Before leaving home we did some research and located Zapata Falls campground near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. As we couldn’t procure a reservation at the dunes, we called the BLM (bureau of land management) and inquired about the Zapata Falls campground. The lady on the phone told us that to get to the campsite it takes a five-mile drive up a rough unpaved road, which gains a lot of elevation, and she said she could not encourage us to take our trailer up there. She did say, however, that if she had a trailer that size she would do it! We considered it but in the end decided this early in our trek to decline this campground. We knew, however, that we would hike up to the falls.
As we drove up, sans trailer, we quickly confirmed that we made the right decision. While our truck would not have had a problem towing our camper up the incline the road was excessively rough and on the way we contemplated the mess we would have had to deal with inside of the trailer. With just general towing conditions, we sometimes arrived to find doors to compartments open and our belongings strewn about the camper. When we parked at the trailhead we had a little less than a mile hike ahead of us; of course it was all up hill! As we rounded the last curve at the top we encountered a beautiful creek flowing out of a cave. At this point we could hear but could not see the waterfall. Because the water is snowmelt from the mountain we had to pause every so often on rocks above water level to keep our feet from going numb. Into the cave and around the corner, we encountered a ten by ten foot block of ice on the wall with a three-foot waterfall underneath it. We decided to press on and as we climbed the rocks and went deeper around the corner we were treated to a twenty-five foot tall cascade of rushing water. Standing ankle deep in freezing water and getting hit in the face from the mist of the waterfall we were quite pleased we climbed up to Zapata Falls. Bonus, this trek completely free of charge!
Up Next: Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP