- Mileage: 3.6 roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 700 feet
- Altitude: 9,200 feet
- To get there: Take Highway 7 to the Wild Basin trailhead in the Wild Basin Area
It seems like all I’ve been doing for two weeks is hiking to waterfalls, watching them tumble over rock faces, getting misted by their waters. But it is the perfect time in Rocky Mountain to visit a waterfall, any waterfall. The rivers are especially high this year and there’s still loads of snow melting off the mountains. So, the waterfalls are amazing. They are rushing so fast and steady that it’s hard not to be drawn to them. I promise as the summer goes on, I will guide you to other destinations too. But for now, I highly recommend enjoying the waterfalls of the park.
Calypso Cascades is our first side trip from the nearby Tahosa campsite, where we stayed for one night. From the site, the waterfall is an easy 0.8 miles. We leave the site around 7p.m., and we only meet one other couple on the trail to Calypso. Usually, Alex says, the trail is crowded and the cascades are surrounded by hikers. Tonight we get them all to our selves. The trip up the trail is short and quiet. Save for the occasional snowball hitting me in the back we are calm tonight. We aren’t joking and being raucous as usual and we stand mostly in silence at the cascades.
The view of the waterfall is offered from a big wooden bridge built across the river right in front of it. I stay there for a while, leaning against the back beam of the bridge and watching the water rush from high above me. Calypso is not a falls that comes careening over a cliff. Rather, it is rolling over boulders and criss-crossed fallen trees. It comes from up a hill and is so full that it is slopping over the banks.
I crawl up onto a dry, flat rock next to the bridge and become mesmerized by the rhythm of the water. In my extended silence (which doesn’t happen very often) I hear a perpetual thunder. On and on it is rolling around me and I crane my neck at the clouds above to see where the storm is coming from. There is nothing up there, no storm. I keep listening and it keeps booming in my ears, relentless. It is coming from underneath the shhhhhhhh sound of the flowing waterfall. It is, I realize, the water pounding and rolling and crashing on the rocks below the surface of the falls.
Alex joins me on the rock, and after a few minutes I see him gazing at the sky too.
“It’s the waterfall,” I say. But even from right next to me, he can’t hear me and he wrinkles his face in question.
“It’s not thunder,” I yell. He doesn’t hear me over the falls. I’ve heard waterfalls described as ‘thundering’ before, but here, in front of a cascade absent of any other hikers, I hear it. Maybe I’ve heard it before, but now I really notice. I can picture the water working on the rocks below, carving and smoothing them. Realizing this process, I am glad we found Calypso in her quiet evening hours.
Source for hiking details: Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, A Falcon Guide by Kent and Donna Dannen.