If you like waterfalls, Pagosa Springs is one of the best places for seeing big waterfalls and lots of them. Two of the tallest are Fourmile Falls and Falls Creek Falls and they’re just a quarter mile apart.
The hike to the waterfalls starts about 13 miles from Highway 160 in Pagosa Springs (directions below). The trailhead has a bathroom and a sign with limited information.
At the sign board you should see two trails – the Anderson Trail and the Fourmile Stock Drive Trail #569. While the trail has an odd name, you want the Fourmile Trail. The trail quickly enters the forest and begins to drop in elevation on a trail that can be quite rocky. I slid and fell thanks to all the small rocks on the trail. Be careful here.
A little over a half mile from the trailhead, you’ll come to the Weminuche Wilderness sign. At this point, the trail drops just a bit more before beginning its climb over the next few miles. It’s also a short distance from this sign to where you’ll enter your first large meadow. Make sure you take a break and turn in a 360-degree circle to enjoy the amazing mountain ridges around you.
Your first major stream crossing comes at 1.75 miles, more than halfway to the falls. You’ll want to use the logs here to get across the fast-moving water. Come late in the summer or early fall and you’ll find a lot less water than late spring and early summer, during runoff season.
Continue hiking on the trail, enjoying the forest, the meadows and the wildflowers. As you hike, look up ahead. And I mean up. About 2.35 miles from the trailhead, you should get a glimpse of the top half of Fourmile Falls in the distance. Hike about another half-mile until you reach an unmarked, faint trail split. We could hear the falls and see a glimpse through the trees, so we knew we were close. We turned left, off the main trail, and used this spur trail to get to the bottom of the falls.
Fourmile Falls is about 300-feet high. It has three drops. At the top, the first drop gushes through a cut in the rock, then it takes a long drop to the bottom where it hits an angled wall of rock and sprays down the final section. If you come when the wind is blowing, you may get sprayed. You may also get to watch as the water sprays from one side to the other as it blows in the wind.
In mid-June, we found snow at the bottom of the falls. The water hitting the snow had carved caves in the snow piles. Do not walk on top of these piles, they may collapse. Do not go inside these caves, because they may collapse. Do enjoy the spray and the incredible view of this tall waterfall.
When you’re ready, cross the outlet stream to the trail on the other side of the falls. Turn right and walk a few steps to where the trail turns left. Turn left and begin hiking up the steep, rocky trail here. I know it’s hard to imagine another waterfall in the same area being worth your time, but Falls Creek Falls is great. The water cuts through a chasm in the rocks, dropping more than 100-feet.
The best view of Falls Creek Falls is about a quarter mile from Fourmile Falls, but as you hike up this steep, rocky trail, just keep looking slightly right and ahead. You should get several glimpses and views of the Falls Creek Falls.
When you’ve seen Falls Creek Falls, you can turn around for a hike of about 6.5 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. However, if you have more energy, I suggest you continue on. It’s only another 0.15 miles from the Falls Creek Falls viewpoints to waterfall #3 above Falls Creek Falls. The third waterfall is not named, but it has a cascade and two drops of about 10-20 feet each. It’s very nice and there’s even a spur trail if you want to get closer to the water here.
I recommend continuing on some more. The next falls are about a quarter mile away. You’ll know you’re there when you reach a major stream crossing. You should see a rock footing here. This is the remnants from an old bridge that once helped visitors cross here. Now you’ll have to use rocks, logs or get your feet wet to get across. However, before you go, I recommend going upstream just a bit to a small cascade. It’s nice, but look up. You should spot a tall, but small cascade above it. If you look even higher, you see a waterfall drop at the top. After marveling at finding yet another waterfall, cross the creek and begin the steep climb up. While the climb can be tough, I felt it was worth it. Remember, the more you climb, the more likely there’s a spot where water will be dropping over a waterfall.
The next creek crossing was about another third of a mile. While we were working our way across the rocks and logs, we spotted ANOTHER cascade upstream. It looked like a pretty good drop so we went exploring. We found water being pushed through a small opening at the top creating a powerful, strong waterfall. There’s no trail to this waterfall, so you’ll have to enjoy it from a distance, at the creek crossing, or go off-trail to get closer. I liked this waterfall so much, I went texploring to photograph it from both sides of the creek.
Depending on how much exploring you’ve done, you’ve hiked about 4.2 miles at this point. I turned around at waterfall #5. However, friends who continued to Fourmile Lake said there were more waterfalls, cascades and wildflower-filled meadows along the next 1.8 miles or so to the lake. I recommend hiking as far as you’d like, enjoying the cascades and waterfalls along the trail, then returning when you’re ready.
Details: The hike to Fourmile Falls and Falls Creek Falls is about 6.5 miles roundtrip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. You should consider going a little further and seeing more waterfalls, depending on what distance you’d like to hike.
In the area, don't miss Silver Falls and Treasure Falls. Check out some of my favorite waterfall hikes here and in this list of 200+ hikes across the state. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.
Directions: From Pagosa Springs, turn right at the light for Lewis St/5th Avenue and quickly veer left onto 5th Street. 5th Street turns into CR 400/FS 645. Drive north about 8.3 miles to a Y in the road. Go right (there should be a sign pointing you right for Fourmile Falls). It’s about 4.6 more miles to the end of the road and the trailhead. CR 400/FS 645 is a dirt road. Check on its condition with the Forest Service.