North Cheyenne Canyon – St Mary’s Falls

Distance7.21 mi
Elevation Gain1480 Feet
My Time2 hr 59 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownCo. Springs
Food NearbySacred Ground

I thought I was going to take an easy hike to waterfall but St. Mary’s Falls in the North Cheyenne Canyon Park in Colorado Springs was surprisingly challenging although it did take me through some really nice forests with a river gently running and a waterfall.

Starting Out

If you are lucky enough to find yourself a parking spot near the trailhead you are in pretty good shape. For the rest of us who had to park in a different lot there is going to be some length of walk on the paved road to get you to the start.

The trailhead is located at the upper level dirt lot. There was no markings at this point and it led to some confusion to a group of us who were all starting the hike at the same time. You will start on the dirt road passed the gate on the northwest corner of the dirt lot.

The gate and dirt road at the beginning of the St. Mary's Falls Trail

The Dirt Road

For the first 1.3 miles you will be walking on a dirt road that is decent shape. The road does get a little sandy and “thick” to walk through at times but for the most part it is an easy hike. There is really not much cover on this road so you will be exposed to the sun so make sure you have the sunscreen.

At the end of the 1.3 miles the road will narrow to a proper trail that is about 4 feet wide. The road also widens out here for a turnaround and if you look back to the way you came you will find some really nice views of the canyon that you just walked through. I think it might be the best view of the hike.

The view of the canyon from the dirt road.  The canyon is tree lined and expands to the background of the photo with mountains dotting the landscape.

The Trail

The trail is actually in really good shape and easy to follow with the occasional large rock or root popping up. Less than a tenth of mile on the trail portion and you will come to a nice wide opening that has picturesque view.

Views from the first corner of the trail.  The views have large tree covered mountains to right and if you look really far in the distance you can see the city of Colorado Springs.

After this clearing the trail turns into a wooded walk, which was really nice on a 98 degree day. The woods provide some nice shade but, as you would expect, do lead to a few more roots underfoot. For the next mile the hike itself isn’t too bad. there is a slight incline for most of the walk but usually in the 5 – 10% grade.

You also have the stream running next to you for most of this section of the trail. The stream is nice with the relaxing sounds and plenty of little side spurs that get you down nice and close if you like. There was even a little waterfall of its own during this section.

A one foot waterfall on a portion of the small

To The Falls

Now it starts to get real. The last mile of the hike to get to the waterfall you will actually gain over 800 feet of elevation with inclines that reach 30% grade! I have to be honest I wasn’t really expecting that and it sort of kicked my but. The good news is the first half mile is pretty well shaded, and the second half there are sporadic places in the shade. I took the walk to the next spot of shade and take a break approach.

The falls were more of a dribble in the Fall when I did this hike but they might be a little better in the Spring. It was a little anti-climatic after the long steep section but it was still a cool place to hang out and have a bit of a snack. There are some nice logs set up as benches around the falls themselves.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 7.21 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1480 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 8,925 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 59 minutes.

Effort

This was a bit of surprising effort. Its a bit of a tail of two hikes with regular effort during the dirt road and some pretty steep inclines as you get closer to the waterfalls. My Fitbit decided to shame my long rests again and split the hike into two segments but here they are.

Terrain

The terrain is really pretty nice. This trail starts on a dirt road for the first mile and a third. The dirt road is wide and easy to navigate but it does have some sections with loose dirt, almost like walking on sand. Once you get on the trail it is mostly hard packed dirt with a moderate amount of rocks and roots. As you start to incline the dirt gets a little looser and a little slicker, especially on the way down. There are also some large rocks to walk on at the waterfall. I would suggest some hiking shoes for the grip on the looser dirt. However, there were a couple of people who were trail running with some trail runners on.

Access

The North Cheyenne Canyon Park is located on Cheyenne Canyon Road in Colorado Springs. There are several parking area’s throughout the park that have a few spots around trailheads. There are also two larger lots, near Helen Hunt Falls and Near the trailhead for St. Mary’s Falls. When I went on a holiday weekend most of these spots were full and I had find a spot near Helen Hunt and walk up the road to the trailhead. There were port-o-potties at the Helen Hunt Parking area.

Wrap up

What a nice little hike but it sure was a bit more than I was ready for. The last mile to the waterfall is really a bit tough for the average hiker with 800 feet of elevation gain but overall the hike is really pretty once you get into the forest. Even got to see some leaves changing colors on this trip. This might even be a good hike if you are just looking to have a nice forest walk with a stream if you don’t want to go all the way to the falls. Plenty of aspens spread into the forest so might also be really pretty in the fall.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page you can find here. If you have a suggestion for a hike or a comment feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on one of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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