It’s amazing how quickly waterfalls go from being frozen to gushing in Colorado’s short spring season. I visited Browns Creek Falls in mid-April and found it frozen. In mid-May, the waterfall was breathtaking with a few patches of snow hanging on.
The hike starts about 5.5 miles from Highway 285 between Buena Vista and Salida (directions below).
From the trailhead, walk pass the map board and you’ll quickly begin hiking up. You may be surprised at how quickly you’ll be out of breath. That’s because this hike starts at an elevation of about 9,000 feet.
While you’re trying to catch your breath, stop for a second at the wooden sign with a map. It tells you Mount Antero is just 11 miles from here. I was happy I was just going 3 miles in.
Continue hiking up the hill, through a cattle fence and keep going uphill. The hike can be tough because the trail gains 600 feet of elevation in the first mile. It’s never terribly steep, but it is a steady climb. When you stop to catch your breath, catch the views. That mountain in the distance is Jones Peak. It’s not a “14er” (peaks higher than 14,000-feet), but it is a “13er.”
About half way to the falls is the first trail split. Here the Colorado Trail branches off to the north. Stay on the trail for Browns Creek and you’ll be walking the Colorado Trail for the next quarter mile or so.
At 1.65 miles, the trail crosses a log bridge. This is the first of several stream crossings. This beautiful spot is surrounded by Aspen trees that likely put on a colorful show in the fall.
Just a few steps away from the first bridge is the turn off for the Colorado Trail and the Wagon Loop Trail. Stay on the Browns Creek Trail and in a few more steps you’ll arrive at a sign in sheet for the national forest. Take a moment and register so the Forest Service can track how many visitors are enjoying this area. From here, the trail begins to flatten out, but there are two difficult stream crossings. Both have downed trees or 1-2 log bridges. Take your time and be careful or you may get wet boots.
Suddenly we came to sign on the ground that said “falls” and had an arrow pointing left. It worked. It was just a short distance from this sign to the beautiful falls.
We heard the falls before we saw them. It was the lovely sound of water crashing over rocks. From this vantage point, Browns Creek Falls is a two-tier waterfall in a rocky chasm. Take in the waterfall, take a few pictures and then it’s time to explore.
Go downstream a short distance and there’s a nice bridge to cross the creek. We went on the other side to enjoy a different view of the falls. If you decide to climb up the rocks you’ll see two more, small tiers of waterfall above the main drops. Be careful here, there is no trail and the moss and rocks are slippery.
When you’re done exploring, Browns Creek Falls is a great place to enjoy lunch and maybe even a nap.
Learn more on the Forest Service website. Check out Browns Creek Falls in the winter here. In the area, hike to Salida’s Volcano. Find more than 200+ great hikes in Colorado here.
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Details: The hike to the falls and back is about 5.9 miles with 950 feet of elevation. The starting elevation is 8950ish. The hike hits a high of about 9850.
Directions: From Highway 285, midway between Poncha Springs and Buena Vista, take County Road 270 west for approximately 1.5 miles to a 4-way intersection. From the yield sign, continue straight ahead/west on what is now labeled Forest Road 272. Stay on FR 272 for about 2 miles. At the next intersection, turn left and travel south for 1.5 miles to the trailhead.