About Upper Ames Falls
Upper Ames Falls was an accidental waterfall where I stumbled upon it while searching for the more publicized Mystic Falls.
Apparently, this waterfall was more known as the “Ice Falls” (at least according to a sign I noticed at the nearby Ames Power Station) as it acted as an ice climbing challenge during the Winter months.
This waterfall was difficult to get a good look at primarily because it was flanked by private property on both sides of the Lake Fork.
So if ice climbers would climb this waterfall, I’d presume that they probably went upstream on the Lake Fork to reach the bottom of this waterfall as the watercourse itself was on public land.
Actually, when I stumbled upon this waterfall, I had originally thought that this was Mystic Falls, but upon further inspection, I realized that this falls was further upstream of the Mystic Falls, and thus it’s sometimes called “Upper Mystic Falls”.
As a result, I believe this waterfall had the formal name of Upper Ames Falls as indicated on GoogleMaps, which I’ve adopted in this write-up.
In order to get a view of the Upper Ames Falls, I’m aware of two ways to do it without trespassing.
A Sanctioned Way To View Upper Ames Falls From The Top
The first way I’m aware of to experience this waterfall is by walking along the 4wd road past the turnoff for the Mystic Falls Trailhead for about 0.4 miles.
There were spur trails leading closer to the Upper Ames Falls on the right, but they were all signposted as private property.
Therefore, the only way I was able to get a somewhat decent look at part of the Upper Ames Falls was to continue on the main 4wd road until I got a partial look down towards the profile of the waterfall between an opening in the foliage.
The info box on the sidebar of this post describes that it was 1.4 miles round trip to experience the falls, and this was the manner that I had in mind when I filled in this section.
This consisted of the 0.4 miles to hike up the rough 4wd road between the Ames Power Station and the Mystic Falls Turnoff.
Then, I’d hike an additional 0.3 miles along the 4wd road towards the trail sign with the galloping goose and the side views of the Upper Ames Falls.
It wasn’t a particularly satisfactory view, but any of the better views of this waterfall would involve trespassing.
A Sanctioned Way To View Upper Ames Falls From The Bottom
The second way to experience the Upper Ames Falls was essentially stream scrambling along the Lake Fork until reaching the base of the waterfall.
This was the way I almost managed to do it as I had unknowingly scrambled too far upstream from Mystic Falls and came upon intermediate cascades fronting the much wider Upper Ames Falls.
In order to make it all the way to the base of the falls for a cleaner look, I would have to wade into the Lake Fork, which was something I wasn’t prepared to do at the time.
So all I was left with were some awkwardly obstructed views as shown in the photo above.
This rough approach would require a roughly 1-mile round-trip scramble and stream wade along with an additional 0.8-mile round-trip hike on the 4wd road from the Ames Power Station to avoid potential damage to the car.
Thus, we’re looking at about a 1.8-mile round trip hike and scramble to reach the base of the Upper Ames Falls in this manner.
Private Property Concerns
The most satisfying views of the Upper Ames Falls actually would involve going through private property, which the owner had posted numerous signs to urge you not to do this.
Such views were best seen from an outcrop providing perhaps the most frontal look of the Upper Ames Falls from essentially the rim of the gorge.
It’s probably because such views of this waterfall were elusive enough to otherwise not be attainable that this landowner took the trouble to post signs to keep people out of his property to pursue them.
Upper Ames 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 the Upper Ames 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.
Then, 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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