Fish Creek Falls is a popular recreation spot year-round and a national recreation trail in Steamboat Springs. The 280-foot-tall waterfall is quite a magnificent sight, and only a short walk to see.
It’s located about three miles from downtown off Fish Creek Falls Road. Summer activities include hiking and biking. In the winter, Fish Creek Falls freezes over transforming into recreation for ice climbers. During any given day in winter, you’ll find folks climbing up the face of the falls. The trail also makes great for snowshoeing.
There are two main hiking trails from the parking lot:
- National Recreation Trail – The quickest route to the falls is the 1/5 mile National Recreation Trail. It descends down to Fish Creek where you’ll reach the historic Fish Creek Bridge before continuing up to the base of the falls.
- Overlook Trail – The other trail is the 1/4 mile Overlook Trail. It passes through an aspen forest just above the falls. This is the easier hike. From the bridge, if you keep going on the National Rec Trail you’ll reach Long Lake in 5 miles.
If you’re interested in snowshoeing, read our post on winter hiking at Fish Creek Falls.
National Recreation Trail Route
Designated as National Recreation Trail in 1979, Fish Creek Falls Trail features an enticing nearly 300-foot waterfall reaching its peak every spring. Hike alone or with the entire family and enjoy this forested trail all year round.
Fish Creek Falls National Recreation Trail is located 3.5 miles outside the main street of Steamboat Springs. It’s a 6-mile long trail with a 10% average grade, and one of the most popular in the Yampa Valley. A spacious parking area is available and waiting for excited hikers, however, there is a fee.
There are two trails to choose from to reach the base of the falls. First, is the Fish Creek Falls Overlook, a handicapped-friendly accessible trail with a distance of a quarter of a mile one way and an elevation low point of 7,300 feet.
It can be accessed in the parking area at the northeast end. Second, the trail can be accessed from the far east end and will lead to a well-constructed bridge at the base of the falls. Hikers usually stop at the Fish Creek Falls.
Intermediate hikers would like to explore more of the Fish Creek Falls National Recreation Trail by crossing the bridge and climbing the canyon wall, a 2.5-mile one-way hike from the base to witness another waterfall. The way is steep so people are reminded to be extra careful, especially during the winter season.
To proceed to the Upper Fish Creek Fall Trail, cross another bridge, a glimpse of Steamboat Springs lying under the valley will welcome hikers. Follow the trail for another ten minutes to reach the peak with a natural resting area. This is where the stunning Upper Fall is located.
Another popular destination for advanced hikers is the picturesque Long Lake, hikers must take an additional 4 miles hike from the Upper Falls to see this beauty.
Tips for hiking Fish Creek Falls Trail
Aside from hiking, Fish Creek Falls National Recreation Trail is also famous for photography fanatics and nature lovers. During spring, the combination of snowmelt and spotless rocks seize the hikers’ hearts. While the winter season gives joy to ice climbers.
The famous fall season gives the audience wonderful color change of aspen leaves. Expect beautiful scenery all year long. Dog lovers can also enjoy the company of their best friends (but always make sure to keep them on a leash).
It’s always good to start your hike early. Bring your own snacks and water. If you decide to visit during the winter season, remember to bring snowshoes, although the trail to just the waterfall is well packed.
From Steamboat Springs, follow Highway 40/Lincoln Ave to downtown Steamboat Springs. Turn right,(drive north) on Third Street then turn right and follow Fish Creek Falls Road for ~3 miles to the parking area. There is a small parking fee for the day.
The falls are located in Routt National Forest.
Address: Fish Creek Falls Rd, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
Season: Year-round, falls freeze in winter
Fees: Day parking fee
Length: 6 miles
Pets: Yes, on-leash