While visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park in south-central Colorado we learned about a unique nearby waterfall that is largely hidden from view by solid rock. The catch is you have to drive three miles up a rugged mountain road on the west slope of 14,351 foot Blanca Peak, hike a half-mile on rocky terrain at 9,000+ feet in elevation, and walk gingerly through fast flowing icy cold stream to reach the roaring cascade. Oh, what the hell!
Zapata Falls is the most exciting, bone-chilling (literally), and rewarding waterfall adventure we’ve ever undertaken. The most challenging part was trekking through the icy cold waters of South Zapata Creek for more more than 50 yards (each way) to see the impressive 30-foot high gem pouring through a narrow rock chasm.
My sandaled feet were almost instantaneously numbed by the snowmelt fed steam. By the time we reached the falls, both of my feet felt like frozen ice blocks. Needless to say, it took some time to thaw them out afterwards while hiking back to the car. Others risked the cold in bare feet, water shoes, and hiking boots. Everyone had frozen feet and nobody seemed to mind.
Zapata Falls was worth every tenuous and labored step through the freezing torrent of water. It is simply magnificent! To see Mother Nature at her very finest on a glorious Rocky Mountain summer day (air temp of 67°) at 9,250 feet above sea level was a treat to behold.
It’s funny how the unexpected adventures are often the ones you enjoy the most and forever hold in your memory with great fondness. Zapata Falls is one of those lasting memories that you’ll never forget…and rightfully so. Peace!