Fish Creek Falls is one of Steamboat Springs’ most iconic natural features, with the quarter-mile walk to the base of the 282-foot waterfall ranking as one of the top hikes in the northwest Colorado mountain town.
But beyond the bridge, up a series of steep switchbacks, a second waterfall and a quiet lake are enjoyed by a few visitors who expend the extra effort.
The trailhead sits at 7,440 feet and descends about 100 feet to the bridge at the base of the falls. Here, hikers can climb down to the shore of the creek to perch on boulders and wade in the water.
From the bridge, continue on the dirt trail up a series of switchbacks through patches of evergreens, aspen groves and a rocky, rugged clearing toward the top. The first 2 miles ascend 1,660 feet with spectacular colors when the aspens are turning in the fall and when the wildflowers are blooming in spring.
Past the second waterfall, the trail flattens, with only 800 more feet of elevation gain over the 4 miles to Long Lake, a pristine spot for lunch or a swim.
Mountain bikers also frequent the trail and, in winter, the hike is popular among snowshoers.
Trip log: 13 miles roundtrip to Long Lake (5 miles to the base of the second waterfall), 2,360 feet elevation gain, 9,800 feet max
Getting there: From Silverthorne, drive north on Colorado 9 for 37 miles. In Kremmling, turn onto U.S. 40 west toward Steamboat Springs. From downtown Steamboat on Lincoln Avenue (U.S. 40), go north on Third Street, then turn right onto Fish Creek Falls Road. Travel 4 miles to the parking lot at the trailhead. Brown signs for the falls starting at Lincoln Avenue and Third Street are hard to miss.
FYI: Entrance fee is $5. Dogs must be leashed.
Liz Forster, The Gazette