Mystic Falls

Ames / Telluride / San Juan National Forest, Colorado, USA

About Mystic Falls


Hiking Distance: about 3 miles round trip (to bottom of falls from power station)
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2020-07-24
Date last visited: 2020-07-24

Waterfall Latitude: 37.86253
Waterfall Longitude: -107.88452

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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.

Mystic_Falls_149_07242020 - Mystic Falls as seen from within its forbiddingly narrow gorge
Mystic Falls as seen from within its forbiddingly narrow gorge

As you can see in the photo above, this was an impressive plunging waterfall dropping possibly 80-100ft into a forbiddingly narrow gorge.

It’s arguably the most scenic waterfall around Telluride, especially since it doesn’t get the same traffic as the more popular Bridal Veil Falls or Bear Creek Falls.

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.

Mystic_Falls_055_07242020 - Angled view of Mystic Falls from a peninsula splitting this and the thinner unnamed waterfall seen from the trailhead
Angled view of Mystic Falls from a peninsula splitting this and the thinner unnamed waterfall seen from the trailhead

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).

Mystic_Falls_182_07242020 - Looking back at the green cabin by the narrow road beyond the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant
Looking back at the green cabin by the narrow road beyond the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant

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.

Mystic_Falls_015_07242020 - Closeup look at the very rough 4wd road beyond the brown cabin on the access road between the Ames Power Station and the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Closeup look at the very rough 4wd road beyond the brown cabin on the access road between the Ames Power Station and the Mystic Falls Trailhead

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.

Mystic_Falls_023_07242020 - The final 0.1-mile stretch, which had more craters and ruts on the way to the Mystic Falls Trailhead Parking
The final 0.1-mile stretch, which had more craters and ruts on the way to the Mystic Falls Trailhead Parking

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.

Mystic_Falls_079_07232020 - Context of the attractive unnamed waterfall at the Mystic Falls Trailhead parking
Context of the attractive unnamed waterfall at the Mystic Falls Trailhead parking

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.

Mystic_Falls_039_07242020 - Top down profile view near the brink of Mystic Falls from the 'peninsula' between both segments of the Lake Fork
Top down profile view near the brink of Mystic Falls from the ‘peninsula’ between both segments of the Lake Fork

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.

Mystic_Falls_095_07242020 - The pile of stones flanking the wider and more voluminous segment of the Lake Fork, which I had to go across in order to access the bottom of Mystic Falls
The pile of stones flanking the wider and more voluminous segment of the Lake Fork, which I had to go across in order to access the bottom of Mystic Falls

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.

Mystic_Falls_108_07242020 - The steep descent to make it to a lower crossing of Lake Fork further downstream of Mystic Falls as I pursued its base
The steep descent to make it to a lower crossing of Lake Fork further downstream of Mystic Falls as I pursued its base

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.

Mystic_Falls_113_07242020 - Having to cross the Lake Fork again after having made the scramble all the way to the bottom and then scrambling back upstream towards the base of Mystic Falls
Having to cross the Lake Fork again after having made the scramble all the way to the bottom and then scrambling back upstream towards the base of Mystic Falls

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.

Mystic_Falls_117_07242020 - Finally approaching the majestic Mystic Falls from within its forbiddingly confined gorge
Finally approaching the majestic Mystic Falls from within its forbiddingly confined gorge

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.

Authorities

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.

Mystic_Falls_001_07242020 - The narrow road leading to both Mystic Falls and Upper Ames Falls was climbing to the left just past the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant
Mystic_Falls_005_07242020 - This was the green cabin which was the first structure up the narrow road beyond the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant
Mystic_Falls_180_07242020 - This was the brown cabin which was the second structure up the narrow road beyond the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant
Mystic_Falls_012_07242020 - Walking up the narrow and rough 4wd road beyond the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant. I found it much easier to walk this nearly half-mile stretch than to try to drive it
Mystic_Falls_016_07242020 - After the really rough part of the road just above the brown cabin, the road then curved at this open area by some power line
Mystic_Falls_018_07242020 - Keeping straight at this unsigned junction on the way to the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Mystic_Falls_019_07242020 - Continuing along the 4wd road after the first unsigned junction on the way towards the second unsigned junction en route to the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Mystic_Falls_021_07242020 - Approaching the unsigned spur in the 4wd road where the road on the right led to the Mystic Falls Trailhead while the road on the left continued towards the Galloping Goose Trail
Mystic_Falls_003_07232020 - This was the trailhead parking for Mystic Falls provided that the vehicle can make it this far without damage
Mystic_Falls_025_07242020 - This was the attractive unnamed waterfall seen right from the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Mystic_Falls_026_07242020 - Context of the use-trail skirting the rim of the gorge opposite the attractive unnamed waterfall by the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Mystic_Falls_027_07242020 - The Mystic Falls use-trail going into the overgrowth as the path to the falls wasn't really a maintained path
Mystic_Falls_030_07242020 - Looking back across the attractive unnamed waterfall as the use-trail continued towards the Lake Fork
Mystic_Falls_031_07242020 - The use-trail to Mystic Falls then brought me to this fairly trivial stream crossing of the narrower segment of the Lake Fork
Mystic_Falls_042_07242020 - Looking down across the brink of Mystic Falls after having scrambled downstream alongside the larger segment of the Lake Fork
Mystic_Falls_049_07242020 - Looking back at the context of the brink of Mystic Falls as I followed some more informal use-trails in pursuit of better views from this 'peninsula' between the pair of waterfalls on the Lake Fork
Mystic_Falls_057_07242020 - Context of the precipitous cliffs flanking Mystic Falls as seen from perhaps the best vantage point on the 'peninsula' between the segments of Lake Fork's main lower waterfalls
Mystic_Falls_063_07242020 - Landscape view of Mystic Falls from the 'peninsula'
Mystic_Falls_092_07242020 - Looking over the smaller gorge in the direction of the Mystic Falls Trailhead from the 'peninsula'
Mystic_Falls_096_07242020 - This was where I crossed the Lake Fork further upstream of the brink of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_098_07242020 - Beyond crossing the Lake Fork upstream of Mystic Falls, I then had to follow this narrow slope-hugging use-trail in pursuit of going to the bottom of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_104_07242020 - Partial view of Mystic Falls as I looked back at it while pursuing use-trails further downstream in search of a way to the bottom
Mystic_Falls_106_07242020 - Looking down towards some private property on the opposite side of the Lake Fork while still following use-trails in search of a way down to the bottom of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_109_07242020 - Taking one of the steep trails on the hillside scramble towards the next crossing of Lake Fork further downstream of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_110_07242020 - At the bottom of the hillside scramble, I was then greeted with lots of overgrowth while searching for more clues and use-trails en route to the Lake Fork downstream of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_111_07242020 - Finding some faint use-trails that eventually led me towards the Lake Fork in pursuit of the bottom of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_112_07242020 - Descending the final downhill stretch towards the lower crossing of the Lake Fork en route to the base of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_114_07242020 - Facing the next crossing of the Lake Fork somewhere downstream of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_115_07242020 - Looking across one of the intermediate waterfalls on the Lake Fork while scrambling upstream to the base of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_126_07242020 - Finally starting to see Mystic Falls from within its narrow gorge
Mystic_Falls_131_07242020 - Angled look besides one of the intermediate cascades before the base of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_138_07242020 - Looking upstream at Mystic Falls as I continued to scramble towards the disappearance of the use-trail
Mystic_Falls_153_07242020 - Direct look at Mystic Falls' main drops from its base
Mystic_Falls_154_07242020 - Context of Mystic Falls and some rapids in the Lake Fork from within its narrow gorge
Mystic_Falls_157_07242020 - That's me checking out Mystic Falls from the bottom
Mystic_Falls_167_07242020 - Last look at Mystic Falls before it was time to scramble back to the trailhead
Mystic_Falls_168_07242020 - Noticing some berries growing in the foliage alongside the Lake Fork while scrambling back towards the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Mystic_Falls_170_07242020 - It took a lot of sweat and leg muscle to climb back up to this point, but from here on out, the rest of the Mystic Falls hike and scramble was downhill again
Mystic_Falls_171_07242020 - On the way back, I noticed that someone was nice enough to put a rock cairn on this scrambling path though I didn't notice it on the way to the bottom of Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_173_07242020 - Returning to the initial creek crossing of Lake Fork on the way back to the Mystic Falls Trailhead
Mystic_Falls_174_07242020 - Finally making it back to the Mystic Falls Trailhead, but now I had to hike back down the 4wd road to the Ames Power Station where I had left the rental car
Mystic_Falls_187_07242020 - Finally making it back to the Ames Hydroelectricity Generating Plant to end this Mystic Falls adventure

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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.

Mystic_Falls_attempt_003_iPhone_07232020 - The unpaved County Road 63L on the way to the hamlet of Ames
The unpaved County Road 63L on the way to the hamlet of Ames

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.

Mystic_Falls_186_07242020 - The Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant where I found it to be relatively safer to park the car here and then walk the rough road to access both Mystic Falls and the Upper Ames Falls
The Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant where I found it to be relatively safer to park the car here and then walk the rough road to access both Mystic Falls and the Upper Ames Falls

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).

Mystic_Falls_009_07242020 - Closeup look at the rugged 4wd road beyond the brown cabin where I found it much easier to walk this stretch than to attempt to drive it and risk damage to the vehicle
Closeup look at the rugged 4wd road beyond the brown cabin where I found it much easier to walk this stretch than to attempt to drive it and risk damage to the vehicle

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.

Semicircular sweep focusing on the first waterfall by the 4wd parking area before doing an up-and-down sweep of the falls itself


Short sweep from the parking area for Mystic Falls but focused more on the first waterfall with mountain backdrop


Pair of sweeps from the cliff by the top of the falls while peering into the gorge and along the falls for each sweep


Deliberate sweep from downstream to upstream from further down the peninsula between the smaller falls and the Mystic Falls itself


Bright downstream to upstream sweep from downstream of the Mystic Falls base while also revealing an intermediate cascade


Downstream to upstream sweep from closer to the base of Mystic Falls

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: telluride, colorado, ames, san miguel county, rocky mountains, private property



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.