If you’re looking for an easy, quick hike with a waterfall view in Colorado Springs, add the scenic Helen Hunt Falls to your list.
The namesake is not the actress, but rather another Helen Hunt. It is named in memory of Helen Maria Hunt Jackson who lived in the 1800s. She was a U.S. poet, writer, and activist for Native American rights. After she died, she was buried in Colorado Springs.
The Helen Hunt Falls hike is about as about easy as a waterfall hike can get. But because there are stone stairs toward the top and the altitude is high, it’s classified as easy to moderate. It’s short (about 0.1 mile), with optional add-on trails for more scenery an adventure.
If you’re in the Colorado Springs area, this hike is a quick and easy way to add some scenery and great photos to your day. Here’s everything you need to know about the Helen Hunt Falls hike.
Colorado has a total of 81 waterfalls with official names (plus countless unnamed waterfalls). Helen Hunt Falls is far from being the most impressive of the bunch, but it is easy to get to, so visitors love it.
Helen Hunt Falls is a 35-foot waterfall that you can access via a short hike from the parking lot. Naturally, waterfalls in Colorado run bigger during the run-off, so if you visit in fall, it won’t be as impressive as spring. If you can plan your visit after a big rain, the waterfall will be most impressive. In the winter, the sight of a frozen waterfall is pretty surreal.
The Trail: Due to its accessibility and proximity to Colorado Springs, this trail tends to get super busy, especially on weekends in the summer. If you can head out early in the morning or on a weekday, you might have more peace and solitude to enjoy the water and views.
The views even from below are lovely. At the top of the trail, you can look out over the city via Cheyenne Canyon. For additional views and distance, you can hike less than a mile more up to Silver Cascade Falls or the eight-mile-total Lower Columbine Trail, which passes the falls.
Helen Hunt Falls Trail is an out-and-back trail (not a loop).
Elevation: It starts at 7,200 feet above sea level and is one-tenth of a mile. Or if you choose to extend the hike on the Columbine Trail, the round-trip is eight miles with about a 1,000-foot elevation gain.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate, appropriate for beginners, families, and even kids (although the steps near the top of the waterfall may require an extra hand for little ones).
If you choose to hike on to the Silver Cascade (the upper falls), the trail is still pretty easy and is clearly marked. You will find benches along the way if you need to pause.
Even if you cannot hike, you can enjoy this waterfall from the parking lot and Strasmore Visitor Center. This makes this waterfall accessible to anyone.
Cost: Free and open year-round.
Location: One hour and 45 minutes from Denver in Colorado Springs. The trail is located on the Cheyenne Creek, in the North Cheyenne Canon Park. Find it off North Cheyenne Canyon Road. From the North Cheyenne Canon Park entrance, drive about 2.5 miles up the canyon. You will see the parking lot and the falls right off the road.
The parking lot holds about 30 cars. If this lot is full, which is common in the summer, you can drive farther up the canyon to find more parking.
Road conditions: The road is open year-round. However, always check Colorado road conditions before setting out on a road trip, especially in colder months. Always drive carefully through the canyon because it gets busy and there are often cyclists.
Things to Know
Here are some other details to help you plan your trip to Helen Hunt Falls.
- Dogs are welcome on leash.
- Be careful hiking in the winter because trails can be icy.
- There are scenic views from various points along the hike.
- This is also a popular trail for birding.
- If you take the longer Columbine Trail, wear good hiking boots because it can be slippery and has a bigger elevation gain.
A building called the Bruin Inn was constructed at the base of the waterfall in 1881, and another smaller building was later built. Although a fire ultimately took out the inn, the outbuilding survived and was turned into a visitor center. It was eventually torn down but then rebuilt in 2012.
The falls were officially named the Helen Hunt Falls in 1966.
Highlights Along the Way
Here are some other highlights along Helen Hunt Falls and things to look out for on your trip:
- Longer hikes: Take the four-mile Lower Columbine Trail from the bottom of Cheyenne Canyon to the falls, if you want a harder hike. (It starts near the visitors’ center.) This hike follows the creek four miles up.
- Also, the hike to Silver Cascade Falls is not quite a mile up past the Helen Hunt Falls; that trail is slightly steeper but still manageable for many abilities. The elevation gain for that extension is about 250 feet.
- Wildlife: Many wild animals live in this area. Beware of bears and mountain lions. Don’t leave trash around.
- The Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center: This is the Helen Hunt Falls visitor center, where you can find snacks, drinks, gifts and mementos. You can also learn more about the nature in the area via exhibits, talking to staff, history books, maps, videos and more. Ask about guided hikes and nature walks. This center is only open in the summer.
- Pack a picnic: Bring food and plan a scenic picnic break with a view.