One of the best waterfall hikes in Colorado for families is Agnes Vaille Falls near Buena Vista. The hike is also the perfect break if you’re driving through the state on Highway 285. The trailhead is just 9 miles off the highway (directions below).
Agnes Vaille Falls is below Mount Princeton — a 14,197-foot high mountain in the Collegiate Peaks Range. When snow from the mountains melts, it puts on a show as it drops over a cliff creating Agnes Vaille Falls.
From the trailhead, start walking up the dirt path. A sign here introduces hikers to Agnes Vaille. Vaille was born in Denver and volunteered with the Red Cross in France during World War I. When she returned, she started climbing mountains. Vaille and a friend were climbing Longs Peak in the winter when Vaille slipped on some ice and fell. She survived the fall, but froze to death before help arrived, the sign explains.
While the story is tragic and sad, it is quickly forgotten as you take in the beauty of this area. Behind you is Mount Antero. Ahead of you in Mount Princeton.
About 0.25 miles from the parking lot and again at 0.40 miles, hikers will find benches. If you’re at all winded or tired, sit and enjoy the views. You’re at 9,000 feet above sea level, the air is thinner up here and it’s harder to catch your breath.
When you’re ready, continue up the path. Soon you may hear the sound of the nearby river. If you come during high runoff season, the river may even flood your path in places. Keep working your way up the valley until you see it — Agnes Vaille Falls. The waterfall drops over a shelf, hits a large rock and turns direction before cascading a second time. There’s a small drop at the bottom, where the water turns direction again and heads down the valley.
Take some photos, then find a rock so you can take in the feel of this place.
– Listen to the sound of the water crashing into the rock. It can be so loud, it may be hard to hear your companions.
– Watch for wildlife that may peek through the rocks, then scamper off. (Please, don’t feed them.)
– Feel the mist coming from the falls
When you’ve taken in your fill, return the way you came.
In the area, you may want to hike to Browns Creek Falls. Find more waterfall hikes and 20)+ other hikes in Colorado here.
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Details: The hike to Agnes Vaill Falls and back is 1.1 miles with about 400 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Highway 285, turn west on County Road 162. It’s the same turnoff for Mount Princeton Hot Springs. It’s about 8.8 miles to the signed trailhead (on the right) for Agnes Vaille Falls. The falls trailhead is opposite the Chalk Lake campground.
Note: Bring your swimsuit and enjoy a dip at Mount Princeton Hot Springs.