Breaking News
More () »

Winter runoff makes for a stunning show at this Colorado waterfall

This hidden gem 250 miles from Denver is in one of Colorado's most remote areas. It's also home to birds that fly through the falls.

HINSDALE COUNTY, Colo. — The runoff from North Clear Creek Falls, located in Hinsdale County, was impressive this year — so impressive that it threatened the small community of Lake City for most of the summer.

It's also been quite the draw for photographers and birdwatchers, all looking to snap a photo of the rushing water or the flying daredevils that live behind the falls.

Hinsdale County is a southwestern county about 250 miles from Denver. The drive to North Clear Creek Falls from Denver is about 5-6 hours via US Highway 285.

Credit: kusa
North Clear Creek Falls from the overlook

A quick overview of the falls

The falls are just a short walk from the parking lot. Here's a breakdown of the basics:

  • Distance to overlook from parking lot: 0.1 mile
  • Elevation: 10,000 feet
  • Entire trail loop: 0.3 mile
  • Best viewing season: June to September
  • Busiest season: July
Credit: kusa
View from above the overlook at North Clear Creek Falls

Visitors can get a different view of the falls about 200 yards, down the path to a group of rocks at the top of the canyon's cliffs. 

There are no fences and no protection for those that get too close to the edge (so be safe!). 

>  Click around on the video for a 360-view from of the falls and the canyon below.

The Waterfall Bird

Among the water, which falls more than 100 feet and forms rainbows in the mist, visitors may be able to spot a Black Swift. Black Swifts nest next to the falls, and can often be viewed flying through the water.

Credit: kusa

This migrating bird is is best around North Clear Creek Falls between June and August. 

Credit: kusa

Black Swifts migrate to northwest Brazil during the winter months.

Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in 2009 put tiny trackers on the small birds. They discovered the birds migration pattern, a round-trip each year of nearly 9,000 miles.

The last bird that breeds in the U.S. and Canada with an unknown winter destination has finally given up its secret. After years of research - and with some luck - three Colorado researchers have learned that Black Swifts travel more than 4,000 miles to spend the winter in Brazil.

The trip to North Clear Creek Falls

North Clear Creek Falls is located halfway between Creede and Lake City, about 250 miles from Denver on highways 285, 112 and 149.

The final part of the drive is 26 miles from Creede to Forest Service Road 510. The turnoff is just past the sign that welcomes drivers into Hinsdale County.

Credit: kusa
The road leading to North Clear Creek Falls

Forest Service Road 510 leads to Bristol Head and North Clear Creek campgrounds. It's a 4-mile drive on a dirt road — that at times can be narrow and winding — to get from Highway 149 to the parking lot at the falls.

Credit: kusa
The turnoff from paved Highway 149 to unpaved Forest Service Road 510. Four miles down this road is North Clear Creek Falls

Hinsdale County is also home to five of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, also known as 14ers. There are also seven peaks that rise above 13,000 feet. 

SUGGESTED VIDEOS | Feature stories from 9NEWS 

Before You Leave, Check This Out