Ute Indians living near Grand Lake used trails along the North Inlet and Tonahutu Creek to travel east across the Continental Divide on hunting expeditions. At the same time, the Arapaho and Cheyenne came to Grand Lake from the plains to hunt elk and deer and to fish in the lake. Conflicts were enevitable. After one legendary fight the Utes began calling the lake "Spirit Lake". The legend goes the Utes were camping on the lake when a group of Cheyenne and Arapaho attacked. The Utes put their women and children on make shift rafts and told them to paddle to the middle of the lake, but a storm blew the make shift raft over drowning all the women and children.
Legend has it that the early morning mists seen rising from the lake are the spirits of the dead.
Round-Trip Length: 6.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,540' - 8,840'
Elevation Change: +300' net elevation gain
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
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 we’lll pass are equally compelling. Moose and elk are numerous along the North Inlet corridor, and sightings are common. 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). 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.
Directions to Trailhead
The North Inlet Trailhead is on the west side of the Continental Divide just north of the town of Grand Lake. Follow Highway 34 and bypass the main road through Grand Lake and take the first right after you pass the entrance to Grand Lake Village. (unless you're going into Grand Lake Village to meet some of us at the Sage Brush). Follow this narrow, unpaved road to the North Inlet Trailhead.
Have a great week everybody!
Rocky Mountain National Park