Hiking up to Zapata Falls


Once you’ve had your fill of sand and sun at the Great Sand Dune National Park, take a much needed respite from the sun and cool off at Zapata Falls. Located approximately three miles south of the park on I-160, your journey to the trailhead begins with a rocky switchback that cuts into the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. (If you don’t have four-wheel drive, this might be a little difficult.) Take our advice and don’t make the rookie mistake of driving up right after eating. (It’ll make the drive up seem longer than it is.)

The trip to the parking lot is well worth the nauseating adventure alone. As you gaze off into the distance you are treated to expansive views of dunes in the horizon. The climb up to the base of the falls is a short half-mile trek. You’ll find yourself attempting to balance on slippery rocks going against the current. If you’re anything like us, you’ll give up the idea of staying dry relatively quickly and just jump in. The water is so cold that your feet will immediately go numb. However, its well worth it to gaze up at the 25-foot waterfall within the shelter of the rocky crevasse.


While Zapata Falls isn’t the most spectacular falls I’ve ever seen, it was still beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone visiting southern Colorado.


  • Remember to pack bug spray. The base of the falls is littered with mosquitoes.

  • Pack an extra pair of socks, you’ll need it.

  • There is a small washroom facilities, but be sure to bring either wet wipes or hand sanitizer and toilet tissue.

Do you chase waterfalls? Whats your favorite waterfall ever?

Let me know in the comments below!