Ask ten random locals to name a good family hiking trail with easy access from downtown Steamboat Springs and the most common answer you’re likely to get is the Fish Creek Falls. The Fish Creek Falls Trail has a little of everything, from a paved overlook trail complete with sheltered picnic areas and developed restroom facilities, to a slightly more strenuous trek that switchbacks above Lower Fish Creek Falls and travels for 5 miles up past Upper Fish Creek Falls to the scenic Long Lake.
There are many faces to Fish Creek Falls. In the spring months, it’s a raging torrent of foamy whitewater. Standing on the bridge below the lower falls feels like standing in a carwash, with cold mist spraying over your face and powerful gusts of wind blowing downstream. By summertime, the flow eases and the parking lots and picnic areas take on a park-like ambiance. Families picnic streamside, kids and dogs wade in the more quiet pockets of calm water, and camera and cell phones of all types capture images of the falling water through the narrow gorge.
Fall is undoubtedly my favorite time to visit the falls. The oak and aspen trees turn the tops of the canyon red and yellow, and the river has slowed to a wadeable trickle. The crowds have also largely departed, and one can sometimes even spend a good quiet hour on the bridge near the base of the falls, enjoying a brisk morning of sun reflecting on water.
But Fish Creek Falls does not shut down in winter. In fact, the trail remains a favorite destination of snowshoers, backcountry skiers, and adventurous ice-climbers seeking out a unique view of Steamboat’s most famous waterfall covered in ice and rime.
If Fish Creek Falls Trail doesn’t suit your fancy, or if you’re simply looking for a longer, more adventurous waterfall destination, I’d suggest another famous waterfall in the Steamboat Springs vicinity—King Solomon Falls. King Solomon is entirely different than Fish Creek Falls. Located an hour north of Steamboat Springs along Routt County Road 129 north of Clark, Colorado, King Solomon Falls is a local’s secret and requires not only a longer drive, but a difficult hike. However, for anyone that makes it out to this quiet oasis, you’ll find unspoiled forest, a beautiful trout-filled stream, and, unless you’re visiting on a hot Saturday in mid-summer, not another person.
King Solomon Falls is not for the faint of heart or the physically challenged. Make sure you have a good map, reliable directions and are prepared for a wilderness experience.