Cascade Falls (The Big Pool, Wardance Falls, and Bench Lake), North Inlet Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Cascade Falls (The Big Pool, Wardance Falls, and Bench Lake) - 6.8 Miles
North Inlet Trailhead
Cascade Falls (The Big Pool, Wardance Falls, and Bench Lake)
|Round-Trip Length:||6.8 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,540' - 8,840'|
|Elevation Change:||+300' net elevation gain|
Cascade Falls are located 3.4 miles from the North Inlet Trailhead on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This voluminous, multi-tier fall drops through narrow granite chutes along North Inlet Creek.
While Cascade Falls are the main attraction, the large meadows and dark forests through which you'll pass are equally compelling. Moose and elk are numerous along the North Inlet corridor, and sightings are common.
Visitors will enjoy mild grades and notoriously good fishing on the hike to Cascade Falls. The North Inlet Trail continues east with access to Lake Nokoni, Lake Nanita, and Flattop Mountain on the Continental Divide:
The North Inlet Trail begins on a 4x4 road through private property to the Park boundary. Look for wildlife in adjacent meadows, but remain on the trail at all times.
It steepens past Summerland Meadows to the Twinberry backcountry campsite, where it joins North Inlet Creek at the base of Cascade Falls (3.4 miles : 8,840'). Keep a safe distance from swift water and slick boulders lining the falls.
Continue a few hundred yards past the falls into a large, luxuriant meadow fed by three major tributaries. This is an ideal place to find wildlife and solitude.
The Big Pool is located about one mile past Cascade Falls. This small waterfall drops into a deep pool ideal for wading and swimming. The trail continues steadily to the Ptarmigan Creek - North Inlet confluence, located just past the Ptarmigan backcountry campsite. Equipped hikers can leave the main trail for a short but steep climb up Ptarmigan Creek to War Dance Falls and its origin at Bench Lake (10,120').
- Fishing regulations and restrictions are specific on North Inlet Creek and can change without notice. Check with Park officials for up-to-date information.
- Elk and moose are common along the North Inlet corridor. Look for elk in the meadows, and moose browsing along willow-lined stream banks.
- Backcountry campsites fill up quickly during peak summer months. Plan ahead and arrive early for reservations.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- A permit is required for all backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Permits may be obtained from the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center Backcountry Office, or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at Grand Lake. Day-of-trip permits may be obtained in-person, year round.
- Reservations may be secured by mail or in person anytime after March 1 for a permit to be used in that calendar year. Phone reservations are accepted from March 1 - May 15, and anytime after October 1 for a permit in that calendar year.
The North Inlet Trailhead is on the west side of the Continental Divide just north of the town of Grand Lake. Follow Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road) to the turnoff for Grand Lake on Highway 278. Stay on 278 and bypass the main road through Grand Lake by bearing left. Continue to a marked turn left (north) about 0.8 miles from U.S. 34. Follow this narrow, unpaved road to the North Inlet Trailhead.
Rocky Mountain National Park