Rifle Falls, Colorado

In June, I went on a road trip (social distancing style) from Las Vegas to Michigan. The first waterfall stop on the trip was Lower Calf Creek Falls. The next stop was in Colorado. The waterfalls we visited had to be easy to get to from the main freeways and also had to be shorter hikes. Rifle Falls fits into both of those categories.

From the parking area, it was an easy hike to Rifle Falls, a fascinating waterfall. A sign near the falls says the waterfall likely formed when minerals built up around a beaver dam (or something of that sort). I don’t know if I’ve stopped at any other falls that may have been formed that way. At the falls, there are multiple different viewpoints. It is one of those that definitely changes as you’re looking at it from the sides versus head-on, and that makes it fun to photograph. It’s definitely a waterfall that’s worth a stop if you’re along I-70 in Colorado.

Directions:

  1. We were headed east through Colorado along I-70 and took exit 87 before Rifle.
  2. We then turned left onto US-6, which follows I-70 into Rifle. Before entering Rifle, we turned left onto CO-13.
  3. CO-13 skirts Rifle and then just north of Rifle, we turned right onto CO-325 heading north.
  4. Rifle Falls State Park is on CO-325, but you veer right and then left before arriving. When you reach the Rifle Gap Reservoir, you veer right, and then when CO-325 splits with Road 226, you veer left again. It’s pretty hard to miss Rifle Falls State Park if you stay on CO-325.
  5. From the parking area, you head north to see Rifle Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (Easy)

Height: 70′

Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Rifle Falls in June 2020

Mt. Magazine Cascades, Arkansas

Mt Magazine Cascades Arkansas (7)

Mount Magazine Cascades in March 2011

My experience with Mount Magazine was pretty interesting. I have to admit that I’m not even sure how I ended up at Mt Magazine in the first place. Most of the waterfalls in Arkansas are in the north of the state. Mt Magazine Cascades (and Falls) are closer to the center of the state (though still a bit west). I wasn’t having much luck finding impressive waterfalls further north, so maybe I decided to head to somewhere more unconventional…

Mount Magazine is the tallest point in the state, so it’s not surprising that this could lead to waterfalls. The drive to the state park is up a winding road and it was beautiful. It was rather foggy, though. It made it a bit difficult to see where the falls might be.

I do remember wandering around for a bit. I don’t know if I officially found the Cascades or the Falls found in the “Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook” by Tim Ernst. I believe I led myself astray for a bit, and then somehow stumbled upon some falling water. (I do think I found the cascades, though they weren’t as photogenic as I expected…but that was due to different water levels.) After not much other luck, I called the search awash. It was luckier than some of the other searches I was having in Arkansas, a few of which I just completely gave up.

Directions:

  1. Head to Mount Magazine State Park. You’ll follow AR-309 (Mount Magazine Scenic Byway) to get there.
  2. Turn onto Mount Magazine Road. This will lead you up to the circular road around the summit.
  3. At the Brown Springs Picnic area, follow the trail to the Cascades. (I don’t remember this part very much.)

Accessibility: 8/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Height: ~100′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Mount Magazine Cascades?

Lucifer Falls, New York

It’s been nine years since I visited Lucifer Falls (along with a number of other waterfalls in Upstate New York). It was an interesting time to visit the region. As you can tell, all of the snow had melted by that time in early May, but a number of the state parks in the area weren’t at full “capacity”. At Watkins Glen State Park, only a portion of the trail was open as they checked for issues with the trails. Similarly, I think only a portion of the trails at Robert H Treman State Park (where Lucifer Falls is found) were fully open. So while you’ll be able to visit many of the falls in early May, a few may still be inaccessible.

In Ithaca, there are so many impressive waterfalls: Taughannock FallsIthaca Falls, New York, all of the Buttermilk Falls, etc. Lucifer Falls is another one to add to the list. At 115′ tall and found in another beautiful gorge, it’s a truly impressive waterfall. You can  get the sense that at higher flow than what is in the picture below, the waterfall is even wider. You can also get closer to the falls at the right time of year, though I think that was part of the trail that had limited/closed access (or I just decided not to go further since you get a fairly good view of the falls from the viewpoint).

I don’t remember the hike to the falls being wildly difficult, though it was nine years ago. (That’s the downside of writing about a waterfall so long after.) There are a lot of stairs as you get closer to the falls, as you might be able to notice in the picture. The trail does continue on from one entrance to the other entrance. Near the entrance that I would recommend, you’ll also find the smaller Old Mill Falls.

Directions:

  1. Turn onto NY-327 W from NY-13.
  2. Take the road 2.5 miles to the Upper (second) entrance. You’ll have to take a sharp left turn to enter the park.
  3. Drive down to the parking lot. From the parking lot, follow the trail to Lucifer Falls. You’ll be heading east along this trail.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 115′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip (from the Upper Parking Lot)

DSC_0263

Lucifer Falls in May 2009

Smith Falls, Nebraska

20160504_172331

Smith Falls in May 2016

Two years around this time, I was visiting South Dakota, and took a short venture into Nebraska to see a few waterfalls. I’ve posted information about one of them, Snake River Falls. It’s one of three impressive waterfalls in the Valentine area (that are easy to visit). The second one I’ll discuss is Smith Falls, which is known as the tallest of the falls in Nebraska.

I don’t know what to say about Smith Falls except to mention that it’s probably one of the most unique waterfall I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a wild amount of water flowing over it (compared to Snake River Falls, which had a very high flow in early May), and so the falls took on a bizarre shape. As you might notice, erosion has occurred around the falls, but the water flows over in a central location and then cascades out as the rock below widens. Instead of being “smoothed out” at the crest of the falls, it’s kind of jagged, and then it expands toward the base. I can’t say I’ve seen any other falls with this distinctly unique shape and flow.

It’s not a particularly difficult hike to get to the falls. I showed up and the visitor’s center was not open. Nobody else was even remotely around. I didn’t have any cash, so I wasn’t sure how to deal with the entrance fee. I decided to explore and donate more to other state parks :). The hike leads you downhill toward the Niobara River. You then cross the Niobara River over a pedestrian bridge, and then head toward the falls, which will be to your right. There are some stairs and a wood pathway that lead to the base of the falls.

Directions:

  1. In Valentine, head north along N Main Street.
  2. Turn right onto NE-12 (E 5th Street, which then turns into the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway).
  3. Drive 15 miles along NE-12 heading east. You will notice signs for Smith Falls State Park. (Along the way you pass Fort Niobara National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll find Fort Falls.)
  4. Turn right onto the road heading toward Smith Falls State Park. Google does not provide a name for this road. Drive 3 miles or so down this road, and continue to follow the signs.
  5. There may be a left turn required to get to the parking area with visitor’s center.
  6. From the visitor’s center, head downhill toward the Niobara River, cross the river via bridge, and then veer slightly right along the trail to the falls.

The address shown on the Nebraska state parks website will lead you down some primitive roads if you follow Google’s directions. It’s better to stay on Nebraska Route 12.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 63′
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip

Rodney Falls (and Hardy Falls), Washington

DSC_0761

The upper portion of Rodney Falls in September 2017

When I visited Portland, Oregon, this past September, wildfires showed up in the Columbia River Gorge. They were intense enough that many of the waterfalls in that area were off limits. Some of them are just now coming back to life in late December. So I decided to head to the less-visited Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

There are a number of waterfalls on the Washington side, though they’re not as well advertised or always as accessible. Woodburn Falls and Pothole Falls are both further west in the city of Camas. Rodney Falls and Hardy Falls are about 20 miles east in Beacon Rock State Park.

The hike to both falls is on the medium/moderate side. It’s about a 2.5 mile round-trip, but it is consistently uphill on the way to the falls. As I hiked along, there were remnants of ash from the other side of the gorge! It makes you realize how forest fires could travel even across a rather large river. The hike is not difficult to follow until you get very near the end. And then it’s just a bit confusing about where you should really focus your effort and attention.

I would usually separate posts about these two falls, but Hardy Falls isn’t worth a separate post. There is a spur that leads to an “overlook” of Hardy Falls, but it was almost impossible to see the falls due to plant growth. It might be a better view in the winter months when leaves aren’t on the trees. I’ve read that there is a way to get to the base of Hardy Falls, but it seems rather precarious to me. It’s a 90′ waterfall, and it wasn’t clear how you’d get to the base. I thought following some of the trails would lead me closer, but they didn’t.

If I were to go in the summer, I would instead focus most of my time and energy on Rodney Falls, which is a bit further upstream along the same stream. At 80′ overall, it’s not as tall as Hardy Falls, but it is much easier to view. The biggest drop is approximately 40′ if I understand correctly, and while you can’t get directly next to the falls, you can get very close. It’s actually a very cool view.

Directions:

  1. From Vancouver, WA, drive east along WA-14 to Beacon Rock State Park.
  2. Pass the ranger station to your left, and then take a left onto a road signed for camping/hiking. This road will climb uphill.
  3. You’ll want to go to the parking area for the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. There is a fee to visit the park, and you can pay it at a self-service station.
  4. From there, start your hike along the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. It’s about 1.25 miles to the waterfalls. The trail does continue on to Hamilton Mountain.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: Hardy Falls: 90′, Reagan Falls: 80′
Length of Hike: 2.5 miles roundtrip

Where in the World is Hardy Falls and Reagan Falls?

DSC_0745

Can you see Hardy Falls? It’s actually pretty tall!

Cherry Creek Falls, Colorado

There are a few different waterfalls outside of Denver. One of the easiest to get to is probably Cherry Creek Falls. It’s south of Denver in Castlewood Canyon State Park. There are two different entrances into the park. One is off of CO-83, and this can lead you to Cherry Creek Falls. It’s a longer hike to the falls than the second option, though on a nice day it would be a great way to explore the canyon.

Today, the weather was a little bit iffier…While there weren’t terrible storms, there was still some lightning off in the distance. I decided to drive to the other entrance, which leads to a shorter hike to the falls. The second entrance is off of CO-86 on Castlewood Canyon Road.

I ended up parking at the Westside Trailhead parking area. There may be another parking area a bit further along that will get you a bit closer to the falls. Even so, I really didn’t walk very far to get to the falls. I started at the Westside Trailhead and then connected into the Creek Bottom Trail. It’s about a 0.5 mile hike round-trip to the falls.

The best view of the falls is from the Creek Bottom Trail. Oddly enough, you won’t be at the creek bottom, as that could be rather dangerous. There is a faint trail that leads to the top of the falls, but you’re not going to get a very good view, and I wouldn’t recommend it. The falls are taller than they appear, as you can’t get extremely close.

Directions:

  1. From the intersection of CO-83 and CO-86, head west on CO-86.
  2. After a short distance (about half a mile), turn left on to Castlewood Canyon Road.
  3. Drive on Castlewood Canyon Road to the entrance of the state park. Drive until you reach the Westside Trailhead. You can also possibly drive a bit further, though I don’t know what parking area it would be.
  4. Whatever trailhead you start at, you want to connect into the Creek Bottom Trail. You’d want to head southwest on this trail.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 15-20′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

DSC_0039

Cherry Creek Falls in May 2017

Where in the World is Cherry Creek Falls?

Waterfall #3 in Buttermilk Falls SP, New York

It’s been a while since I’ve thought about the waterfalls in Buttermilk Falls State Park. It’s a really beautiful state park in Ithaca, and there are so many different drops on Buttermilk Creek. Buttermilk Falls is the largest drop, and then Upper Buttermilk Falls is also a rather large drop. I also classified other drops (#1#2, and #6), with #4 and #5 being somewhat out of sight.

This third drop that I classified has three smaller drops that are extremely close to each other. You could almost call this Triple Falls. If this waterfall were all by itself, I’m not sure that it would be a main attraction (though that also depends on where the falls are located). In this case, you’ll see so many other waterfalls that it’s worth it to keep hiking. (Depending on how you choose to hike, there is a moderate ascent, with a much easier descent.)

Directions:

  1. There are multiple ways to access this entrance to the park. I think the easiest is to get onto NY-96B (aka Danby Rd.) heading south from Ithaca.
  2. Heading south, you will come to W. King Road. Turn right onto W. King Road.
  3. Head to the sign for the entrance to Buttermilk Falls State Park. Turn into the entrance.
  4. From here, you can park right there, and cross W. King Road. The entrance to the gorge should be rather obvious.
  5. The Gorge Trail is the best choice to view the falls, though it is only open during certain times of the year.

Accessibility: Ascent (4/10), Descent (9/10)
Height: ~15′
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip (if you start near NY-96)

buttermilk 3

Where in the World is Waterfall #3?

Little River Falls, Alabama

When I was looking for waterfalls to visit in Alabama during a trip this past weekend, I was surprised to find out that there were a number of waterfalls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. Just over six years ago, I had visited DeSoto Falls State Park, which has a number of waterfalls (DeSoto Falls Indian Falls, Laurel Falls, Lost Falls, and the Azalea Cascades, and maybe a one or two others). I had no clue that just a few miles away was the Little River Canyon with even more waterfalls. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that I would have driven the additional distance to see these other falls.

But when you miss waterfalls one time, it’s the perfect excuse to go back and visit! And so I did. The Little River Canyon is a fascinating place to visit. It is a surprisingly beautiful canyon. There is an enjoyable but winding drive that takes you along the canyon rim, and they have done a very good job of placing overlooks at the right places. But, comically enough, to see Little River Falls, you don’t have to drive along the Canyon Rim Drive (though you still should). Little River Falls is found right at the intersection of two roads before you start your journey (assuming you approach the falls from the same direction as I did).

Once you find the parking area for the falls (which isn’t particularly difficult), the “hike” to the falls isn’t particularly difficult either. There was a very nice ranger/volunteer handing out maps, and he referenced the stairs down as the “hard” path and the wheelchair accessible ramp as the “easy” way back. I thought this funny, as it seemed like there may have been only 20 or so stairs to the falls. (There were probably a few more, but there aren’t any heart warnings involved with going down these stairs, at least compared to other places I’ve been.) I actually found the ramp back up more tedious because it took me way out of the way to get back to my car! (There really aren’t any additional views to be had by taking the long way.) The views to be had at the designated areas, though, are definitely worth it. (And while you’re at this area, realize there’s a hike to another smaller waterfall, Martha’s Falls, that’s enjoyable.)

Directions:

  1. If driving along I-59, you could either take exit 218 or 222 to get to the falls. I think I took exit 222 as I was heading south, and turned left onto US-11.
  2. Drive along US-11 to the intersection of US-11 and AL-35. Turn left onto AL-35, and then turn left after a few blocks to stay on AL-35.
  3. Once on this route, it’s a pretty easy drive to the falls. The parking area for the falls is found on AL-35 just after the intersection with AL-176 (which is the scenic drive). The signage for the falls makes it relatively difficult to miss.
  4. At the parking area, it’s a short walk to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, there is a wheelchair-accessible ramp)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round trip
Height: 45′

Little River Falls in January 2016

Where in the World is Little River Falls?

Chesterfield Gorge Falls, New Hampshire

Chesterfield Gorge Falls in late July 2015

I was surprised by how nice Chesterfield Gorge was. I had expected the waterfall here to be nothing particularly interesting, and I actually thought it was nicer than indicated.

Chesterfield Gorge isn’t a particularly big gorge. There is a total elevation change on the hike of maybe 200′ or so. And yet, it’s a pretty easy hike, along with being very easy to get to. As you’re hiking down along the trail into the gorge, nothing looks particularly big. You’ll see a number of singular drops. It’s not until you’re at the end of the trail that you’ll notice that some of the drops can be seen at the same time, leading to a bigger waterfall, which is approximately 120′ in height. And for a waterfall in mid-July, it was flowing fairly well. I’m sure that if you show up earlier in the summer, you will likely find something more interesting, but it was still an enjoyable stop.

Directions:

  1. Chesterfield Gorge State Park is found in between Keene, NH and Brattleboro, VT along NH-9.
  2. From Keene, head west along NH-9 for 6 miles or so to the park, which will be on your right.
  3. There is ample parking as this serves as a rest area. From the rest area, it’s a short walk down to through the gorge, and the trail forms a loop.

Accessibility: 7/10 (there are some steep parts)
Height: 120′
Distance of Hike: 0.5 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Chesterfield Gorge Falls?

Waipo’o Falls, Hawaii

Waipo’o Falls in very early July 2015

I’ve been visiting Kauai for the past few days. It’s the third of the Hawaiian Islands I’ve visited, after Maui and the Big Island. On the other two islands, it seems to be very easy to find waterfalls. Here on Kauai, they exist, but they are a bit more hidden at times. So I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon Waipo’o Falls so easily.

I had been reading a book about Kauai, and knew that I could hike to the top of the Falls along the Canyon Trail. I’ll explain that in another post for Upper Waipo’o Falls because I feel there’s a distinct difference in terms of what you’ll experience on that hike. Part of the trick is that you can’t see Waipo’o Falls along the Canyon Trail leading to the crest of the falls. You can see a smaller waterfall further above.

So it ends up that the Waipo’o Falls you see here can be viewed directly from the main road. No hike is required! It also can be viewed from the lookout where the Canyon Trail starts. The best view are to be had somewhere around mile markers 10 to 12 on highway 550. You’ll be able to see the whole waterfall from a pull-out along the road. From the lookout between mile markers 13 and 14, you’ll be able to see maybe 2/3 of the Falls.

This is one of those waterfalls that’s definitely worth a visit. From what I understand, it’s best between December and early July, and then it tapers off in the later summer months. Even if you end up missing the falls, you’ll still be viewing Waimea Canyon, which is a stunningly beautiful place.

Directions:

  1. From Lihue, head west along HI-50.
  2. Once you reach the town of Waimea, you have two options. In the town of Waimea, you can turn on HI-550 (Waimea Canyon Drive) and drive 10-12 miles along the road to get various views of the falls. The necessary pullouts will be to the right on the road.
  3. You can also drive a few miles further along HI-50 to HI-552, and then head north along that road instead. I’m not really sure if there’s a benefit one way or the other.  I took HI-552 on the way up and HI-550 on the way down. (HI-550 will lead past the small but wildly intriguing Red Dirt Falls, to be discussed in a future post.)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Distance of Hike: Roadside view
Height: ~800′

Where in the World is Waipo’o Falls?