“This long day loop provides some beautiful scenery!
— Jason Groves
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
Not a congested trail, lots of variety of terrain and beautiful views. My kids LOVE the falls!
Access to the trailhead is closed in the winter.
This hike begins at the Four Mile Falls Trailhead at the end of CR400 north out of Pagosa Springs. Sign in at the check in station and head out along the wooded trail.
The first 0.75 miles is mostly dow hill through the woods and over a few small water crossings. There are several places where the trail gets steep going down, and the footing can be a little tricky due to loose rocks, but the trail is well used and easy to follow at this point.
At the 0.75 mile mark, there is another small stream crossing, and the trail enters an open meadow with beautiful views of the southern San Juan mountains. The trail levels out and continues to make its way through the forest with some minor ups and downs and places where you can catch views of the surrounding peaks and, after a couple of miles, glimpses of the two upcoming waterfalls.
About 3 miles in, you'll come to the base of the first of the two waterfalls. It is a tall, beautiful cascade on your left that mists as the breeze blows it, and rainbows abound.
Cross the creek and begin the steep, loose rock covered climb up the trail on the far side. A short ways up, the trail will come to a Y; continue straight to go to the bottom of the falls (almost all of the regular foot traffic stops here and heads back making the falls their out and back destination) or go to the right and continue up the steep slog to continue on to the top of the second falls and eventually Four Mile Lake.
This section is very steep with very poor footing, so be very careful! This is also the beginning of nearly four miles of constant uphill hiking with a few level places to catch your breath. The trail follows a stream bed at times; pick your way through and watch for cairns. There are multiple beautiful places near the creek where others have set up camp and left fire rings near the top of the second falls.
Four Mile Lake is found about 6 miles in from the trailhead, I would love to write more detail about the trail there but I didn't notice as much as I would have liked as I was continually gasping for air and cursing due to the relentless elevation gain!
Past the lake along the Anderson Trail
, the trail levels out for a bit and even noses downhill for a bit before climbing back up for another mile and a half or so with beautiful views of Pagosa Peak along the way. Then it is four plus miles of relentless downhill switchbacks after peaking out at 11,000 feet. Depending on the time of year, hikers will enjoy beautiful fall colors and may encounter bears along the way!
Flora & Fauna
Pine, spruce, aspen just to name a few of the trees. Lots of wildflowers, raspberries and mushrooms all along the trail. Standard Colorado wildlife, including a mother black bear and her twin cubs on my last trip. Sing loudly!