When you live in or visit Colorado, you have to get out of the city to visit the mountains at least once. One of the most beautiful places to do so is about an hour’s drive south of Denver.
Seven Falls lies 75 miles away from the state capital, just west of Colorado Springs. This series of waterfalls is situated in one of the most beautiful canyons in Colorado. Seven Falls offers something for everyone in the family, no matter how old or young.
I recently visited Seven Falls with my husband and two year-old daughter, and we had a fantastic time. I am not much of a hiker, and my husband had to carry our daughter up the stairs to the top of the falls, but the view of the falls and South Cheyenne Canyon was well worth the physical effort. We spent several hours at Seven Falls, and took plenty of pictures to remember the day.
Wildlife and nature are at their finest at Seven Falls. You can see hawks, deer, foxes, rainbow trout, hummingbirds and chipmunks, among other animals. Another way to learn about Seven Falls is to listen to stories about the Falls’ geology, wildlife, ecology and cultural history on a self-guided audio tour. Signs also tell you of the plants and animals you might spot in the canyon.
Probably the best time to visit the falls is when the snows are melting in early summer, although the falls are spectacular any time of year. During the summer, Native Americans demonstrate dances and music of their cultures, which help bring the area’s cultural history alive. In the fall, the canyon is ablaze with different colored leaves, and wildflowers blossom in the spring and summer. In the winter, snow may cover much of the area around the falls, leaving a breathtaking view.
Stairs, Trails and an Elevator
Climb 224 stairs to the top of the 181-feet tall falls if you are feeling adventurous. A rest landing is about halfway up. At the top, you can hike on trails that wind through pristine mountain forests and along the creek leading to the falls. Two trails are open from May through October. The trails close at 7 p.m. and during bad weather. Wearing sturdy walking or hiking shoes is essential.
Inspiration Point trail is about one mile and takes about one hour to complete. It is the burial place of author Helen Hunt Jackson, and it offers a panoramic view of the Colorado plains as well as the city of Colorado Springs.
Midnight Falls is the other trail that is popular with Seven Falls visitors. It is about a half hour round trip, and it leads to falls that were a popular place for neraby Colorado College students to visit late at night about a hundred years ago. It is also near the headwaters of the South Cheyenne Creek.
If you are not ready to climb the stairs to the top of the falls, you can also ride a 140-foot elevator built inside a mountain to the Nest Observation Platform, a panoramic landing that overlooks the falls. This is a beautiful spot to take some photographs of the falls. You can also reach the platform by climbing 184 stairs.
Rates, Rules and Hours
The Falls are open from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Rates vary based on the time of day you visit and the age of the visitor. Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., adults pay $9.25 and children between six and 15 pay $5.75. Children five and under are free. At night, rates rise to $10.75 for adults and $6.75 for children. Those under five years of age are still free at night.
Why do the rates rise at night? The Falls light up at night in a spectacular computerized light show in the summer that renders them even more enjoyable and beautiful.
What makes Seven Falls special is that it is not a public park. It is privately owned, and it has been open to the public since the 1880s. The entrance fees pay for the maintenance of the park and allow others to visit and enjoy it in the future.
You are encouraged to picnic if the weather is nice in the city park that is very close to the entrance of Seven Falls. However, picnicking within Seven Falls is not allowed. A small café is available for a meal or to get something to drink inside Seven Falls.
Bring plenty of water with you when you visit Seven Falls, especially if you are not used to high altitude. Take it slow, and you will be fine. Also, be sure to make use of the restroom facilities in the parking lot as they are the only ones in the park.
If you want to make an entire day of being in the Colorado Springs area, consider visiting the Air Force Academy, driving up Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, the artist community of Mesa Springs just outside Colorado Springs, the Pro Rodeo museum, or perhaps the Cheyenne Zoo.