Chasm Falls may be one of the lesser known waterfalls at Rocky Mountain National Park, but it’s more than worth the short walk to see this waterfall and its nearby cascades.
Chasm Falls is right next a road — Old Fall River Road. Opened in 1920, the dirt road was the first auto route to take visitors to the high country in Rocky Mountain National Park. Because it’s still a dirt road with a 15 mph speed limt, many visitors never see this part of the park.
Old Fall River Road typically opens to vehicles around Fourth of July weekend, however, hikers are welcome when the road is closed. And while Chasm Falls is beautiful in winter, it really comes alive when the snow melts in the spring. In winter, the “trail” starts at the road closure at the West Alluvial Fan parking lot, but as the snow melts, hikers can get closer. I suggest, if the gate is open at West Alluvial Fan, keep driving down the road until you get to the Old Fall River Road entrance/closure gate. Turn around and park at the closest, available pull-out.
Hike up to the gate, go around it and begin hiking up the road. This may sound easy, but you’re hiking at 8,600 feet — it’s harder to catch your breath up here. The road is dirt, with very few rocks, so it’s easy on the feet, just not the lungs.
As you hike, enjoy the views of the nearby peaks, the rock walls next to the road, and occasionally turn around and look back down the valley.
About a third of mile from the road closure, you’ll cross a bridge. Come here early in the melt and this cascade will fill your ears with the sounds of crashing water.
Continue up the road (total distance 0.8 miles from the road block) to a big 180 degree turn — a switchback. Here you’ll see water cascading down through the rocks. This is the river below Chasm Falls. Now you have options. You can continue 0.35 miles on the road to the actual Chasm Falls Trail or you can go the “scenic route.”
I chose the “scenic route” — up the creek. This route can be fun and a bit challenging. You’ll be ducking under trees, scrambling a bit over rocks and trying not to slip on the moss-covered rocks as you work your way up the side of the creek. Go as far as your comfortable. It’s just 0.1 miles from the road to Chasm Falls if you hike up the creek. You’ll soon come to the official Chasm Falls Trail and a lookout built by the park. Take lots of pictures of the falls and the cascades below.
When you’re done, you can hike up to the top of the Chasm Falls Trail and take the road back down or hike back down the creekside trail the way you came.
In Rocky Mountain National Park, don’t miss Bridal Veil Falls, Alberta Falls and Cascade Falls. Check out more waterfall hikes and hikes through Colorado here.
Don’t miss any of my hiking articles, click the “subscribe” button at the top of this article and follow me, DenverHikingExaminer on Facebook.
Details: The hike from the Old Fall River Road closure to Chasm Falls via the creekside trail is 2 miles roundtrip with about 420 feet of elevation gain. The hike to the falls via the road, to the top of the official Chasm Falls Trail is about 2.5 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Estes Park, take Highway 34 to the Fall River entrance. From the entrance gate, drive through Horseshoe Park and past Sheep Lakes to the Fall River Road/Alluvial Fan turnoff. Pass the Lawn Lake Trailhead and pass the East Alluvial Fan parking lot. If the gate is open at West Alluvial Fan parking lot, continue up Fall River Road to the closure gate and find a pullout to park at.