We recently took a hike to Zapata Falls near Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. While most hiking and waterfalls are great to see in summer, seeing Zapata Falls in winter is quite a treat!
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Zapata Falls Details
Distance: just under 1 mile round trip
Difficulty: incline, but totally doable for kids in summer. Check out details below to see if your kids should try in winter!
How to get to Zapata Falls
Zapata Falls is fairly easy to get to. Take highway 160 to highway 150 (the road that leads to the Sand Dunes.) You’ll stay on highway 150 about 11 miles before turning onto a maintained dirt road. You should see a sign prompting you to turn to Zapata Falls.
It’s a little rocky, but not too bad. You’ll stay on this road roughly 3-4 miles until you end at the parking lot for the Zapata Falls trail.
Hiking Zapata Falls in Winter
Can you hike to Zapata Falls in winter?
That depends on the trail conditions, and of course, the road conditions to get there.
On a nice sunny day, the road will most likely be melted.
By the time we got to the trail (in the afternoon), the snow was pretty packed down from other hikers. It was a little slippery at times, but overall it wasn’t too bad. My kids did just fine (no one fell.) But again, it was a little slippery. So if the weather is nice, chances are the trail is doable.
***However, because it can get icy and slippery, it is best to use grips on your shoes. This is an easy way to prevent any falls. ***
With all that said, is it worth seeing Zapata Falls in winter?
Zapata Falls Frozen
Toward the top of the hike, you end up between two mountain walls. It’s not too close together, there’s plenty of room for the whole family to get through. But it creates a really cool feeling of being inside a room away from everyone.
As you go through the walls, you’ll finally come to Zapata Falls, which will be frozen over during the winter.
And it’s really awesome.
When we went, there were even some ice climbers attempting to ascend to the top (and successfully did).
Do you have to have boots for Zapata Falls in winter?
We were all in sneakers, but it would have been really nice to have been in boots.
If you are going earlier in the day, boots are probably a must as the snow may be fresh and you’ll probably end up walking through snow and getting wet and cold.
Hiking to Zapata falls at the end of the day worked for us in sneakers because so many people had been on the trail that the snow was packed down. I would recommend spending the morning / afternoon at Great Sand Dunes National Park, and then heading over to Zapata Falls.
Check out the ice slide in this short video of Zapata Falls
Do Kids Enjoy Zapata Falls in the winter?
Mine sure did! At the top, there were places where the water had frozen over on a decline, forming a natural ice slide. When my kids discovered this, they spent a while taking turns going down the slide.
The ice that forms the slide is a clear, smooth ice.
Inside the mountain wall area, the kids also enjoyed watching the ice climbers.
Do be careful and watch for little wells in the snow. Up near the walls, there was a deep hole in the snow that went straight to water below. It wasn’t huge, but it was big enough to spot and fall in if a little one got too close.
Hiking Zapata Falls in Winter
I think seeing Zapata Falls in the winter was actually a really great time to go. There’s something magical about a frozen waterfall and finding a cool hike in the winter.
When you go, don’t forget to look up and spot those magnificent views of the sand dunes from the top of the hike!