The hike to St. Mary’s Falls is a well-traveled route that ends at a 300-foot waterfall cascading down solid granite. On your way to the destination, the trail follows Buffalo Canyon Creek through mature stands of aspen and mixed spruce pine forest. From the falls, you are also rewarded with a fine view of Colorado Springs and the Great Plains.

From the Starsmore Visitor Center, continue a pleasant drive along North Cheyenne Cañon Road to Helen Hunt Falls, then a short distance more uphill to the upper parking area at Gold Camp Road. The upper parking lot — although large — often fills up, especially on weekends. If hiking with a group, you can meet at the Starsmore Center area where there is ample parking, then carpool to the upper lot. The road to the upper lot can also get icy and difficult in the winter.

From the upper lot, stroll westward on the wide and flat Gold Camp Road (closed to vehicles). The trail starts at 7,500 feet elevation, so the surrounding hillsides are covered in spruce fir forests. Some birds you might observe include mountain chickadee and Steller’s jay. After about half a mile, the road swings back eastward and continues for about one-fourth of a mile to the St. Mary’s Falls Trailhead. Head south up Buffalo Canyon, climbing for about 2 ½ miles to the falls area that often freezes to form ice sculptures. Resident canyon wrens may be seen and heard here, so take a break to enjoy the falls and views to the east before retracing your steps back to the parking area.

Joe LaFleur has lived in southern Colorado since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast who hits the trails weekly. Contact Joe with questions or feedback at joelafleur@tds.net. Hiking is great exercise, but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map, tell someone where and when you are going, and contact them when you return safely.

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