About Cascade Falls (Lower Cascade Falls)
Cascade Falls was said to be the last in a series of seven waterfalls on Cascade Creek near the town of Ouray (though only two of these waterfalls that I know of were said to be accessible and named). For this reason, they sometimes refer to this waterfall as the Lower Cascade Falls. It was said to drop over 200ft in a dramatic plunge that was already visible from the trailhead (see directions below). Apparently, it was even possible to see this waterfall from other parts of the town of Ouray since the falls was in a pretty wide open part of Ouray’s southwest-facing cliffs and slopes. During our visit in late April 2017, there was still quite a bit of snow in the higher elevations so I’d imagine that we saw the falls before peak flow when the snowmelt would most likely max out in late May or early June. Nevertheless, this was certainly one of the more impressive waterfalls that we had seen on our Desert Southwest Spring Break trip, and its easy accessibility meant that Julie and Tahia could enjoy it without worrying too much about altitude sickness nor trail hazards.
The well-signed trail began next to some concrete flume that was built to funnel Cascade Creek and possible flash flood debris (e.g. boulders and uprooted trees) quickly away from the steep canyon. The trail was a little on the rocky side, but it was very wide and easily walkable even though it was pretty much moderately uphill. Less than five minutes up the trail, we encountered a sheltered viewing area providing a nice framed view of the Lower Cascade Falls between trees and backed by nearly vertical cliffs. The Perimeter Trail continued going uphill to the right, while another trail continued across the bridge to the left. We continued on the trail that crossed the bridge, where we went past another junction just on the other side, then proceeded further uphill until we arrived at the steep and rocky base of the falls.
From this far up close to the falls, it looked smaller than it did back at the viewpoint, which I’d attribute to the uppermost tiers of the falls being hidden by the forced perspective of the brink of the falls and the neighboring cliffs above concealing those uppermost parts of the falls. There was also some squarish hole in the cliffs that appeared to be an old mine shaft or something. We didn’t scramble any closer for a deeper look (it was on the other side of Cascade Creek), but from what we could tell, the hole didn’t go very far anyways as we thought we saw its end even from our vantage point. Anyways, when we had our fill of the falls, we got back to the parked car after spending barely less than 45 minutes away from it. According to my GPS logs, the overall hiking distance was about a quarter-mile round trip.
Once you get to the town of Ouray, continue along Hwy 550 (Main Street) before heading east on 8th Ave. The pavement ended on 8th Ave and we had to drive uphill on the fairly steep road (it may require using lower gear) leading up a quarter-mile to Cascade Falls Park.
For context, Ouray was about 50 miles (a little over an hour’s drive) northeast of Telluride (though it was far less distance as the crow flies). Ouray was also 71 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Durango, 97 miles (about 2 hours drive) southeast of Grand Junction, 301 miles (under 6 hours drive) southwest of Denver, 150 miles (about 3 hours drive) east of Moab, Utah, and 286 miles (over 5 hours drive) northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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