This is another classicly beautiful Rocky Mountain trail that can be done either as a day hike or overnight backpacking trip. The hike to Cascade Falls is fairly easy/intermediate and not too long at 8 miles round trip, but if you’re up for more of a challenge or can snag camping permits for Crater Lake it’s worth going the extra 3.2 miles to see Crater Lake and Lone Eagle Peak.
I, however, am the laziest hiker and have only made it to Cascade Falls so far after multiple failed attempts to get Crater Lake camping permits – maybe next year!
Don’t think I’m foo-fooing Cascade Falls though. The creek, falls and meadow below them are still absolutely beautiful and isn’t usually a super crowded trail, so can provide a much-needed wilderness getaway when you’re looking for one.
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Monarch Lake to Cascade Falls Trail Specs
Length: 4 miles one way
Elevation gain: 815 ft
Best time of year: Spring or summer for wildflowers, fall for leaf peeping
Dogs: allowed on leash only
Permits: Required for camping, apply for an Indian Peaks Wilderness camping permit here
Day hiking or backpacking to Cascade Falls
This is an out and back trail and is sort of choose your own adventure when it comes to how far you want to hike. You can go as short and easy as hiking to the open meadow below the base of the Cascade Falls, which is about 3 miles one way, or 4 miles into the top of the falls, or even further for some more challenging elevation gain and views of Crater Lake and Lone Eagle Peak – that’s 7.5 miles one way.
Always make sure to pack everything you need for the day. If you’re traveling here from sea level or lower elevations, let your body adjust by giving yourself plenty of rest and lots of water and electrolytes to help prevent altitude sickness.
Always pack warm layers and rain gear on every hike. Thunderstorms can roll in very quickly, especially during summer afternoons.
If you’ll be staying overnight, be sure to apply for your permit at least a few weeks ahead of time and then pack all the overnight hiking gear you need to keep yourself safe out there. I recommend erring on the side of warmer clothes, sleeping bags, and pads than not because it gets dang cold above 8,000 feet, even in the summer.
Getting to the Monarch Lake Trailhead
From US 34, at the southern edge of Lake Granby, turn onto County Road 6. Follow County Road 6 for 9.6 miles all along Lake Granby, until you reach the end of the road which is also the Monarch Lake Trailhead.
Monarch Lake to Cascade Falls Trail Review
This was a wonderful trail all around. The trail starts off easy, following Monarch Lake, with beautiful views along the way. After hiking through the forest it eventually opens up to an alpine meadow which was filled with wildflowers in July when we went, and you can get a glimpse of the falls in the distance.
The trail only gets steeper from here, justifying the intermediate rating, and follows a creek which eventually turns into the Cascade Falls – a long series of waterfalls.
While it looks like there are campsites at the top, we opted to stop there for lunch and then actually hike back down the meadow below and camp out there, which turned out to be a great spot for us.
We ended up sharing our campsite with marmots, plenty of birds, and what I’m sure was a bear in the middle of the night but luckily we had all of our food and smellies in my Ursack nearby and didn’t have any issues. I only mention it to point out, you really are right next to the wildlife out there and we didn’t run into too many other people either, which was nice, but made it feel more wilderness-y than I expected.
If you’ve hiked out to Cascade Falls or Crater Lake, let us know how it went in the comments below!
For more Colorado hiking tips and trail recommendations, check out:
- East Inlet Trail in Grand Lake, Colorado
- Columbine Lake in Fraser, Colorado
- Bowen Lake Trail in Grand Lake, Colorado
- Hike the Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado