Bear Creek Falls is a beautiful 2.5 mile hike (one way) from the the trailhead found where the San Miguel River crosses South Pine Street and is a favorite amongst tourists and locals alike. The trail boasts a stunning view of the San Juan mountains and a 1,040-foot elevation gain (the entire hike is uphill) which can leave even the most fit people a little breathless. However, the view along the way is simply amazing and once you reach the falls and see it's magnificence, you'll forget about the long, uphill hike it took to get there. http://www.telluridehikingtrails.com/ classifies it as an easy to moderate trail.
Due to the high elevation and steep gradient, anticipate extra time taken for a few rest stops along the way. (The locals will make you feel slightly inadequate as they jog by, not at all affected by the elevation. haha) If you really want to explore the area I recommend planning on taking a half or whole day to complete this adventure, although it can be done within a few hours.
A camera is a must-have for this trip! I found that video was even better at capturing moments during this hike due to the simple fact that I couldn't fit the entire panorama in my digital camera lens.
There are many nice areas to stop and rest along the way so be sure to take your time exploring this amazing place. About a quarter of a mile before the actual waterfall, to the left of the trail, there is a massive boulder that is fun to climb onto and take a rest or have a picnic before continuing on and also boasts a full 360 view of the surrounding mountains and Bear Creek Falls. Just be very careful to not slip and fall!
The rest of the walk to the waterfall is fairly easy. On a hot summer day the cool mist spraying off of the falls is extremely refreshing, just be careful to not slip on any wet areas. :)
My friends and I all hiked this trail while attending the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June of 2009 and had a great time. I just wish I lived closer so I could do it more often than once a year!
A little friendly reminder from the author:
*As with any hike, be sure to prepare yourself adequately for the "what if" factor. (your cell phone may not have reception where you are.) Pack things such as a GPS, paper map, mini survival and first aid kits etc. Remember to wear comfortable footwear and clothing and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather by bringing items like a jacket, cap, poncho and sunglasses. (Telluride is known for sudden shifts in weather. ) If making the hike during warmer weather, be sure to take plenty of water and sun block with you. It's better to be safe than sorry...
*There are signs warning hikers about bears in the Bear Creek area (we didn't see any bears though) so always remember to hike with a partner, make adequate noise along the way ( a loud shout or tweet on a whistle every so often will help as well) as not to surprise a bear, keep any food in airtight containers to hide the smell and try to carry some type of defense mechanism such as bear mace (which is found to be extremely effective, just make sure it's easily accessible and not in the bottom of your pack).
Keep your eyes peeled for warning signs such as carcasses, big bear droppings and claw marks on trees. Be careful around some areas such as berry patches and be extra alert while walking along streams and river beds.
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