Cascade Creek

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Cascade Creek Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
 For other features with similar names, see Cascade Creek (disambiguation)
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Cascade Creek Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3C2 III R (v5a5 III)
Raps:‌17, max ↨270ft
Overall:7-9h ⟷2.9mi
Approach:1.5h ↑1780ft
Descent:5.5-7.5h ⟷0.8mi ↓1960ft
Exit:5min ↓50ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Shuttle:Optional 10 min
Condition Reports:
17 Aug 2023

"Many of us were wearing 4/3s with shells and were fine but chilly; would recommend a little thicker especially in the early morning. Overall a gorgeou

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Best season:


One of the Ouray classic canyons, Cascade features the longest rappel in the area (but break it up with the rebelay).

The waterflow checkpoint is the final rappel, accessible by hiking 5 minutes from the Parking Exit. If flow higher than your skill level abort the descent or plan to escape the canyon before the last rappel.


The full descent is best approached with a shuttle, leaving a vehicle at the exit of the Cascade Falls Park trail and the driving up to Na Gah Picnic Area before the Amphitheater Campground. An alternate start is at the end of the Amphitheater Campground road.

Near the drop in point, old mining cabins for the Chief Ouray Mine (as of 2015 gated) represent a historical tribute to Ouray mining past.

The lower section of Cascade Creek may be done in a half day if using the sneak route, which allows hiking in above drops: R12, R13, or R14 (see kml map). There is minor exposure and some route-finding for the shortcut hike.

Reposted Mountain Project Charmin Tube directions: "Hike up the amphitheater road 0.5 miles. Just before the first switchback, leave the road, and continue on the normally obvious trail (38.0244, -107.6626). Climb briefly, then stay left where the trail forks. If no trail, look for a 10' tall stump or just keep wandering NE towards the cliff band. Pass through a sneak in the cliff band, and continue up several switchbacks above. At 8700', contour into Cascade Creek to access the climb (38.0270, -107.6621)."


rappel information provided (2023) by Ira Lewis, author of the Canyoning in the Colorado San Juan Mountains:

R1: 60' from webbing around a tree on Canyon Left, just before the approach trail crosses Cascade Creek. Use dark webbing and select part of the tree to keep this not visible from the trail. This is a dry rappel, but is better than the scree slope on the same side.

R2: 25' from bolts Canyon Right

R3: 30' from bolts on a large boulder on Canyon Right

Downclimb a gully on Canyon Right or Rappel 45' from a tree on Canyon Left

R4: 40' from bolts Canyon Right

R5: 30' from bolts Canyon Left

Downclimb three short tiers in the watercourse or Rappel 70' from a tree on Canyon Right

Downclimb on Canyon Right under a shelf or Rappel 45' from a tree that has fallen along the waterfall

R6: 40' from a tree Canyon Left, or downclimb later in the season on Canyon Right

R7: 15' from a tree Canyon Right, or downclimb later in the season

R8: 25' MC to 180' set a traverse line from a Tree on Canyon Left to bolts in a great station for standing on Canyon Right.

R9: 60' from bolts on Canyon Right

R10: 100' from a tree higher on the hillside on Canyon Left

R11: 30' from bolts on Canyon Left

Possible exit on Canyon Left above R12 (one team has added this path to include R12 as part of their sneak route for the lower section. This is a suspected walk off option for ice climbers).

R12: 200' from bolts high on the wall on Canyon Left. Beware the false floor under the anchor behind the large lodge chockstone. A small climbing move is required to reach the chains, which is recommended over any extensions on that anchor. While that anchor seems high, it has survived floods since at least 2008.

R12 is the ice climbing pitch called the Charmin Tube.

Previous Ropewiki beta entry, preserved here: Be careful with the second 200 ft drop. There is a opening under the anchor which can be fatal if you fall through when you contact the anchor. The bolts are about 10ft off the false floor. A climbing move can be done but we ended up hooking the rope through and threading the rope into the anchor chain master point. This drop could really do with a new set of bolts

Possible exit on Canyon Left after R12

R13: MC 15' to 45' from bolts on Canyon Right.

Possible exit on Canyon Left after R13

R14: 35' from a tree on Canyon Right

R15: 60' from bolts on Canyon Left down three lower angle tiers

R16: 80' from a tree higher on Canyon Left down the Corkscrew Rappel. Ice climbers appear to have slung a lower tree as a winter anchor.

R17: MC 25' to 270' from bolts on Canyon Right for Lower Cascade Falls. Setting a retrievable traverse line (MC) will protect people getting to the rappel station.
Cross the flow from Rappeller's Left to Rappeller's Right. It is not possible to remain on Rappeller's Right all the way down. Trying to do so results in a pendulum swing from Rappeler's Right to Left along a sharp ledge, which presumably is the cause of Lower Cascade Falls becoming notorious for coreshotting people's beloved long ropes. Manage sharp edges appropriately and choose a good rappelling fall line if choosing to rappel the full distance from the top anchors.

Preferred/suggested: R17A: 150' to the rebelay station on Rappeller's Right at about the level of the ledge, then R17b: 130' free hanging rappel from the rebelay station.
Rebelay Stations are safer as they allow someone manning the station to keep eyes on their teammate while on rappel.

The rebelay station on Lower Cascade Falls can difficult to locate. The guidebook Canyoning in the Colorado San Juan Mountains has a good photo of people at the rebelay station to help identify key features for the first person down.


A 5 minute walk down a tourist trail either side of the watercourse.

Red tape

Beta sites

Trip reports and media



Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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