PNW Falls Hidden in Colorado

I'm starting a new project called "Adventure a Day" with the goal of describing the back story behind an image every day for 365 days on this blog. I might miss a few days but I look forward to sharing lots of awesome stories with you! Here's the first one below.

While browsing Facebook a month ago I came across an interesting picture of a falls I'd never seen in Colorado. Despite taking the image with a potato (phone) I could tell there was amazing blue water, a small gorge, and what was looking like some lush vegetation. My friends post mentioned a campground that I'd been near many times in the past few years and I couldn't believe I had missed this gem.

Using Google Earth I was able to in fact verify the falls were there, although they just looked like a small white smudge, and some image searching turned up decent images of the location. So I'm definitely not the first photographer to visit the falls but I was astounded I hadn't seen it mentioned in any of my photography groups or Colorado guide books. Here was potentially the best waterfall in all of Colorado and it's sitting near some obscure campground most people have never even heard of. 

I vowed to visit the falls on my upcoming fall travels in Colorado but promptly forgot it while engaged teaching workshops and guiding clients. As I was wrapping up my time in the Ridgway area the friend reached out to meet-up in the Durango area and I headed that way. As we were eating dinner I remembered the falls and confirmed it's awesomeness; apparently she first found it as kid while camping in Colorado! I was super excited to end my trip with a new incredible location and drove towards the falls that night.

I camped on the edge of data service and watched Netflix before falling asleep to the thoughts of enjoying my own mini-Oregon the next morning. I awoke excited and finished my drive early so I could have plenty of time in the falls before the sun peaked out. After parking and hiking the opposite way from some confused backpackers I found the blue stream and deftly maneuvered across the low water. Following some old "goat" trails to a quickly rising rim the forest started thickening and moss blanketed the rock walls. I looked down and saw water crashing down into a turquoise blue pool before tumbling down a cascade and carving through a narrow gorge. Lichen hung from trees and vivid greens filled cracks in the limestone, I definitely didn't feel like I was in Colorado anymore. I was so enthralled by the scene I spent the next 3 hours photographing, scrambling to different vantage points, yelling in joy, and sitting in peaceful reflection. I couldn't have asked for a better end to almost a month of living and working on the road!

South Fork Mineral Creek Falls

Curious where this is, use the clues in the post and it shouldn't be too hard to find!

  • Each side has small "goat" trails along the rim as the stream becomes a small gorge. The edges are very fragile and a slip here could end badly, it's best to stick to the trails farther in the woods. Scrambling down to the main falls is easiest from the South Side and depending on the time of year the water flow might prevent crossing to access it.
  • The reward for this little bit of work is an amazing unnamed falls in Colorado that appears to be surrounded by a temperate rain forest. The rare blue waters of the surrounding mountain basins combined with hanging moss and lichen leave you feeling as if you're in the Canadian Rockies or Columbia River Gorge.
  • Please minimize your impact on this fragile environment and pack out any trash you create or find. Don't throw rocks, pull or carve on trees, or alter the environment from its natural state, so that others might enjoy it.

Camera Gear:

  • Waterproof shoes
  • Rain Jacket
  • Tripod
  • Rope
  • Camera + Wide Angle Lens + Tripod
  • Polarizing & ND Filter
South Fork Mineral Creek