We research, evaluate and select travel destinations based on a number of factors, including our writers’ experience, user reviews and more. We may earn a commission when you book or purchase through our links. See our editorial policy to learn more.
Did you know that picturesque cascades and stunning waterfalls are within driving distance of the Mile High City?
While Colorado may not have as many waterfalls as some other states, the mountains and foothills still boast a hefty amount of action. Better yet, many of the state’s waterfalls are within driving distance from Denver, making them excellent spots for locals and visitors alike.
From easy-to-access overlooks to full-day hiking adventures, these waterfalls and cascades showcase the beauty of the Centennial State. Whether you’re staying in Denver or just passing through, check out these seven magnificent waterfalls.
1. Maxwell Falls
Located in Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest near the town of Evergreen, Maxwell Falls is a popular day hike within driving distance of the Denver metro area. A dog and family-friendly destination, picturesque Maxwell Falls is most substantial in the spring, thanks to snowmelt in Maxwell Creek. The short hike to the waterfall gives you plenty of scenic value too, with ponderosa pine forests, wildflower-dotted meadows, cool rock outcroppings, and several creek crossings.
You’ll have your choice of hiking to the falls from either the Upper or Lower Maxwell Falls Trailhead. With the addition of the adjacent Cliff Loop Trail, you can customize the distance of your hike from 1 to 4 miles.
The shortest route, from the upper trailhead, is right around 0.5 miles one-way to reach the falls, a great option for little legs or if you’re short on time. The trailhead is conveniently located between the towns of Evergreen and Conifer, making it a very popular hike, so don’t expect to have the trail all to yourself.
2. Elk Falls
If you’re seeking solitude and don’t mind a long day on your feet, Elk Falls in Staunton State Park near Denver is a great option. The route to the falls is a solid 12-mile out-and-back, all over 8,000 feet of elevation, but if you’re happy to take your time soaking in the scenery along the way, this is one waterfall hike that will reward you for your efforts.
The 75-foot Elk Falls is a stunner, cascading over a large rock face, and you’ll be able to explore the base of the falls for the best view. In the spring, the waterfall will be swollen with snowmelt, but the other season offers another, equally worthwhile look at the falls, with summer greenery and autumn colors, in turn. If you’re game for a winter trek back to Elk Falls, the cold months promise to be the most peaceful time of year at the park – you may even spot an intrepid ice climber on the frozen waterfall.
In addition to hiking, Staunton State Park is a great spot for mountain biking, rock climbing, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching. Should you visit in the fall, the pockets of aspens along the trail turn a gorgeous golden yellow, great for photographers and leaf-peepers alike.
3. Bridal Veil Falls
View this post on Instagram
Not to be confused with the numerous other Bridal Veil Falls – the one in Idaho Springs is conveniently located near the Denver area. In fact, the falls can even be seen from Interstate 70. Though you can glimpse the falls from your car window on the drive-by, seeing them up close is totally worth it.
From the parking area at Harold Anderson Park (behind Westbound and Down Brewing), a short paved path heads under the interstate and to the base of the falls. The roundtrip walk takes around 15 minutes, with scenic views of Clear Creek and the wooded hillsides along the way. The falls are conveniently close to downtown Idaho Springs if you’d like to grab a bite or enjoy a local brew after taking in the waterfall view.
Bridal Veil Falls is impressive in its own right as it tumbles down a rugged rock face into Clear Creek below, but the really unique aspect of this waterfall is the Charlie Taylor Water Wheel.
This historic water wheel was built in 1893 and was used to power a stamp mill for gold mining on Ute Creek. After being moved in 1946 to its current location, the water wheel is now a staple of Idaho Springs and even gets decorated throughout the year for various holidays.
4. Boulder Falls
Located just outside of Boulder, Boulder Falls packs a punch for a roadside waterfall. The small parking area for the falls is located on Boulder Canyon Drive (use caution when crossing the road), and then you head down a short easy trail to the best viewpoint.
Though not particularly tall, Boulder Falls drops through a narrow section of the canyon where North Boulder Creek gushes between two large rock outcroppings. Spring runoff makes this small waterfall swell in power and sound for an impressively boisterous cascade.
I personally prefer it in late summer or fall when the water levels drop, and the waterfall subsides to a more serene flow, with two distinct ribbons falling around a central rock. In winter, the frozen cascade is also picturesque.
Related read: 10 Best Mountain Cabins to Rent Near Denver, Colorado
5. Ouzel Falls
View this post on Instagram
Located just outside of Allenspark in Rocky Mountain National Park, Ouzel Falls is about a 90-minute drive from Denver, but well worth the trip. This 3-for-1, out-and-back hike treats you to the impressive sight of Ouzel Falls and gives you the bonus of seeing scenic Copeland Falls and many-tiered Calypso Cascades along the way.
From the Wild Basin Trailhead, the moderate 5.4-mile hike to Ouzel Falls is on a relatively easy trail that follows along the North Saint Vrain Creek for much of the way – in spring the creek runs high and strong, making the waterfalls along the way even more majestic. You might spot wildflowers in the summer, and the area is often frequented by moose and deer, so keep your eyes open.
The forested route winds under evergreens interspersed with the occasional aspen grove, before climbing the final stretch toward Ouzel Creek. You’ll cross Cony Creek where Calypso Falls rushes down the rock-strewn slope. Continuing on, you can explore the area around the base of Ouzel Falls, which makes an impressive drop among large boulders.
6. Chasm Falls
Another fabulous waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park, Chasm Falls is located off of Old Fall River Road on the east side of the national park near the town of Estes Park. Though this is a bit of a longer drive from Denver (just under 2 hours), it is well worth the time in the car, especially if you plan a full-day outing in Rocky Mountain National Park to go along with your waterfall-watching.
In the summer months, the waterfall viewpoint is a short 0.1 mile off the road, an easy stroll for visitors young and old. In the winter, Old Fall River Road is closed, but you can still make it to the falls (with fewer crowds) by hiking or snowshoeing/skiing for 2.2 miles along the road.
Chasm Falls is aptly named as the Fall River rushes through a narrow opening in a rocky gorge. At the point where the water funnels through the rocks, the falls are fast flowing before plunging into the pool below. If you’re looking to explore the park more after spending some time at the waterfall, Old Fall River Road offers several other trailheads to stretch your legs.
Related read: 9 Cozily Romantic Stays Near Denver, Colorado
7. Seven Falls
Seven Falls sits outside of Colorado Springs, just over an hour south of the Denver metro area. The land is owned and operated by The Broadmoor Hotel, so you’ll need to purchase a ticket to visit the park and ride the complimentary shuttle into the area to see the falls.
The trip into South Cheyenne Canyon reveals towering rock formations, forested slopes, and the impressive canyon where the seven cascades of Seven Falls drop to the canyon floor. You’ll be able to enjoy the scenery from the wide, paved platform at the base of the falls or, for the more adventurous types, from the 224-step stairway that clings to the rock walls above the falls.
In addition to learning about the intriguing history of the area, you can also take a stroll on the park’s two scenic trails. There’s also a gift shop, restaurant, picnic pavilion, food truck, adventure zipline, and plenty of places that give this spot a more Disneyland-like feel, but that just adds to the unique experience of visiting this particular waterfall.
And if you can see past all the flashy attractions, Seven Falls is truly a breathtaking natural wonder, well worth seeing on its own.
Get epic travel ideas delivered to your inbox with Weekend Wanderer, our newsletter inspiring more than 10,000 readers every week.
Seen in: Colorado