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This trail was an awesome, snowy workout. I could potentially rate it a 5 after another visit, but with the sky dumping buckets of snow there was just no view, so I couldn’t get the whole picture. The snow sure made for its own beautiful spectacle, though, 6-8+ inches on the ground and snowing during the whole hike. We worked counterclockwise, and parts of the ascent were a bit slippery and tricky in the snow. The decent was very gradual and easy breezy, quite picturesque. We saw maybe 15 people during the 2 hours, 45 minutes it took us, which is unusual for this normally very popular spot. All in all, the views may have been nonexistent in the snowstorm, but it’s definitely worth it for a great workout and general good time.

trail running
7 days ago

First time on this trail this afternoon. Nice trail, a few mildly interesting spots and a bit of a view right before the falls. Even without any mind blowing highlights, there is pretty complete immersion in nature. Was a bit icy in spots... I didn’t have any traction devices and my dog and I were just fine, but bring some kind of spikes if you aren’t comfortable on ice. There are still plenty of decent foot placements that aren’t solid ice if your eyes are open, but I’m sure many would appreciate spikes. I’m wondering how this’ll be in late winter/spring though... yikes!

Some mention they recorded the trail as longer than 6.3 miles, but my gps recorded it at 6.2 miles, 1440 ft of ascent, and it didn’t feel any longer than that to me.

I agree with previous post. The trail is icy; poles and crampons recommended. Two days ago I left a blue dog leash on top near a bush. If anyone finds it, I would really appreciate it if you left it at the Academy Visitor’s Center at the base of the trail. Great hike!

Very challenging hike, especially with 6+ inches of snow on the ground. With all the snow, trails aren’t marked that well, just follow everyone else’s footprints and hope they go in the right direction. Great views on top of Horsethief and Pancake. Overall for me was 8 mile round trip.

awesome challenging hike! but take it slow if you're going in the next few days. the packed snow on the trail has made for some very slick, treacherous areas. hiking poles are highly recommended.

Beautiful trail, especially in the snow!

13 days ago

Hiked this 2 weeks ago, it was great. The fall leaves were all gone. I did have to use my GPS to navigate.

First hike in about six years but it was totally excellent. Weather at the peak was about 40 degrees F and a bit windy. The rock outcropping for the final .3ish to the top is tough but not impossible. If you’re not a hiker like me, take it slow and enjoy the journey.

Challenging hike but with a great reward once you get past all the incline! I started around 7:30am on Saturday and didn’t see another person on the trail until my way back down. Highly recommend this one!

This trail was definitely hard! It is uphill the whole way up and continues to get steeper as you reach the top. The views are absolutely amazing. It got extremely cold and windy towards the last stretch of the trail so wear warm clothes! I would also recommend hiking boots and poles. There are some parts with gravel that were slippery. There was some snow up there but not a lot. Would definitely do it again!

Beautiful but definitely a challenge. If you are visiting, bring water and be prepared for climbing up on rocks. Waterfall was lovely even though it’s not a lot of water. But considering it hasn’t rained, it was such a treat to hear any water. Loved it.

For beauty, challenge, trail head access I give it 5 stars. For speeding, inconsiderate and sometimes dangerous mountain bikers I give it a zero. Especially if you bring your dogs please watch for bikers.

Decent trail but you have to hike 3/4 of a mile up the road to get to the trailhead and the lake at the end is full of people who just got in their car and drove there.

hiking
25 days ago

If you're looking for an easy hike, this isn't it. Almost the entire way to the falls is uphill & there are several parts of the trail that are narrow (1 person wide). It is doable for beginners, but it will be pretty difficult. Tread carefully & watch your step. Wear good hiking shoes if you plan on going to the top. Bring some snacks like Clif bars & plenty of water/Gatorade.

Beautiful views of nature throughout the hike (especially when you get higher up), and it wasn't overpopulated like a lot of touristy places are. You will be immersed in nature. We noticed a bunch of small Brook Trout swimming in the stream that leads up to the falls, which was the only sign of wildlife we saw on our trek. Once you get to St. Mary's Falls, there will be a waterfall on a steep slab rock. I wouldn't say it is "magnificent", but it's still quite pretty. There are some rock stairs that lead you up to a sitting area of log benches and a better position to look at the falls. Our group went in mid-October, so it was significantly colder when we reached the top. The temperature when we got to the parking lot was high 60's, but when we reached St. Mary's Falls there was snow on the ground! If you go later in the year, bring a sweatshirt or jacket. When the sun went down behind the mountains, it also got significantly cooler.

One thing we did notice is the trail is longer than 6.3 miles, which was mentioned by some other reviewers. There's a part on the trail with a sign that states the falls are 1.7 miles away, but it's actually closer to 2.4 miles away. We clocked the total hike (there & back) as over 7.5 miles. There might be some discrepancies between our mileage and other hikers' mileages, but regardless it's definitely longer than 6.3 miles.

Despite being in pain for a large portion of the hike, I enjoyed this hike overall & would do it again. (Next time I will bring better hiking shoes!)

hiking
25 days ago

In my opinion, this trail is a lot harder than moderate for a relatively “in shape” adult. It is a steady incline the entire way to D.P. with some very steep portions that are rock/gravel. Trail is relatively easy to follow.

Of course, the views along the way are priceless and 100% worth the journey. Approximately 8-9 miles round trip, depending how much wandering you do once at the top. We averaged around 1 hour per mile. We are from Illinois and the altitude had our lungs working pretty hard!

Overall 4/5. Would try again with better preparation.

This was a very nice trail with beautiful views at the top. We clocked it as closer to 6.7 to 6.9 miles. The last part is fairly steep. The water flow was low, but there was a bit of ice around the falls which made it very pretty. We did not encounter too many people on the actual trail up to the falls. Most turned off and went the Seven Bridges route.

Amazing hike! Very up hill, lots of stoping points.

Good hike. Great view at the top. There is some rock scrambling which made it fun. The fall color is about done but the aspen grove near the top would have been gorgeous a few weeks earlier. It’s more just under 4 miles round trip because you have to park at the visitors center and go up the road a bit.

A gorgeous place to visit but they don't allow dogs any more. Which is kind of ridiculous. So only two stars.

Great moderate trail.

Easy to find, good parking and the views driving to this hike were stunning at this time of year. Only wish there was a trail marker closer to the top. The end view is beautiful and yesterday the fog was still on some of the mountains, so we had aspens, pancake rocks, fog, sunshine and beautiful blue skies. I really enjoyed this hike.

hiking
1 month ago

Was very frustrated today by the people walking all over the formations despite the many signs that ask you not to. If you can't show some respect for Earth's beauty, please don't bother to come visit it. You're slowly destroying these beautiful features, and now all the rest of us have to look at the footprints you left and the erosion you caused rather than the natural beauty of the Paint Mines.

hiking
1 month ago

A challenging and enjoyable hike! I took a previous hiker's advice and took the Pancake Rocks trail first before the Falls and that would be my recommendation as well. This trail is an incline for the majority of it and I didn't meet a single person on the trail that wasn't huffing, so if you want a physical challenge this is the perfect hike for you. The leaves are a gorgeous fall color on 10/2, but I suspect they won't be that way for long. Lots of pine coverage along the trail so would be a great hike year round. Parking at the trail head is limited and this is a popular trail so plan ahead and happy hiking!

A step trail up and over the falls. Very pretty and if you want to hike longer there are many more trails close.

Awesome view of the aspens

great hike today.

This hike was amazing. Difficult, but the view at the end — especially when the aspens are changing — is absolutely worth the effort!! I hiked to Pancake Rocks and not the falls. To be honest, I’m a beginner hiker and I was hoping to see more aspens and pancake rocks throughout the hike, but there really wasn’t much of either until the final payout at the end! I was hoping to turn around half way (because I’m out of shape!) but even though it was beautiful, I didn’t see what I was hoping for until the very end.

Overall, it took about 1:45 hrs to hike up, and 1:20 down. Careful, there’s quite a bit of loose gravel on your way down! Lots of nice friendly people and doggos- especially during aspen season.

About half way through there’s a few switchbacks — this is the hardest part! Just push through it, and when you get passed them, it starts to even out. There’s a few smaller rolling hills from there to the end, but it’s cake compared to the switchbacks!

Nice hike. The switchbacks are killer, especially for someone new to hiking like myself but it’s well worth the view at the end. I just wish there was more to look at along the way. I got there shortly after 7 on Saturday morning and had the trail pretty much to myself. On the way back there must’ve been at least 40 cars parked along the road so go early. Lots of people and dogs. Weekdays are probably better as far as the traffic goes.

Great Trail winding up and down along the creek with cool waterfall. It's easy to lose the trail when you have to cross the creek. The yellow marker is easy to see after you cross the creek.

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