Zapata Falls | Colorado

Zapata Falls is a beautiful waterfall near Alamosa, Colorado. Though it is not located in Great Sand Dunes National Park, it is just outside the gate on the entrance road. Most people who visit this park make the short, easy hike to Zapata Falls.

Zapata Falls is a great destination hike.


To access the trailhead, drive east of Alamosa on Hwy 160. Then turn north toward the park on Rte 150. It’s about twelve miles from this junction up to Great Sand Dunes, but the turn off to Zapata Falls comes up well before that. There is a BLM sign that is pretty obvious at the turnoff.

Turn right onto the road for Zapata Falls. The road twists and winds rapidly upward for a few miles until it arrives at the trailhead. There is quiet a bit of parking because this trail is pretty popular.


The trail is steadily uphill over rocky terrain. It only runs about a half mile to the waterfall. There is also no shade along the trail and it can be very hot in the summer. However, as you near Zapata Falls, the trail narrows down to a beautiful little grotto. The air turns cool and refreshing, and you can feel the spray. Continue into the grotto and it becomes almost like a miniature slot canyon.

The trail is basically an old rocky road.
There are a few benches to rest since it is an uphill walk the entire way.

Many people choose to wear water shoes of some kind because you have to walk in the creek to get a good view of the waterfall. We were able to find strategically placed rocks to help us stay dry, but others enjoyed flip-flopping their way right through the cold water. It’s only ankle deep, so even if you do take a spill, it won’t be too tragic.

You will hear the water and know you are getting close.
Then you get to walk through a little canyon and into the water.
Water shoes are a good idea, but you’ll want something sturdier than flip flops.
You’ll enter the little grotto, but you have to go to the far side to see the waterfall.

Zapata Falls cascades about 25 feet from an upper fall into a pool. Then it falls another 5 feet into a lower pool, which is where you’ll be standing. The problem is, that there is a turn in the canyon, so it’s difficult to get a good view. The high number of visitors to the falls compounds that problem, and you may find yourself standing in a short, damp line to see the upper waterfall. This didn’t bother us as it was cool and most people were pretty good at taking turns. Some brave souls, like Dad, climbed up to look at the upper falls, but we don’t recommend doing this since it is slippery and wet.

Zapata Falls is a lovely waterfall.
Some people climbed up for pictures and to look, but we think it’s a bad idea.

If you are visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park, a stop at Zapata Falls is refreshingly different from the surrounding terrain. The Zapata Falls trail is 0.9 miles round-trip and it gains 215 feet as you climb up to the waterfall.

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