A Short Walk to the Alluvial Fan Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re looking to view some pretty waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park without going for a long hike, the Alluvial Fan Falls would be a good choice. There’s a larger waterfall and a few smaller cascades that can be reached via a short hike or even viewed from the road. If you visit the Alluvial Fan Falls you’ll also be treated to the beautiful mountain scenery of the Horseshoe Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park and the scenic Fall River.

Alluvial Fan Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

I found out about the Alluvial Fan Falls while looking for short hikes to do in “Rocky” while my body adjusts to the altitude. I’m an experienced hiker, but most of my recent hiking has been done at, or around, sea level. The highest trails in my home county of Lancaster, PA are at about 600 feet of elevation and my favorite place in the Mid-Atlantic for long hikes, Shenandoah National Park, has few peaks above 4000 feet. Soon after arriving in Colorado, I found that I get dizzy while hiking above 8000 feet or so. I’m hoping this is temporary, as much of Colorado is above 8000 feet. I guess I won’t be climbing Mt. Everest anytime soon.

The Alluvial Fan waterfalls can be reached via the Old Fall River Rd, located two miles west of the Fall River Visitors Center and park entrance. After following the Old Fall River Road for about 3/4 of a mile, you’ll come to the East Alluvial Fan Parking Area. A loop hike of approximately a mile can be made by parking at this spot, hiking the trail to the waterfalls, then following the road back from the West Alluvial Fan Parking Area, located a short distance to the west. That’s what I did. If you want an even shorter walk to the falls, just park at the Alluvial Fan West Parking. It’s within a hundred or so yard of the falls. The pathways are relatively flat, wide, and paved; although, they were covered with snow and ice when I was there. The cascades and falls can also be seen from a bridge on Fall River Road, between the two parking areas.

    A sign at the east trailhead explains how an alluvial fan (Wikipedia – “a fan- or cone-shaped deposit of sediment crossed and built up by streams or debris flows) was formed in the area.

Sign at theAlluvial Fan Falls trailhead

Sign at the trailhead telling of the 1982 flood that created the alluvial fan – Click to enlarge

Even if you choose not to hike at all, the area along Old Fall River Road provides postcard views of the Fall River, valley, and mountains along with an excellent opportunity to see wildlife.

A bridge over the frozen Fall River

A bridge over the frozen Fall River

Alluvial Fan Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

The icy Alluvial Fan Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Paved section of Old Fall River Road in RMNP

Old Fall River Road between the East and West Alluvial Fan parking areas

Black-Billed Magpie in Colorado

A Black-Billed Magpie at the Alluvial Fan West Parking Area

The frozen Fall River in RMNP

The frozen Fall River in RMNP with Sundance Mountain (12,466 ft) in the distance

Hairy Woodpecker in "Rocky"

A Hairy Woodpecker in Horseshoe Park

Fall River in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Fall River in January, taken near the intersection of Old Fall River Road and Route 34

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