Zapata Falls

Zapata Falls, CO

Facts To Remember


Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Starting Elevation: 9,000 feet
When To Hike: Year Round
Permits: None
Pets Allowed: Yes on leashes
Starting Location: 3 miles off highway 150 to the parking lot
Time of Year: August, 2020

Getting to Zapata Falls

Zapata Falls is in south central Colorado. They are off the beaten path and if you don’t mind rough roads then perhaps it’s for you.

From the Great Sand Dunes National Park, drive south on Highway 150 for approximately 3 miles to the Zapata Falls Recreational Area. You will see signs for Zapata Falls. Once you turn off of Highway 150, you will drive three miles to the parking lot. The road is bad so it’s time to decide on what you are comfortable with.

We have a RAV4 and saw many small sedans but the road if very rough and you should drive slowly. Good luck!

Heading to Zapata Falls but First…

We passed a massive field of yellow. Not sure what was being grown but it was a required stop. This was on the corner of CO-17 and Lane 6 N.

Reaching the Parking Area

Enjoy the long and slow 3 mile drive to the parking lot. There are few areas to pull over but you will want to stop and enjoy the views of the Great Sand Dunes National Park – fantastic views up here!

Parking Area and Trailhead

Welcome to Zapata Falls.

The Short Trail

The trail to the falls is very short at 1/2 mile. It’s mostly up hill and seemed much shorter. Great views of the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The Stream Created by the Waterfall

We’ve arrived at the stream which means the waterfall is close by.

Into the Waterfall

To reach the waterfall, you have to follow the water into the crevasse. You can try hopping from rock to rock to keep your feet dry but you will probably get a little wet.

Zapata Falls

It’s summertime and the water is still very cold. It would be fun to climb into the falls further.

Leaving the Waterfall

Time to leave the waterfall and drive back down the rough road. Fortunately the drive out seemed much faster than the drive in.

Until next time Zapata Falls.

Sunset at Mosca Campground

We camped at the Mosca Campground in San Luis State Wildlife Area. These were the views from our tent. Every night was like this.

There is a campground near the Zapata Falls trailhead.

360 Photos

Our Thoughts

We came to this area for the Great Sand Dunes National Park and a few nights of camping. There was more than the dunes to keep us busy like the UFO Watchtower, Alligator Farm, and Zapata Falls.

Zapata Falls is up a rough road and probably shouldn’t be attempted in a sedan but we saw many sedans that traveled the road. The drive to the parking lot will take longer than the hike from the parking lot to the falls.

The falls aren’t huge but it is a scenic area and waterfalls are always fun to experience.

Enjoy the area!

Are you Considering This Hike?

Check the weather, if rain or bad weather is expected, this would be better done another day.
Don’t start the hike too late because the drive up and back may take some time due to road condition.
Finding Zapata Falls wasn’t difficult but using a GPS to find may be useful.

Hike Recommendations

Water: Always bring plenty of water as summer temperatures can be very high
Food/Snacks: Always bring some food
Safety: Water shoes, towels and light waterproof jacket
Hiking Sticks/Poles: Poles will reduce the impact on knees and leg muscles

More Useful Information

Highway 150 to Zapata Falls Parking Lot

San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area |

Zapata Falls Campground | Bureau of Land Management

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