Breckenridge is one of our favorite destinations in the world, and for good reason. The Rocky Mountains are the quintessential adventure hub, with access to all kinds of winter activities, such as world class skiing and snowboarding, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and more. But when the snow melts, the rivers start to run and the mountains turn into an amazing greenscape with waterfalls and tons of summer activities like hiking, mountain biking, and more.
Late June and July are the best times to visit the waterfalls near Breckenridge, since their high elevation means they will have snow on the ground well into the traditional “summer” season. While the majority of snow melts in May (which is great for roaring waterfalls), most of the waterfalls won’t be accessible that time of year. If you wait until August or September, any of the waterfalls near Breckenridge may be a light flow or not flow at all, unless we have a wet summer.
Here we’ve assembled our favorite Breckenridge hikes with waterfalls, most of which have already made our list for the best hiking in Breckenridge in some way. A couple are quite easy to get to, while others may take some effort on your part. Either way, they’re a beautiful spectacle that’s worth seeing in the mountains. Because there’s not a ton of waterfalls in Breckenridge itself, we’ve also included our favorites from the surrounding areas as well.
Best Breckenridge Waterfalls
Continental Falls is the largest and tallest waterfall in and near Breckenridge, and is accessed as part of the Mohawk Lakes Hike from Spruce Creek Road. We highly recommend Mohawk Lakes in general, but even more so for people interested in the waterfall. It’s a large, cascading fall that flows through a rocky gulley. In fact, it’s so large that you can see it from Boreas Pass Road, if you know what you’re looking for. Mohawk Lakes is a pick-your-own-adventure kind of hike, since the difficult and distance vary greatly depending on what kind of vehicle you have and how far you want to hike. There’s a total of seven lakes in this gulch, with the first two (Lower Mohawk and Mayflower) being connected by Continental Falls.
For a full description of how to get there, read our Mohawk Lakes trail review. But essentially there’s two ways and each determines the difficulty of the hike. If you don’t have an AWD/4WD vehicle with decent clearance, you must park at the Spruce Creek trailhead and walk the distance of the backcountry road, which means about 2.3 miles one-way and 1,022 ft in elevation gain to the bottom of the falls. We do recommend climbing up and around the falls, so you’re looking at about 5 miles roundtrip. If you do have a off-road capable vehicle, you can drive the rocky road all the way to the end, making the hike to the bottom of the falls only about 0.3 miles one-way.
Pro-tip: there’s also a small, secret waterfall that’s accessed by a social trail near the McCullough Tunnel output at the end of the road. If you take a left instead of following the trail sign, you might be able to hear and see it.
The next valley over from Mohawk is McCullough Gulch, which is also a popular trail in the area that accesses several alpine lakes and a beautiful cascading waterfall called White Falls. From the parking area, it’s about 1.6 miles one-way to the base of the falls. At that point, you’re only 0.3 miles one-way from the first lake, which we recommend hiking to. You’re closer than you’ll ever be! But really, the falls are beautiful, and the surrounding rocks are perfect for sitting and soaking in the sun while you have a snack. It’s well worth the 3.8 miles roundtrip.
Note: as of 2021, parking for McCullough Gulch is by reservation (or you can take the Quandary shuttle from town). Make sure you plan appropriately.
Blue Lakes Waterfall
Blue Lakes waterfall is the smallest of the waterfalls we’ve mentioned so far, but it’s also the most easily accessible. Funnily enough, it’s just the next valley over from McCullough, on the other side of Quandary Peak, and two valleys over from Mohawk. The waterfall flows between Upper Blue Lakes and Lower Blue Lakes and runs from the dam from the upper lake. Because this valley has less water than the other two, it’s very possible for this waterfall to run dry between rains in the summer, so it’s best visited in early summer near melt or after a heavy rain.
At only 1 mile roundtrip and basically zero elevation gain, this is the easiest waterfall to enjoy. You’ll just park at the lower lake and walk around it’s outer edge to the south. You can also access the top part of the waterfall by driving to or walking to the upper parking lot and walking south. Either way, this area is great for exploring with lots of social trails and easily accessed mountain views.
Best Waterfalls near Breckenridge
Booth Falls is closer to Vail than it is to Breckenridge, but that’s still a short day trip and easily done in a few hours. It’s one of the best waterfalls in the area, and is a great day hike. Booth Falls is a 60-foot cascading waterfall that is accessed by a 4.2 mile hike. This canyon is home to gorgeous wildflowers in the summer, as well as pine forest and aspen groves. Pictures really don’t do the falls justice, since they are in a narrow ravine that’s difficult to photograph. You’ll just have to go see if for yourself!
Brown’s Creek Waterfall
If you’re willing to drive a little, Brown’s Creek Waterfall is an awesome day trip. The hike is 6.2 miles roundtrip and has 941 feet of elevation gain. The trail takes you to a beautiful waterfall that’s much larger in person than it seems in pictures, so it’s well worth the effort!After your hike, spend some time in the small town of Buena Vista and visit their hot springs and cute downtown area.
Willow Creek Falls is a great summer and fall hike that’s 5.2 miles roundtrip to the tiered falls. It’s rated as difficult or “hard” according to All Trails (but most user accounts say it’s more of a moderate level) so you should make sure you’re physically ready before attempting this hike.
Montgomery Reservoir / Magnolia Mill
Just over Hoosier Pass from Breckenridge lies Montgomery Reservoir, a man made lake that covers a once booming mining town. In the late 1800’s, it was home to 1,000+ residents, complete with cabins, sawmills, hotels, and the Magnolia Mill. Once the gold boom came to an end, the land owners sold in the hopes of cutting their losses. The town of Colorado Springs purchased the site and decided to make it a reservoir to catch the snowmelt that would then be gravity fed to the city for drinking water.
The Middle Fork South Platte River has it’s headwater above the lake, and feeds it with a roaring current during spring melt. Towards the inlet, near the Magnolia Mill ruins, you’ll find a beautiful waterfall that seems to cascade forever. It’s best seen from the mill, but you can follow the social trails to go up or down stream. Here are the coordinates for a great view of the falls: 106.084°W 39.357642°N.
Wheeler Lake Falls
Perhaps the least known falls and one of the least known hikes in the whole area, Wheeler Lake lives just above Magnolia Mill and is a beautiful alpine lake with endless wildflowers. To get there, you have to do a decent stream crossing that flows from a tall cascading waterfall. Then, once you get to the lake, there’s several waterfalls flowing into the lake, all of which are so beautiful! This hike is the longest of all the waterfall hikes on this list, coming in at over 7 miles roundtrip – but because it’s more difficult and less known, you will probably be one of the few people on the trail that day!
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