Zapata Falls Trail

MODERATE 211 reviews

Zapata Falls Trail is a 0.9 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mosca, Colorado that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
0.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
213 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

rocky

snow

The falls were formed when South Zapata Creek wore a groove in the crystalline rocks of the Sangre de Cristos, allowing its water to spill onto the soft alluvial soils below. Over millennia, the creek has carved a dim, deep and narrow chasm through which water tumbles some 30 feet. In the summer, the falls offer a cool respite; winter temperatures turn them into a giant ice sculpture.

hiking
20 days ago

We loved this hike! When we went in April the falls were half frozen so we were able to walk on the ice and stand next to the falls. We could hear the water rushing under our feet.

hiking
20 days ago

The frozen falls are spectacular. You will need traction aid to walk on the frozen creek. We had Yaktrax and they were barely sufficient. I could slam my foot down on the ice and the Yaktrax wouldn't dig in. My wife had trekking poles and those helped her.

The trail is wide and has a moderate incline. It is rocky with some loose rock. When we went, it was about 30% packed snow and the rest was clear. I would rate this trail 'easy' - unless your 150 pounds overweight and live on the coast.

The road up is rocky, but does not have sedan-eating-washouts. Low clearance cars can make it with caution.

hiking
24 days ago

Accident at Zapata Falls Dec 2018 (located on US Bureau of Land Management)
Not well Maintained.
Pre-injury plans and History:
We are couple from Atlanta who loves to Hike and visit places. We planned to start our trip on December 5th 2018 to Boulder, CO. Plan was to explore places around Denver till December 19th 2018 and fly to las Vegas, then visit grand canyon, Antelope canyon and drive to Los Angeles on December 23th 2018. Planned to explore Los Angeles till Jan 31 and fly back to Atlanta from Las Vegas on Jan 31th night.
On Day of Injury:
As part of our plan, on December 15th 2018 we drove to Zapata Falls, CO. Before starting our trip to Zapata Falls from Boulder CO, we checked and made sure Zapata Falls hike Trails are open to public. We reached Zapata Falls Campgrounds around 1 pm MST, parked our car at Campground and hiked way up the trail. Trail was covered with Snow although it was sunny day. It’s a 1 mile hike up to Zapata Falls from Camp grounds where we parked our Car. After 1 mile hike me and my wife reached Zapata Falls around 2 pm MST, we took some pictures and started to head down to camp ground where our car was parked. At Zapata Falls, there was ice formation below which is completely covered with Snow, despite being careful at Zapata Falls, my wife slipped on ice, lost balance and broke her ankle at Zapata Creek. Injury was quite severe, her ankle bone was broken on both sides, and her left foot was dislocated and twisted. It was impossible for her to take a single step after injury. At the time of injury there was nobody there to help us, but few minutes after injury, there were 4 people who came to incident location. While they were taking care of my wife, I hiked back to camp ground and found a volunteer who works for Zapata Falls with 4X4 ATV. He drove me to Zapata fall (injury location) along the trail, we got my wife in ATV with People’s help and Volunteer dropped us at our Car. He mentioned closest hospital was in Alamosa and he said he would also call Sheriff and Hospital personnel to expect us.
After injury:
We drove to Emergency ward in SLVRMC hospital in Alamosa and doctors admitted my wife, did X-Ray of her left Ankle and confirmed she fractured her left ankle. They said we must wait at least 5 days for inflammation to come down before they do a surgery to reconstruct her left ankle. They also recommended Surgery is needed no later than 10 day once the inflammation in ankle has reduced. Doctor aligned her dislocated foot and put a splint on her foot, so it does not move till surgery. After that she was discharged, and we drove back next 4 hours to Boulder,CO .
After First Medical attention:
On Monday December 17th, started doing our search to get best treatment around Denver for her surgery. We found Dr Thomas Clanton MD, at Steadman clinic Vail CO, has most experience in ankle and lower foot. We got appointment with Doctor on Tuesday December 18th. His team X-rayed her ankle again to see if it was in place, checked my wife’s ankle inflammation and said the surgery can be performed on Wednesday December 19th, 2018. We ofcourse cancelled all our plans of vacation and now hoping that my wife will have a fast-complete recovery.
Surgery day:
On December 19th 2018 Wednesday, At 3 PM MST my wife was taken to operation room at Vail Valley surgery Center in Edwards CO. Surgery was performed till 7 PM MST. Doctor said they reconstructed her left ankle with Screws and plates as necessary. They said it would take 4 months for her to just start to put weight on her left leg. She must take complete bed rest till 3 months. After 4 months, with help of physiotherapy, it could take any where between 7 to 10 Month for my wife to start walking. After 1 year she could get back to her daily activities as usual and there is a slim chance of her hiking like before again.
Plans after Surgery:
We stay Boulder CO for 10 days till December 28th, 2018 allowing my wife to heal a bit and then have a follow up session on December 28th Steadman clinic Vail CO to make sure things are fine after surgery. After it planning to Fly back to Atlanta.

What to get from this?
We Recommend, even if Parks are open to Public, if you think Icy or unsafe Conditions may exist, don’t go.
Parks Owned government entities should take extra measures to close trails which might be un safe for public to visit. In this case it was open to Public.
Be extremely careful, when walking on ice. One slip could wipe away smiles in your life.
Family is most important, and everything comes next.
Stay Strong when in Problems or in Pain.
Let your Painful Experience be a lesson or Precaution to Others.

1 month ago

My dingy Ford Taurus made it up the 3 mike drive. We went in mid December, and the Waterfall was gorgeous. It was frozen over and tucked in a slot canyon. Completely worth the drive and short hike.

3 months ago

Great little hike! The drive up is rough gravel but there’s a Honda Accord that made it up here in dry conditions (early October).

3 months ago

Great hike, short though. We were advised to bring shoes to wear in cold water and we were happy we did.

hiking
3 months ago

Would be a really slow, long drive to the trailhead if you don’t have an SUV. Road is really rocky. But the hike is quick and the falls are beautiful. We took off our shoes once we got to the creek.

hiking
4 months ago

Excellent short hike to scenic waterfall. I recommend bringing hiking poles and a change of shoes if going into the creek to see the falls. The water in the creek is quite cold.

hiking
4 months ago

very easy hike with great payoff!!! The falls are hidden and fun to get to through the river. if you are careful, you can step on rocks and avoid having to step in the cold water. my boyfriend and I both left with totally dry shoes and socks. road to get to trailhead was definitely rough for low clearance vehicles with normal tires, take it slow and it's not impossible

hiking
4 months ago

Great stop on the way to Great Sand Dunes if you have the time. The river was flooded when I visited, but the trail has wide open views of the mountains, valleys, and dunes, and the falls are worth the little climb to get to them.

4 months ago

nice little hike and beautiful falls

hiking
5 months ago

The falls are amazing, heed all advice regarding footwear.
The road up is 3 miles of extremely rough terrain.
I saw all sorts of cars, slow going.

hiking
5 months ago

Did this trail on Aug 5. Took us about 1 hr and 45 min total with young children. There's a bathroom at the TH, and about 18-20 parking spots in the main lot plus a lot more along the road and in another parking lot plus a picnic area with its own parking lot. There are a lot of benches along the way up the trail. It is a "hot" trail with not much real shade, mostly consisting of short trees, shrubs, and cactuses. Nice views of the sand dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Mtns including the Crestone Needles. Bring water shoes and a small towel--it was definitely nice to have warm, dry socks and shoes to slip back into after walking in the ICY, numbing water! The water level was about ankle deep in most places. Fun, but our young boys didn't enjoy getting their feet so cold. The falls with the cave were definitely neat!

5 months ago

great little jont to the falls!! walking the falls was great wish i had my rain boots!

5 months ago

A+++

hiking
5 months ago

Definitely worth the BUMPY ride up to the trailhead.

hiking
5 months ago

This is an awesome short hike with great payoff. A few tips:
-the road up to the trailhead gets a bad rap, but I didn't find it to be too bad. I managed fine in my 2WD Ford Fusion. Just go slowly (5-10 mph max) and choose your line carefully. The road is plenty wide, so you have a lot of options to avoid the larger rocks. There are a few ruts in the road, but we didn't bottom out. Low and slow!
-The hike up to the river isn't difficult, but note that you do have to wade in the river to reach the falls; you can't see them from the trail. Tevas, Chacos, or similar might be better than shoes/boots. My water proof boots were great until I had to wade in water up to my mid-calf!
-If you feel like extending the hike, you could take the turn off to South Zapata Lake. The hike to the lake is long, but there are some old mining cabin ruins about 1 mile above the falls. The sign for this portion of the trail turnoff is misplaced (it must have fallen over), but the well-defined trail is on the right just before you reach the river crossing.

Enjoy!

5 months ago

Suggest a SUV, AWD vehicle for ride up to trailhead. Once there, nice little rocky hike to falls. Wear the appropriate shoes (sandals) to make it into the inner walls of the cave/falls. Sweet little adventure. Highly recommend

hiking
6 months ago

Uphill, rocky hike. Pretty quick trip, took a while to drive up the rocky mountain in our scion tc but we made it. Waded through the ice cold creek to the falls. Definitely wear hiking boots or Teva’s if planning to go all the way to the falls (you can’t see it from dry land)

hiking
6 months ago

Very easy hike, but the road getting there is extremely rough.

6 months ago

Beautiful view of the falls if you’re willing to get cold feet and have a good mosquito repellent.

6 months ago

Beautiful! Be prepared for a very bumpy/rocky drive up(my Fitbit counted it as steps and stairs.) To actually see the falls you have to walk in the creek- fairly hard to accomplish without stepping in the water. Quick easy hike with a beautiful destination.

6 months ago

Awesome view! Definitely worth the huh ike and drive.

6 months ago

This is a great waterfall but to actually see the falls you have to walk in and out of the creek for about .2 if a mile. Worth it, but you definitely need water shoes or at least water resistant hiking boots. Great views of the Sand Dunes and San Isabel range on the way down. I measured 1.8 miles round trip. The road to the trailhead is fairly rough.

walking
7 months ago

Done this 3 times and love the climb, great views of the dunes

walking
7 months ago

Rocky terrain and not that far of a hike to falls from the TH. Hiked it on a Thursday early afternoon and decent foot traffic. Popular stop.

hiking
7 months ago

I thought this was absolutely so much fun. Took two dogs who loved every second. Easy but you can entertain yourself with a little bit of rock wall scaling and the cool water from the falls is so refreshing.

hiking
7 months ago

Great short hike.

7 months ago

Hard!!!

hiking
7 months ago

This is a great hike, suitable for just about anybody. There is some elevation gain, but it’s not too bad, and the hike is not even a full mile (1.6km) round-trip to the Zapata Falls.

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