fall River Pass while keeping left would go to the Endovalley Picnic Area
Approaching the fork where driving on the unpaved Old Fall River Road straight ahead would commit you to going one-way for the full distance to the Alpine Visitor Center by the Fall River Pass while keeping left would go to the Endovalley Picnic Area

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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_050_07282020 - This hard-to-see cascade was what I suspect to be what the maps labeled the Thousand Falls across the head of the valley over the Endovalley Picnic Area as seen from the Old Fall River Road
This hard-to-see cascade was what I suspect to be what the maps labeled the Thousand Falls across the head of the valley over the Endovalley Picnic Area as seen from the Old Fall River Road

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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_113_07282020 - Looking back towards Horseshoe Park as I was descending the Old Fall River Road, which was one of the benefits of hiking to Chasm Falls instead of driving it
Looking back towards Horseshoe Park as I was descending the Old Fall River Road, which was one of the benefits of hiking to Chasm Falls instead of driving it

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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_158_07282020 - Lots of construction going on at the Alluvial Fan meant that this was as much of Horseshoe Falls as I was going to see from the Fall River Road by the West Alluvial Fan
Lots of construction going on at the Alluvial Fan meant that this was as much of Horseshoe Falls as I was going to see from the Fall River Road by the West Alluvial Fan

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).

Authorities

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_hike_003_07282020 - Just to show you the chronology of how I experienced Chasm Falls, I'll start with my long walk from Lawn Lake Trailhead to Chasm Falls starting with this walk along the Fall River Road past lots of construction closures at the Alluvial Fan
Chasm_Falls_hike_006_07282020 - Looking ahead towards the closing in of the valley where the Fall River Road would ultimately go
Chasm_Falls_hike_010_07282020 - Looking downstream from the West Alluvial Fan towards this drainage at Horseshoe Park Valley
Chasm_Falls_hike_011_07282020 - It looked like the West Alluvial Fan Trailhead Parking was closed (or at least mostly closed) when I walked by it during my Chasm Falls visit in late July 2020
Chasm_Falls_hike_016_07282020 - Following the Fall River Road west of the West Alluvial Fan towards the Endovalley Picnic Area
Chasm_Falls_hike_017_07282020 - Continuing further along the Fall River Road as cars were passing me on the way to Chasm Falls and beyond
Chasm_Falls_hike_028_07282020 - Looking at the context of the one-way Old Fall River Road and the Endovalley Picnic Area down below
Chasm_Falls_hike_033_07282020 - Looking down at the Endovalley Picnic Area as I was walking the Old Fall River Road towards Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_035_07282020 - Context of the Old Fall River Road where you can see that it's pretty much single-lane so it made sense to make it one-way (though I've seen European Roads still treat these kinds of roads as two-way roads)
Chasm_Falls_hike_040_07282020 - While walking the Old Fall River Road, I was keeping my eyes peeled for Thousand Falls, which turned out to be rather hard to spot or to see satisfactorily
Chasm_Falls_hike_041_07282020 - Looking down at a surprise cascade on Chiquila Creek while walking the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_hike_044_07282020 - Another look at the hard-to-see Thousand Falls from the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_hike_049_07282020 - Yet another look at as much of Thousand Falls as I was able to see from the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_hike_053_07282020 - The Old Fall River Road generally climbed uphill towards Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_060_07282020 - Some side cascade on the Fall River downstream of Chasm Falls at the first switchback in the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_hike_063_07282020 - Continuing to hike beyond the switchbacks and towards Chasm Falls along the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_hike_073_07282020 - Looking down towards the brink of Chasm Falls as I was making my way down to the lookout
Chasm_Falls_hike_074_07282020 - Context of the short trail that made its way down to the lookout for Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_076_07282020 - When I first got down to the lookout for Chasm Falls, there was this one guy who was checking it out
Chasm_Falls_hike_083_07282020 - Focused look at Chasm Falls from the lookout with some people making their way down
Chasm_Falls_hike_089_07282020 - It was barely a minute or two had passed before the lookout for Chasm Falls got pretty crowded. On this day, there was never a moment that I was able to enjoy this waterfall alone
Chasm_Falls_hike_091_07282020 - Looking back at more people making their way down to the Chasm Falls Lookout
Chasm_Falls_hike_093_07282020 - When I made it back up to the Old Fall River Road, I saw this line of cars waiting to find parking at Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_095_07282020 - As I was leaving Chasm Falls, I noticed there were a lot more people on the short trail leading down to the Chasm Falls Lookout
Chasm_Falls_hike_108_07282020 - On my way back from Chasm Falls, I learned that I wasn't the only person hiking to Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_111_07282020 - Back at the bridge over Chiquila Creek along the Old Fall River Road as I was going backwards on it
Chasm_Falls_hike_121_07282020 - Descending the Old Fall River Road towards the paved Fall River Road as I was returning from Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_132_07282020 - Closeup look at some wildflowers blooming besides the Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_hike_142_07282020 - Looking ahead towards the Horseshoe Park Valley as I was returning towards the Alluvial Fan area
Chasm_Falls_hike_146_07282020 - Looking across the runoff from the West Alluvial Fan as I was returning from Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_149_07282020 - Context of the heavy construction site going on at the Alluvial Fan, which prevented me from experiencing the Horseshoe Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_157_07282020 - Unfortunately, this was about as much of Horseshoe Falls as I was going to be able to see on the day of my late July 2020 visit to Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_hike_166_07282020 - Looking ahead towards the closure of the East Alluvial Fan Parking Lot
Chasm_Falls_hike_169_07282020 - Closeup look at other wildflowers blooming alongside the Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_017_iPhone_07282020 - After feeling stupid walking as far as I did to experience Chasm Falls (and realizing it wasn't necessary), I finally got a chance to drive up the Fall River Road and see how everyone else was getting to experience this place
Chasm_Falls_019_iPhone_07282020 - Following a slower driver that wouldn't use any pullouts along the Old Fall River Road.  At least that afforded me some time to enjoy driving this one-way road beyond Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_022_iPhone_07282020 - Going up some switchbacks on the Old Fall River Road where some menacing clouds looked like they were ready to really dump on the area
Chasm_Falls_024_iPhone_07282020 - Continuing along the narrow, unpaved, and one-way Old Fall River Road well beyond Chasm Falls
Chasm_Falls_029_iPhone_07282020 - Looking towards one of the surprise cascades or waterfalls near the source of the Fall River as seen along the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_030_iPhone_07282020 - Checking out another one of the unnamed cascades tumbling near the source of the Fall River as seen along the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_031_iPhone_07282020 - Looking across the Fall River towards one of the taller strandy cascades that I noticed along the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_032_iPhone_07282020 - Yet another look at a cascade seen along the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_033_iPhone_07282020 - This waterfall on the Fall River itself was one of the more notable waterfalls seen on the upper end of the Old Fall River Road
Chasm_Falls_034_iPhone_07282020 - Approaching the Fall River Pass towards the end of the one-way Old Fall River Road drive
Chasm_Falls_036_iPhone_07282020 - The final uphill leading to the Alpine Visitor Center at the end of the Old Fall River Road

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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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_072_07282020 - Approaching the Chasm Falls Parking Area along the Old Fall River Road
Approaching the Chasm Falls Parking Area along the Old Fall River Road

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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_175_07282020 - The Lawn Lake Trailhead Parking Lot right at the start of the Fall River Road
The Lawn Lake Trailhead Parking Lot right at the start of 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.

Chasm_Falls_hike_176_07282020 - Looking back along the Chasm Falls Parking Area so you get a sense of how many cars this lot can support
Looking back along the Chasm Falls Parking Area so you get a sense of how many cars this lot can support

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.

Downstream to upstream sweep of the falls from the main lookout

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Tagged with: estes park, colorado, rocky mountain national park, larimer county, old fall river road, thousand falls, alluvial fan



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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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