Why we love it: The views.
When to go: The park opens at 6 a.m. Be there at 6:01 a.m. to avoid the crowds.
It was a rookie mistake. Having just moved to Colorado and on a whim, we decided to camp along the Poudre River. No reservations. On a Friday night. We drove…and drove…and drove, and didn’t find an empty site. It was nearly midnight when we finally checked into a hotel in Steamboat Springs after more than 200 miles of driving. I cracked open our camping supplies, made some cold-cut sandwiches, and sat down to pout.
My husband, however, began scouring the Internet for a pre-breakfast hike for the next morning. The hike needed to be close and easy enough to finish quickly, so we could find a nearby camping spot before noon. The solution? An ever-popular waterfall hike just five miles east of Steamboat Springs: Fish Creek Falls Trail.
Yes, it was crowded. Yes, the $5 fee was annoying. And, yes, it is just one of those Colorado places to see. The falls are some of the most accessible in the state, and offer all the mesmerizing crashing, falling, tumbling water you could hope for. Several hikes depart from the parking lot, including a paved trek to an overlook of the 283-foot falls (super easy for out-of-towners). If you have toddlers in tow, you’ll be able to waste a few hours along the trail. Unencumbered? Treat the hike like a warm-up for the rest of the day’s activities.
Getting there: From Steamboat Springs, travel north on Third Avenue. Turn right on to Fish Creek Falls Road and travel four miles to the parking lot. Note: There is a $5 day-use fee.