It is a moderate half-mile hike from the parking lot to Zapata Falls, a dramatic cascade deeply inset into a narrow canyon. The falls itself is a wonderful escape from summer heat, and it is home to a sizeable nesting colony of Black Swifts, although you need luck to see them zooming into and out of the nest sites at dawn and dusk. American Dippers are easily seen near the falls, however. The trail to the falls, like the road to the parking lot, runs through excellent pinyon-juniper woodlands where you are likely to find Western Scrub-Jays, Green-tailed Towhees, and other birds. Short-horned lizards can sometimes be found on the trail to the falls, and wildflowers in the dry soil may include the blooms of claret cup cactus.
Habitat: Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Lowland Riparian, Stream
Directions: From US 160 fourteen miles east of Alamosa and five miles west of Blanca, turn north on CO 150 and proceed about eleven miles to the turnoff, signed for Zapata Falls, on the right (east). The steeply winding gravel road rises about 3.5 miles to the parking lot for the falls.
Delorme: 81 C6
Roads of Colorado: 135 F3
Dates of Access: Open all year
Hours: Day use only
Ownership: BLM/State Land Board
Restrictions: The river runs fast and the rocks are slippery; use extreme caution.
Parking: Unpaved parking lot
Lodging: Hotels in Alamosa or camping at Great Sand Dunes. The Great Sand Dunes Lodge is open seasonally (719-378-2900).
Handicapped Access: None