Posted by: Nathan | October 2, 2009

Hiking to Continental Falls

Last Saturday was the first Saturday I had off from work in a very long while. In fact, excluding a sick day and the PTO days I took because I was out of town, I literally cannot remember the previous Saturday off of work. Needless to say, it was a Godsend. Perhaps almost as needless to say, Colorado is a beautiful place to be in the fall, and a hike with the wife was in order.

We set off a tad too late in the day (we were tired and slept in), but that didn’t matter because the day was sunny and cool. I chose Breckenridge as the spot where we would recreate this time. The trail I found was the hike to Mohawk Lake/Continental Falls. My wife loves waterfalls, so I knew this would be a good choice. I was also excited to eat some yummy food at a Breckenridge restaurant after the hike was over. The trail we took is just south of Breckenridge off Highway 9. It is 3.5 miles one way and has a 1700 foot elevation change. That is a lot.

Commence photo essay:

Breck01This is what our trail looked like for the first two miles or so. It had just snowed recently, so the path was slippery. J wore hiking shoes; I wore worn-out tennis shoes. Advantage: J. Perhaps this picture doesn’t show the incline in the trail; we went up pretty much the entire way. The woods were beautiful in the snow, however.

Breck02After the first two snow-strewn miles, we came across this beautiful meadow/pond. Perhaps you might call it a wetland? In any case, it was beautiful in the early afternoon sun after all the shade we had been in. This view is basically west and toward our destination, give or take.

Breck04This is the view a little to the left of the photo above. The brightness of the sun shows in the haziness of the photo.

Breck03This bird we first encountered at the same spot as the two pictures above. We were snacking a bit and having some water, and this bird was not shy about begging. He flew at me a couple of times. He then proceeded to follow us for the rest of the hike, popping up sporadically. I was not a fan of this guy after a while.


Part of our motivation for this hike was to see the autumnal foliage. Here is a lovely example.

Breck06Another reason why we chose this hike was to see the abandoned log cabins. This is the first we saw; it’s about three miles in. It was hard to fathom building such a domicile at that particular location and planning to live there. Crazy.

Breck07Here is J crossing the threshold.

Breck08 A bit farther along, we came across this rock formation that reminded me of something out of The Lord of the Rings. Naturally, I posed nobly on it. We then discovered that this is actually a part of the trail, and we climbed over it and went on.


As we got higher, the view became more spectacular. Here we are beginning to rise above the tree line, and the whole valley is coming into view.

Breck12Just before the lower falls, we came across three more abandoned cabins. This one looks like it is used occasionally by hikers. There is a stove of sorts in there and a sign-in book. Another hiker was kind enough to photograph us.

Breck11Lower Continental Falls. Perspective is hard to gain here; the falls are at least twenty feet high here, and there is a lot of rushing water roaring by. These are some of the best falls we’ve seen since Yellowstone.

Breck15aHere are the upper falls. Again, they are quite sizable and gorgeous. It was well worth the trip to see them.

Breck14We thought there would be more to see, but we had to make a steep ascent to get higher. It’s so steep that there are cables from an abandoned mill that are provided to help one climb up. I am demonstrating.

Breck16The remnants of the old mill. Again, it was surreal to imagine someone constructing a functioning mill way up there. There is something about ruins that gives one pause.

Breck13We climbed to the top of the rise to see the source of the falls. It wasn’t too great. The view back over the valley, however, was amazing, as you see. If you look closely (or if you had a higher quality version of this picture), you can see Breckenridge to the upper left just over the ridge next to the pine tree on the left.

After we saw all that, we had to hike down. The sun was setting by the time we got all the way back to our car. It took us an hour less to hike back down, partly because the snow had melted a little by then. However, it felt like forever. It was splendid to get back into our car and make for Breckenridge. We ate dinner at an Italian place; then, we bought chocolates and a cookie from local treat shops before heading home. It was a great day.

By the way, the hike we took is rated “moderate.” If you’re an average hiker, “moderate” means “difficult.” If you’re someone who climbs 14ers every other weekend, “moderate” means “moderate.” I’m just giving you the heads-up.


  1. Great, I’m glad you guys were able to get away from it all for a little while and just enjoy your fabulous state! Wish I could have enjoyed it with you.

  2. Those photos are beautiful!!! I cant’ even think of what else to say! Breathtaking!

  3. The views look amazing – well worth the effort, huh? It’s motivating for me to want to climb the mountains in my “backyard” too!!

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