Cascade Falls

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 6.6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8530 - 8858 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Usage: Hiking - Equestrian - No Dogs
Time: 4 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: North Inlet
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic mountains, waterfalls, moose, deer
   (no GPS)


View Cascade Falls in a larger map

The Cascade Falls trail is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park near the quaint little village of Grand Lake, Colorado. The trail follows the North Inlet creek through Summerland Park. As the valley narrows into a canyon the trail begins climbing to Cascade Falls and all points beyond. As you will notice from reading this post the opportunities for seeing wildlife can be pretty good on this hike.


The hike begins at the North Inlet trailhead. To get to the trailhead follow the West Portal Road around Grand Lake and turn left onto County Road 663. The gravel road is real steep at first with lots of washboards but it is only about a quarter mile to the North Inlet trailhead. Don't mistake the Tonahutu trailhead, where there is no parking, for the North Inlet trailhead. The North Inlet trailhead is about another 50 yards around the corner.


The first mile or so of the trail is along a nice dirt road that passes through groves of pine and spruce trees and open meadows. The road borders private property on the right hand side for about a half mile.


In the early morning sunlight a cow and calf moose are seen browsing on some willows on the private property side of the trail. (We watched 2 backpackers hike right past without noticing them.)


The scene becomes very picturesque as the trail enters Summerland Park.


Another moose is spotted in Summerland Park. It looks like some of the willows are getting stripped pretty good. In the winter when the tender leaves are all a memory the moose survive by eating the needles off the evergreen trees. The moose can only reach so high so they don't harm the trees at all.


The trail passes right past a private cabin.


The nice wide road ends at the cabin and the trail becomes a more primitive single track.


This doe and fawn are within 20 feet of the camera. We saw them before they saw or heard us so we were able to stop and watch them for awhile. The deer saw us eventually but we were able to slowly move past them within just a few feet without causing them to bolt.


As the canyon narrows down the trail begins climbing more steeply along the side of the mountain. The elevation gain on this hike is about 320 feet. Most of the gain occurs within the last half mile before the falls.


Stay to the right at the fork in the trail just before the falls.


Once at the falls it's hard to get a good look without climbing down from the side of the trail and scrambling over the boulders. There are boulders you can scramble out on above the falls also to get a look down. It can get pretty slippery so a good deal of caution is advised.


There is a riding stable in Grand Lake that sends a lot of riders up both the Cascade Falls and Tonahutu Creek trails. They are very courteous and will wait while you find a place to the side of the trail where they can pass on by.


Cascade Falls probably isn't a 5 star attraction all by itself but when you take into account the opportunity for seeing wildlife and the beauty of the mountains and meadows this hike rates at the top. The viewing of the falls could be significantly enhanced by building a couple of well anchored catwalks, one at the top and one at the bottom, that extend from the trail out over the creek. There is one other waterfall in the area that is well worth visiting and that is Adams Falls which is just down the road at the East Inlet trailhead. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.

Note: We regrettably lost the GPS file for this hike. It will be added once the hike can be redone. Fortunately it isn't really necessary.