Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Elevation: 7873 - 8062 feet
Cellphone: 0-5 bars
Usage: Hiking only - No Dogs
Time: 1 hr.
Facilities: Flush toilets, visitor center
Trailhead: Box Canyon Falls
Fee: Adults and teens - $3.00
Children 5-12 - $1.50
Seniors 65+ - $2.50
Attractions: Scenic canyon, waterfall, mountain vistas
View Box Canyon Falls in a larger map
Box Canyon Falls is located almost 100 miles south of Grand Junction, Colorado in the town of Ouray, which bills itself as the 'Switzerland of America'. Box Canyon Park is managed by the City of Ouray. There are plenty of picnic sites, with some including grills, and flush toilets in the picnic area and inside the Gift Shop. There is no fee to use the picnic area but there is a small fee to see the Box Canyon Falls.
To get to Box Canyon Falls drive south through Ouray and watch for the sign just after the first switchback. Box Canyon Road passes through the Ouray Ice Park and after about a quarter mile it reaches Box Canyon Park. The park is open from 8 am until dusk.
The trail begins just inside the gate at the visitor center. Besides paying the entrance fee here you can also learn more about the geology, history, wildlife, and unique ecosystem of Box Canyon. Visitor Guides are available inside, for free, that provide additional information to augment the interpretive panels along the trails.
After departing from the visitor center the trail splits into the High Bridge Trail and the Box Canyon Falls trail. The High Bridge Trail is 1/2 mile round trip and takes you up the mountain to a bridge that is directly over Canyon Creek and the falls.
The high bridge is about 200 feet higher than the base of the trail. A sturdy set of stairs takes visitors up the first hundred feet or so. The trail after the stairs is much more primitive and requires careful footing.
The High Bridge, with its expanded metal walkway, spans Box Canyon directly above the falls. You might have a little trouble looking down at the falls without getting dizzy. The bridge is 300 feet above the falls. The tunnel at the end of the walkway once provided a route for a water pipeline but now it is part of the 4.5 mile long Ouray Parameter trail. The tunnel is only about 100 feet long and it is fun to walk through to see the other side of the mountain.
The narrow canyon formed along a fault line called the Ouray Fault.
After carefully hiking back down the mountain from the High Bridge visitors will find the Box Canyon Falls trail much easier. A 500 foot long metal walkway leads into Box Canyon. Box Canyon Falls has cut its way back into the rock to the point that depending on how much water is crashing down the falls it can be difficult to get a picture of it. There is no problem at all hearing the thundering maelstrom.
At the end of the walkway you have the option to descend a set of stairs all the way down to Canyon Creek at the base of the falls.
The view of Canyon Creek flowing out of Box Canyon is reminiscent of hiking in one of the slot canyons of Utah like Little Wild Horse Canyon. Without the water of course.
The view overhead of the High Bridge give a good perspective of the depth of the canyon.
On the way back to the visitor center there is another short trail called the Native Plant Loop. The Native Plant Loop is another interpretive trail that provides an alternative route back to where you began.
All three trails together account for about 1 mile of hiking. We hiked the High Bridge Trail first because it can be easier to appreciate what it has to offer if you haven't already been into Box Canyon. You can also think of it as getting the hard part out of the way first.
At times it is nice to get out of town and go for a drive. Ouray, with its shops and hot spring pool, is a nice place to spend the day and Box Canyon Falls is a great activity while you are there. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is drive to Ouray and 'Take a hike'.