Sunshine Falls in May 2017
Sunshine Falls was an unexpected waterfall that I didn’t even know about. I was visiting Colorado after a workshop and had decided to go to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. After that visit, I was headed back to Denver, and decided to visit Cañon City and the Royal Gorge. There is a train that takes you on a two hour journey into the Gorge (and along the Arkansas River). This allows for some great views of the Royal Gorge Bridge and the scenery along the Arkansas River and through the Gorge is stunning.
So I was bit surprised when a tour guide mentioned there was a waterfall in the canyon. I rushed out of the train car I was in to get a better view. They mentioned the name of the falls is Sunshine Falls, at least that’s what I wrote down! It had been raining that day, and even then, there wasn’t much water flowing down the falls. But it was fun to add an unexpected waterfall to the record. If anywhere else, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the falls, but in this instance, the trip through the Gorge is definitely worth it! (There is another waterfall, Tunnel Drive Falls, that is nearby. Even that didn’t have much water flowing over the falls, but it again was an enjoyable hike that allowed for different views of the start of the gorge.)
- In this case, unless you’re planning on rafting down the river, the best option to view the falls is on the train. The train station is located at 330 Royal Gorge Blvd, Cañon City, CO 81212. It is right off of US-50 as it passes through Cañon City.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: not applicable
Where in the World is Sunshine Falls?
Tunnel Drive Falls barely flowing in May 2017
I’m going to write about this waterfall even though it may seem like there’s not much there. I think it’s because of its location. You probably won’t be expecting to find a waterfall there, so if you do, it will at least be interesting. It also helps the hike to the falls is beautiful in itself.
If you’re visiting Cañon City, it’s likely because of the of the Royal Gorge, which is honestly beautiful. Take the train ride through the gorge. It’s worth it, and you might see another seasonal waterfall, Sunshine Falls. If you want a different view of the gorge (or one that’s less busy), head to the Tunnel Drive Trail. This trail quickly climbs uphill so that you’re walking into the gorge. At the right time of day, you would see the train heading in or out.
It just so happens that when it’s raining enough, there are some ephemeral waterfalls that pop up. It did happen to be raining on the day I was there or I wouldn’t have attempted to find these falls. The designated trail is approximately 2 miles one-way and it’s mostly level after the initial climb. You pass through a number of interesting tunnels along the way. I didn’t have much to go off in finding the falls, so I would suggest focusing on your right side as you approach the 2 mile marker. If I remember correctly, the falls were before this marker. The one page I could find, which has a better picture of the falls (found here), mentioned the falls could be found after the second bridge, which did seem to be correct.
- Along US-50 west of the Royal Gorge Railroad, you’ll find the intersection of Tunnel Drive and US-50. Turn onto Tunnel Drive. (If you’re headed west, it will be a left turn.)
- Head to the end of Tunnel Drive. You’ll find the trailhead there. (Google Maps makes it look like the road continues to the falls, but it ends earlier than what’s on Google Maps.)
- Start your hike, which does include an uphill climb at first.
Accessibility: 7/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Length of Hike: 4 miles round-trip