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Telluride & Ouray Waterfalls

posted Jul 9, 2018, 5:05 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jul 28, 2018, 3:16 PM ]

Monday, we left Montrose and headed to Telluride.  Driving through the little ski town, we continued east through town on Colorado Avenue.  Where the road changed to FR-648, we parked as any further required 4WD.  From the parking area, we continued hiking up the forest road with the occasional jeep passing us.  For most of the hike, Bridal Veil Falls was visible tumbling down below the power plant.

It was steep heading up, but there were many switchbacks so not too bad.  The views looking down on Telluride were great.

There was a partial arch on the rock face high above.

After a few more switchbacks, we came to the base of Bridal Veil Falls, the highest single drop in Colorado at 365 feet.

The water level was low, but still an impressive waterfall flowing down from the power plant.  A tour guide at the base told us Telluride had poor snow over the winter, bad news for skiing and the waterfalls that rely on snow melt.  After a few pictures, we headed back.

There were a lot of wildflowers blooming along the road and heading down, it was easier to stop for a picture.

Driving back into Telluride, we parked at Carhenge, a free public parking lot in the southwest corner town.  There are few other parking options, especially during peak season.  But Telluride is a small town and easy to walk around.  We first headed to the north of town to pick up the trail to Cornet Creek Falls.

The trail was short, but surprisingly steep and narrow with much loose gravel.  Although we were barely outside of town, the views were really great.

Looking upstream, the creek flowed through a narrow red rock gorge.

There were a few cascades along the creek.

Following Cornet Creek upstream to the Falls, the water makes an 80-foot free fall over bright red-orange cliffs.

We had a snack here, but it was very crowded so didn't stay long.  Our next hike was to the southeast of town in Bear Creek Preserve.  At the end of Pine Street, a gated gravel road became Bear Creek Trail (#635)  The trail was all uphill, but not too steep as it followed an old road.  The views from the trail were just beautiful.

In about 2 miles, Wasatch Trail split to the right.  A side path led down to the creek level, where a small waterfall was visible, but this wasn't the main one.

We climbed back to the main trail for a short ways to the waterfall.  Looking back, Bear Creek valley was very scenic.

Soon, we could see Bear Creek Falls from a distance.

We made it up to the base - even in low water, it was a really nice one.

Downstream from the main drop were some lower cascades.

And there wre enough clouds in the sky to provide decent lighting.  On the hike back, we stopped to see the many wildflowers along the trail.

Monkshood is a poisonous plant, but very pretty flowers.

Penstemon, fireweed, and sunflowers were among the others that we saw.

At the end of the trail, we followed the River Walk back to Carhenge and departed Telluride.  Our next stop was Ouray.  First, we swung by Canyoning Colorado to touch base for our adventure tomorrow.  Then we headed just up the road to Cascade Falls Park.  Cascade Falls is a big waterfall, just a 5 minute walk from the parking area.

It's possible to canyoneer, finishing up by rappelling down this beast.  I had inquired about this, but normally it's not possible to do until later in the year.  This year however, the low snowfall meant it was already low flow early in the summer and may have been doable.

There are seven waterfalls on Cascade Creek here and this is just the lowest one.  Our next stop was Box Cañon Falls Park.  Stopping at the office to pay admission, we bought a couple drinks and hiked down the short path to the metal walkway to enter the aptly-named Box Cañon, a very narrow slot canyon boxed in three sides by sheer cliffs.

At the far end was Box Cañon Falls and a metal staircase to go down to the base.  Only the lowest drop was easily visible from the base and it was tough to get a decent view as big boulders in the creek blocked it.

The best view was probably from about the middle of the staircase where the upper drop was slightly visible.  The canyon was so narrow at this point that the upper drop was almost completely in darkness.  Heading back, we took the Nature Trail back to the visitor center where lots of little critters were scurrying about.

Least chipmunks and golden-mantled ground squirrels were all around.

We drove very slowly heading out to avoid hitting any of the little critters.  It was getting late and we were getting hungry, but wanted to get one more waterfall.  So we drove south on the US-550, the Million Dollar Highway about 2 miles for a pull-off at Bear Creek Falls.  This nice waterfall flowed right under the highway and into Uncompaghre River.

The overlook also provided nice views of Mount Abrams and the Uncompaghre River gorge.

Across the canyon, ripple marks were visible in the cliff face.

After a few pictures, we headed back into town and had dinner at O'Brien's Pub.  Then we checked into our hotel - Hot Springs Inn.  For a motel, it was really nice - huge rooms and clean bathrooms with waterfall shower heads.  The private deck out back provided great views of the mountains and Uncompaghre River.

We hit the outdoor hot tub to relax for a bit and then went to bed.