This gem of a hike features one of the most beautiful, lesser-known waterfalls in Colorado. Because this is such an under the radar spot, it really feels like you're on an adventure.

I've been visiting Telluride, CO for the last 20 years, and I'd never once heard of this place. Mystic Falls is not marked on any map I've ever seen. And even some locals seem to have never heard of it. So I feel like I lucked out on this last trip to Telluride when a friend found a blog post and a picture that described a phenomenal, hidden waterfall within 20 minutes of the town of Telluride. The hike is short, but relatively technical. The drive can be a little hairy at times too.

Starting in town, drive 145 west, and take a left at the roundabout outside of town toward the Mountain Village. Follow 145 south past the Mountain Village and Alta Lakes, until you reach the Illium Road turnoff to the right before you start up Lizard Head pass. Take this well-maintained dirt road a few hundred yards through Aspen until you reach a sharp left turn to the tiny town of Ames. You will follow this a short way until you see an electrical station on your left and a smaller dirt road just after. Take a left here. You will come upon a green cabin on your left, then a brown cabin on your right... Keep going. This is where the road gets rough. I drive it in a Suby Forester, but wouldn't recommend it to inexperienced drivers. You can park here just beyond the brown cabin on the right of you like and walk about 3/4 of a mile or so to the main parking area.

Continue up the road, and keep in mind much of the surrounding land is private, so please be respectful and careful. Stay to the right as two forks to the left emerge a few hundred yards apart from one another until you reach an obvious, open parking area. You will notice a waterfall in front of you, but don't be fooled, this is not Mystic Falls! It's a gorgeous waterfall in its own right, but there's a bit more adventure ahead to get to Mystic.

You will notice a trail to the left of the parking area that seems to parallel Lake Fork Creek and the waterfall. Follow this into the woods and then on to the creek. If you have Chacos on and the creek is not flowing too heavily, cross wherever you want. But if you continue south along the edge, you'll find an easy spot to cross with several tree trunks spanning the banks. After crossing head back north, northwest along the "trail"... But don't be married to the idea of a trail on this hike, as it frequently disappears and reappears. Simply continue until you hit the next creek to the west, not more than a half a football field away. Follow this a very short ways north until you are overlooking Mystic Falls. It's beautiful to see from this spot. But you'll definitely want to continue down to see it at eye level. It looks like an impossible feat from here, but I assure you it is possible and even enjoyable.

Continue north toward what looks like a peninsula bluff jutting out. Follow the trail down the steep northface embankment. Be careful here as it is slippery and steep. Once you level out, it will begin to jog to the left toward the creek downstream from Mystic. It drops again down the steep slope above the creek. After just a few minutes of this, you'll find yourself at the bank of the creek. Follow it back to the south until Mystic Falls comes in to view! It is stunning and worth spending some time finding the best angles.

All in all, there is very little elevation gain/ loss, just a few hundred feet. And it can't be more than a mile of a hike from the parking area. But you will definitely spend time reveling in the beauty, so make sure you allot at least an hour or two to enjoy. I caught it on an overcast day, which I usually love for waterfalls, but it was right after rain, so the creek ran muddy and in retrospect, I think it would be dynamic in late or early light.

Mystic Falls Coordinates: 37.8625186, -107.8845625Parking Read Coordinates: 37.8632119, -107.8846288

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes
  • Tripod
  • Camera
  • Rain coat
  • Polarizing filter
  • Shutter release
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RT Distance 2 Miles
Elevation Gain 300 Feet
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Food Nearby
Forest
River
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful and Tricky

First of this place is amazing! I read the directions very carefully and still got lost despite my efforts to be precise. I met a very cool cat named Chris who helped me find the fall and has a home in the hood. I also found a note after my amazing experience at the falls full of exclamation marks "in my car" about no hiking!!!! ect.... This very brash and bold resident felt it was ok to get into my car, move things around and leave a mean spirited note for me. I had a polarizing experience with such kind people like Chris and then aggressive people like the un named note writer. This is a beautiful and tricky spot.

I agree with leave no trace

The truth is that hikers - real hikers typically practice “Leave no trace” principles. Please don’t confuse real hikers with local kids who trash your n natural areas. The real reason to keep this location a secret? Bad guys ruin good things. It’s not the hikers. It’s the locals. Happy hiking and don’t forget the biodegradable sunscreen and nature friendly insect repellent. The regular stuff kills the living things in the water and soil. I don’t work for REI - but REI has the biodegradable products and can be ordered online. If you don’t know what Leave No Trace means - just do an Internet search and you will see that in the end - no one should know that you were ever in a place. Not even your footsteps. Keep hiking.

Beautiful Falls - alternate route for high water.

We attempted to follow these directions in early June and found the creek above the falls completely uncrossable. However, we bumped into a friendly local who gave us an alternate route. If you park at the cabin on the way up the road, there is a tiny trail on the east side of the cabin. This trail will lead you through an aspen grove, down a gully (you'll know you're on the right trail if you go down two rappelling ropes). Once you're at the bottom of the gully, walk parallel to the stream until you get to the end of the island separating the two streams, then cross. Head up the hill and you should see a cabin to your right and a stack of rocks. Head north west (pretty much straight) from here (Turning left/east at this point will take you up to the top of the falls where you would have ended up if you took the OP's route). Keep left on the trail, as there are one or two spurs to the right, and soon you'll be at the base of the falls. The whole hike is quite short- maybe a mile max) This time of year the water was quite high, but you could get a good view of the falls and they are really magnificent.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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