About Mystic Falls
Mystic Falls was one of the more elusive waterfalls that I’ve had the fortune of visiting in the Telluride vicinity.
However, it took me two attempts before I finally experienced it the way it was supposed to be, especially since I managed to mistaken it for the Upper Ames Falls on my first attempt.
As you can see in the photo above, this was an impressive plunging waterfall dropping possibly 80-100ft into a forbiddingly narrow gorge.
Indeed, Mystic Falls’ elusiveness had a lot to do with its lesser rate of visitation.
However, I suspect from the amount of people attempting to find this waterfall during my visits in late July 2020 that the cat’s already out of the bag, so to speak.
Nevertheless, despite some sparse markings on products like GoogleMaps, Garmin Mapsource, and GaiaGPS, it’s pretty easy to get lost and even inadvertently trespass when pursuing this waterfall for the first time.
So in this write-up, I’ll just detail how I’ve managed to experience Mystic Falls while also pointing out some of the mistakes that I’ve made along the way.
Reaching The Mystic Falls Trailhead
One of the obstacles in visiting Mystic Falls involves the rough 4wd road between the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant and the Mystic Falls Trailhead (see directions below).
On my first attempt, I actually drove this road, but I risked damage to the rental car in the process (despite its high-clearance).
On my second attempt, I learned that I didn’t have to drive the nearly half-mile stretch rough road as it took nearly as long for me to walk as it did to do the white-knuckle drive.
In that second attempt, I left the rental car at the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant and then started walking.
I walked up the narrow road immediately on the left beyond this power station as it ascended past a green cabin and then a brown cabin.
Immediately past the brown cabin, the road ascended even more steeply up a badly rutted and rocky track.
While walking through this stretch was trivial, driving through here meant either having 4wd capability or gaining momentum by gunning it through this rough section.
Beyond this rough spot, the road then veered to the right past an opening before ascending past an unsigned fork before reaching a second unsigned fork.
I then went right at this second unsigned fork, which went the remaining 0.1-mile on another narrow and quite badly-rutted road to the Mystic Falls Trailhead.
Note that had I continued straight ahead past the second unsigned fork, I would have eventually made it to the Gallooping Goose Trail and the awkward top down profile views of the Upper Ames Falls.
This 0.4-mile walk took me on the order of 15 minutes in each direction.
Accessing The Top Of Mystic Falls
Once at the Mystic Falls Trailhead I was greeted with an attractive waterfall tumbling into a steep and narrow gorge.
While this unnamed waterfall was attractive in its own right, it was not the Mystic Falls that I had targeted.
So I followed a narrow use-trail that skirted the rim of the gorge opposite the unnamed waterfall.
This trail eventually curved towards a narrow stream crossing, which then led to a large pile of rocks flanking the larger segment of the Lake Fork.
From here, I then followed some faint use-trails alongside the Lake Fork towards a “peninsula” that sat right in between the unnamed waterfall and the actual Mystic Falls itself.
While on this “peninsula”, I was able to experience the Mystic Falls from its precarious brink as well as from a couple of viewing spots from the rim of the gorge.
One of the viewpoints offered a top down profile view of the plunging waterfall while the other viewpoint was more straight on.
It only took me around 5-10 minutes to reach this peninsula from the Mystic Falls Trailhead Parking, but I completely missed it on my first visit thinking that it was further upstream instead of downstream.
Accessing The Bottom Of Mystic Falls
After having my fill of the upper views of Mystic Falls, I then pursued the scramble to get to the waterfall’s base.
In order to do this, I first had to return to the pile of stones flanking the near side of the larger segment of the Lake Fork.
Given the volume of water on this creek, it wasn’t likely that I’d be able to cross it without ruining a good pair of hiking boots.
So I learned from my mistake on my first visit by wearing Keens so I’d be able to go into the water without worrying about ruining hiking boots.
Once I got across the Lake Fork, I then followed a narrow trail of use that steeply climbed above the stream’s banks and onto a hillside.
The climb persisted as I continued to follow narrow, informal use-trails leading me past some partial views of Mystic Falls before the path re-entered the thick foliage on a steep hillside.
There were several paths leading down these slopes, but I opted to go as far along the use-trails that I could before finally descending one of the trails that weren’t as steep as the ones I saw earlier.
This descent went for quite a bit, and it was pretty easy to slip and fall so I had to be careful here.
But once I got to the bottom of the steep hillside, I then had to look around for more faint use-trails in the overgrowth.
After a bit of searching around, I eventually spotted a somewhat obvious but hidden use-trail that descended the rest of the way to the banks of the Lake Fork.
This time, I had to go across the creek over slippery submerged boulders before accessing a use-trail on the creek’s other side.
Then, I followed this use-trail alongside the Lake Fork upstream until the trail eventually disappeared into the Lake Fork but not before presenting me with the unforgettable view of Mystic Falls from inside the confines of the narrow gorge.
As much as I wanted to linger around down here, I was very congnizant of the rockfall danger from above as well as the flash flood danger since Summer thunderstorms could dump high volumes without notice further upstream.
So after having my fill of Mystic Falls’ base, I then scrambled back the way I came.
The hardest part of this return hike was actually the relentless climb I had to endure before making it back to the crossing of Lake Fork upstream from the brink of Mystic Falls.
Once past this initial crossing, it was pretty much a cakewalk to get back to the Mystic Falls Trailhead and eventually the Ames Power Station.
Overall, this hike to the bottom and back was about 0.75-1 mile in each direction, but it took me about an hour round-trip not counting the additional half-hour spent at the bottom taking pictures and basking in the scenery.
The walk between the Ames Power Station and Mystic Falls Trailhead was another half-mile in each direction so the overall hike was about 3 miles round trip.
Mystic Falls resides near the town of Telluride in San Miguel County, Colorado. Although it’s surrounded by private property, it’s on the Lake Fork, which resides in the Uncompahgre National Forest. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
For all intents and purposes, I think it is best to reach Mystic Falls by way of the Ames Power Plant, which is near the small hamlet of Ames, Colorado. This hamlet is roughly a half-hour drive from the town of Telluride.
From Telluride, I drove west on the CO-145 for about 3 miles to the roundabout where I continued on the CO-145 south after taking the second exit.
Then, I drove south on the CO-145 for about 7 mile to a sharp right turn onto the unpaved County Road 63L, which was just before the bridge over the Howard Fork.
I then followed the unpaved 63L Road for just under a mile to a sharp left turn onto the Ames Road.
Afterwards, I descended the Ames Road for roughly 0.3 miles to the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant, where there was a lot of space for parking when I visited.
This is where I’d recommend parking the vehicle then walking the rest of the way because I’d argue that it would take almost as much time to try to drive the rest of the way than it would be to walk it.
Nevertheless, if you’ve got a vehicle rugged enough to handle it, you can drive the narrow road on the left just past this power plant.
This road ascends past a green cabin, then a brown cabin, before the road really gets rough as it climbs up some deep craters and protruding rocks on a 4wd track.
After another 0.3 miles, there’s an unsigned fork on the right, which leads the final 0.1-mile to an unsigned parking area that’s essentially the Mystic Falls Trailhead.
From here, you can walk upstream on the Lake Fork towards the base of Upper Ames Falls as described above, or you can walk back down the spur road then continue to the right on the 4wd road to the Galloping Goose Trail (also as described above).
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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