Piedra Falls and the Ice Caves

Yesterday we tackled another adventure!  The Piedra waterfall and made a pit stop at Pagosa Springs very own Ice Caves.  Both of these locations are defined as easy hikes.

Piedra Falls is an easy 1 mile hike each way, about 
30 minutes of exertion.  The terrain involves a well defined, flat trail, with a slight advance in inclination as you approach the falls.  During the Spring, Summer, and Fall months; Piedra Falls will be at it’s best.  The strong flow of water provides a decent pool for recreational swimming.  The current within the pool is strong, to get caught beneath the waterfall would be a dangerous and life threatening event.  There is plenty of room to swim around and enjoy yourselves- just keep in mind and respect mother nature’s raw power.
What I admire most about the V shaped rocks supporting the rushing waterfall is the fact that they are volcanic rock.  Offering a unique form of natural beauty.   
 
With plenty of day light left, we decided to cool down in the ice caves.  Having done this hike what feels like a thousand and one times, I was in shock when a Pagosa native had never even heard of this location!
This hike is more or less a nice stroll up the side of Piedra River Trail. About 300 yards in, hikers will stumble (theoretically) upon a crevasse in the earth.  These fissures run about 50-70 feet deep harboring snow and ice remains.  The temperature, regardless of the month, day , or time of year, will be literally freezing.  The view from the trail in itself is quite something- however, I highly recommend taking your time navigating down and into the fissure.  Make sure to bring hiking shoes if possible ( I was just fine in my slippery sneakers). If you plan on hiking inside the fissures, bring rope, as it is easier to propel down ice walls than attempt to hoof it.
Savvy Note: Always tell someone if you plan on hiking anywhere, even an “easy” one day hike like this one. I have been reported missing and search and rescued from the mountains while attempting a hike not more than 4 hours of distance.

Prepare for the worst, expect the best.

Directions to Piedra Falls: Drive North on Piedra Road (#631) about 17 miles to the junction at Sportsman’s Supply.  Leave the Piedra Road and continue on the Middle Fork Road (#636) for two miles.  Take the first road to the right, the East Toner Road (#637), and follow it to the end.  Do not attempt to travel this road in wet weather.  Walk up the river to a head gate where the trail begins.

Directions to the Ice Caves: Follow the directions to the Piedra River Trail to access this trail.  From the parking lot, start on the Piedra River Trail for several hundred yards, then follow the old road bed to the right.  This is an easy, short trail up Ice Cave Ridge.  The fissures on the side of the ridge contain snow deposited through the winter, protected from the sun.

-Daryn Butler

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