Horsetail Falls


Where: Alpine, starting from the Dry Creek Canyon parking lot, at the end of Grove Drive

Grown up difficulty: moderate

Five year old difficulty: moderate to difficult, due to steepness

Length and elevation: around 4 miles round trip with a 1800ft gain

To see: dead and decaying horse, huge rock, meadow, aspens and pines, great view of valley

Busyness: medium

All Trails link:


This is a steep and beautiful hike. After a short exposed climb (by feet; no rock climbing needed), you’ll enter a forest. A horse died right off the trail in the summer of 2017, and if it’s warm you will smell it. It’s close to the beginning of the forest portion of the trail. Around ½ of the way to the overlook of the falls is a clearing with a massive boulder where my kids like to take a long rest and explore a bit.

Five to ten minutes after the rock is the meadow. Sometimes we call it here, and rest and eat and turn around. Sometimes we continue on. The trail after the meadow is through stream beds, and in the spring will be very wet and muddy. We did this hike at the beginning of November and it was still muddy in parts. The trail splits and rejoins in two or three portions after the meadow as well. You’ll pass over two small streams that cross your path, and one has a log bridge over it, and the other is small enough to step over.

After the streams, there will be a small trail off to the left of the main trail. This takes you quickly to the overlook, where I prefer to stop if I’m hiking with kids. We sit, snack, take pictures, and rest. This spot is visible on Google maps, because the spot is a huge granite block that has no tree cover.

If you want to continue on, you can go back to the trail fork or climb through some boulders ahead. The trail stays steep as you get closer to the waterfall. To get to the base of the waterfall, keep your eyes out for a hard to spot trail on your left. Sometimes there is a rope here to help with the descent and ascent here, since it’s quite steep and has very loose dirt. Hiking through some brush will take you to a place to climb down to the base. If you choose to get in the water, be very careful. I played around in the water with some friends (no kids came with us) and ended up falling hard and sliding down rocks and hitting my head. The rocks are extremely slick due to moss and there is no grip in some areas, therefore I would not take young children down to the waterfall. If you do, be safe.

Another option is to continue on and find the trail that takes you above the waterfall. We did with our children, and while there are great views of the valley, the cairns take you past the waterfall and you can’t see the waterfall anymore. It was a disappointment to us and our kids. Consequently we prefer to stop at the overlook, and everyone is happy.


Faves: the final views, the magical forest the trail goes through, looking out for the trail markers (dead horse, big boulder, meadow)

Gear: shoes with good traction, kids’ hydration pack, walking sticks if you want more support hiking down, carrier, water bottle, snacks on snacks on snacks

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