About Seven Falls
Seven Falls was perhaps the signature waterfall attraction of the Colorado Springs area. Like its name suggested, it was where South Cheyenne Creek fell a total of 181ft over a series of seven drops in succession at the head of the granite box canyon. Each of the drops had names – Ramona Falls, Feather Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Shorty Falls, Hull Falls, Weimer Falls, and Hill Falls (from top to bottom). Indeed, when it came to this waterfall there seemed to be no shortage of superlatives used to describe this natural attraction, especially since it had been owned by various families and entities over its history since it was opened to tourists in 1885 by naturalist and owner James Hull who bought the area in 1882 for fear of losing the area to logging. I’m sure the saying “The Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado” used to describe this falls and South Cheyenne Canyon was one of the marketing and promotion efforts.
Speaking of private ownership, this also meant that I had to pay $10 to make my visit in March (it was $14 in peak season as of 2017) so it wasn’t cheap. With each different owner, different aspects of amenities, transport, and trails were constructed to make the falls even more accessible. The trail to Inspiration Point as well as the stairs to the top of the falls was said to have been built by the first owner James Hull. Al Hill, the third owner, and his family had built the viewing platform and a funicular to the Eagle’s Nest lookout, which was where the photo you see at the top of this page was taken. It wouldn’t be until 2002 when the falls would be floodlit. Finally, during my visit, the falls was owned and operator by The Broadmoor (a fancy hotel in the heart of the well-off area of Coloado Springs), which bought the falls on the cheap after the area had been severely damaged by flooding in late 2013. During their ownership, they cleaned up the canyon floor, relieved vehicle congestion by making the area shuttle or foot-traffic only, and built the 1858 Restaurant near the base of the Seven Falls. Complimentary shuttle and parking was now closer to the Broadmoor Hotel, which was about 1.8 miles from the gate at the foot of South Cheyenne Canyon.
As for the overall experience, I’ll describe the way I did it, which took in all the main points of interest in and around the Seven Falls area. To summarize what I did, I basically hiked from the gate to the base of Seven Falls, then climbed the stairs and hiked further to Midnight Falls before hiking to the Helen Hunt Jackson Inspiration Point, and then finally backtracking to the base of Seven Falls before ascending up to Eagle’s Nest Lookout. After Eagle’s Nest Lookout, I then took the shuttle back to the gate, and then a different shuttle all the way back to Seven Falls Parking Lot near the Golden Bees Restaurant at the Broadmoor complex. The entire excursion took me under 2.5 hours, but it could easily take shorter or longer depending on whether you want to bring the family along or you want to partake in the additional trails above the falls. Just to give you an idea of the time commitment and physical fitness involved, I did this excursion solo while my wife Julie and daughter Tahia spent their time at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
From the gate and ticket office at the foot of South Cheyenne Canyon, I walked about a mile along a paved road nestled between impressive cliff formations each with names like “Pillars of Hercules”, “Washingtons Profile”, “The Three Amigos”, and “The Three Bears”, etc. At the turnaround point of the paved road was a gift shift, the stairs and elevator leading up to Eagle’s Nest, and the Restaurant 1858. Just on the other side of the restaurant was the viewing area at the base of Seven Falls as well as the start of the stairs climbing alongside the falls itself. Given all the scenery that was packed within this one-mile stretch, I suspected that this was probably how “The Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado” came to be associated with the Seven Falls.
Next, I walked up the stairs alongside the Seven Falls, where the stairs were wide enough to let people squeeze past each other side-by-side though one person could easily hold onto both handrails. Along the way were signs describing the name of a particular section of the Seven Falls as well as the type or shape of the waterfall in question. There was a break area (to catch your breath, especially with the high altitude) at the half-way point of the 224 steps, where I was right up against “Shorty Falls”, able to look up at the 2nd and 3rd drops of the Seven Falls, as well as getting a butterflies-in-the-stomach-inducing view down towards the base of the falls. Shortly after passing a sign encouraging me that I was more than half-way finished, I then reached a flattened part of the walk where it then went right in front of Ramona Falls (the uppermost one), which also had an attractive corkscrew or hole carved out besides its plunge pool. After going up the last set of steps past Ramona Falls, the man-made structures became more sparse as the path now followed a more conventional dirt trail.
After passing by a shelter with some interpretive signs concerning the wildlife in the area, I then crossed a bridge over South Cheyenne Creek before reaching a signposted junction where the path on the right went to Midnight Falls (said to be 20 minutes round trip) and the path on the left went to Inspiration Point (said to be 40 minutes round trip). I first went right, which followed a gradually uphill path alongside South Cheyenne Creek. The trail itself was pretty quiet and featured some interesting rock formations as well as a little detour going around private property. There were also some side trails to the left along the way though I didn’t follow them so I can’t say where they went. As the sign had indicated, I managed to get to Midnight Falls, which was a pretty miniscule 15-20ft waterfall besides a small alcove.
Back at the signposted junction, I then took the other trail to Inspiration Point, and right off the bat, the trail ascended alongside the mountain’s slope before making a switchback and ascending towards a shelter with a sign saying something to the effect that I’m on camera. Along the upper stretch of this switchback, I noticed to my left in the distance was some other seemingly large waterfall though I wasn’t sure which waterfall it was (could it be St Mary’s Falls?). Beyond the shelter, the trail then ascended one more switchback before arriving at a lookout with a signpost saying “Covered Wagon”, which was apparently some rock formation across the canyon. Continuing further along the trail, it then gradually descended past what appeared to be some zipline structures before ending further below at an unsigned lookout, which was the Helen Hunt Jackson Inspiration Point.
At the Inspiration Point (said to be at an elevation of 7,200 ft), I was able to look across the South Cheyenne Canyon’s rim both to the north and west. Meanwhile, looking to the east, I was able to get a partial look through the canyon opening towards parts of Colorado Springs. Back near the ziplines, there was a plaque on a rock saying that Helen Hunt Jackson got her inspiration for the backdrop of her work Ramona from the scenery of the Seven Falls area. This was why this place was called the Helen Hunt Jackson Inspiration Point. Anyways, it didn’t look like the trail went any further to the east though I didn’t bother trying to explore further in that direction.
As I was running out of daylight, especially with an incoming snow storm that was threatening, I quickly descended back down to the top of the Seven Falls, and then carefully descended the 224 steps. Next, I walked past the restaurant and to the stairs by the gift shop leading up to Eagle’s Nest. In hindsight, I should have taken the elevator right up to the lookout (which was within a tunnel next to the base of the stairs) instead of tiring myself taking the 181 steps up (as I didn’t know the elevator was free).
Up at the Eagle’s Nest Viewing Platform, this was where I was able to get commanding views of the entirety of Seven Falls as well as the scale of the falls with the people and the 1858 Restaurant being dwarfed down below. A sign up here also talked about each of the seven named drops comprising the Seven Falls, which I think pretty much repeated what the signs along the 224 steps alongside the Seven Falls had said. After having my fill of the Eagle’s Nest, I then took the elevator back down and then took the $1 shuttle to the gate, where I then waited for a different shuttle to take me back to the complimentary shuttle parking to end the overall excursion.
While there were many ways to drive to Seven Falls from various spots in the Colorado Springs area, we’ll just describe the way we would do it from the Rockrimmon Blvd ramps onto the I-25 (near the Hyatt House where we stayed). So from the I-25 southbound at Rockrimmon Blvd, we then drove for about 7 miles on the I-25 to the exit 140 at Tejon Road. But once we were off the freeway, we kept going straight at the first light (Tejon Blvd) then turned right onto Nevada Ave (Hwy 115). After about a mile south on Nevada Ave, we then took the ramp on the right to Lake Ave. After another 1.3 miles going west on Lake Ave, we would then turn right onto 1st Street. The large lot for Seven Falls was a short distance on the right though we also saw people parking at the Golden Bee Restaurant right on the corner of Lake and 1st. Overall, this drive would take 20 minutes.
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