Hike to Fish Creek Falls from the Sanctuary
Fish Creek Falls is one of the most popular hiking paths in Steamboat, the Yampa Valley area, and among Steamboat Springs residents. This recreational area offers access to anyone wanting to experience the view of the 280-foot waterfall via a paved half-mile path, which is easily accessible for everyone in the family.
In addition, this destination is open year-round, offering many opportunities to experience the great outdoors regardless of the season. So it is no wonder why Fish Creek Falls is a popular area for residents to explore and visitors to experience.
Learn about where to hike, and all that Fish Creek Falls has to offer below:
Fish Creek Falls Hiking Trails
There are three parts to the Fish Creek Falls hike:
- The first part of the hike is a short trek that takes you to Fish Creek Falls itself. This only takes a couple of minutes of walking down to the base of the trail to the bottom of the waterfall, and it is an excellent place for taking pictures of you and your family standing in front of the beautiful 283 ft waterfall.
- After enjoying the mist of the lower falls, hikers can take the second part of the hike—a 2.5-mile trek—to Fish Creek’s upper falls. This trek winds through Fish Creek Canyon up to an elevation of more than 1,600 feet and is about an hour and a half from the first of steep uphill hiking (close to three hours roundtrip). It is a great hike enjoyed by both visitors and locals alike, loved for its beauty in every season as well as the hike’s proximity to town.
- While many hikers stop at the second falls and turn back, there’s a third portion of the trail that offers great hiking and solitude. Those wanting to continue can hike the third trek, a 12-mile round trip hike that can take the entire day near the Continental Divide. If you continue past the second falls to Long Lake, you will ascend a fairly steep uphill walk that takes you from town to the height of Buffalo Pass. Be sure to take plenty of water. At the end of this long hike, the rewards are a wide-open lake to relax by and hours of quiet time on a trail where you often won’t see another soul.
The three trails listed above are the more popular hiking trails around Fish Creek Falls. However, there are several smaller paths and other winding paths throughout the area. These paths take hikers through unique natural areas that are a must-see when exploring Fish Creek Falls.
Fish Creek Trails Hiking Tips
For the most solitude, head up early in the morning. There is a beautiful aspen grove about ½ way to the second falls that peaks in late fall, and with the early morning sun, it feels like you’re surrounded by a soft glow. This area is for photographing early in the morning.
Also, if you do decide to take the longer hike to the second falls or beyond early in the morning, take a hat or a visor as the sun will be directly in your eyes.
Parking at Fish Creek Falls
Most locals who hike Fish Creek Falls throughout the year don’t appreciate paying a parking fee and like taking the locals route, which is why they access the Fish Creek Falls trail from the Sanctuary. Drive up Fish Creek Falls Road and turn right onto Steamboat Boulevard. From Mt. Werner, turn onto Steamboat Boulevard, heading towards the hospital and golf course. Follow the road, and right at the bridge crossing the river is a parking lot on the side of the road closest to the mountain. Park here and follow the wide trail upstream.
There are several footpaths that branch off heading to the water. Pass these. As the trail begins to U around Aspenwood, take the trail off to the left. This will wind up a fair way up a pretty steep trail. There will be an intersection with a large rock with a crack in it off to the right. Be sure to turn left here as the trail fades off if you continue going straight. Follow this trail up until you peak out. The hill in front of you will be covered with aspens. Turn to the left after another large rock and pick up the trail again here (it crosses a rocky area where the trail is hard to see for about 50 feet.). Another 10 minutes or so, and you’ll drop out on the Fish Creek Falls trail. The approach is a gem itself, and then you get to the Fish Creek Falls Trail. Bring water, a snack, and your camera to take in the views. In the evening, it is nice to stop along the creek for a picnic and a glass of wine after you are done with the hike.
This trail begins in the Sanctuary and is one of the reasons it is great to live in this neighborhood. Even if you don't, it is a short bike ride or drive from most of the town. There are many more hidden gems like this around Steamboat, so never stop exploring.
Fish Creek Falls Activities
While hiking is one of the most popular things to do at Fish Creek Falls, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy so many other exciting and thrilling activities in this area, too. Watersports enthusiasts can kayak, raft, or standup paddleboard near the falls in the summer. Other exciting activities include picnicking, nature viewing, outdoor learning, and photography. Popular activities during the winter months include snowshoeing and ice climbing.
Now that many visitors are slowly clearing out of town, it’s a great time to hike Fish Creek Falls or enjoy an outdoor activity with your family in the area!