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Friday, May 7, 2021
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The Natural Water Slide Hike from San Isabel Lake
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The hike from San Isabel Lake down to the Natural Water Slide is one of the most unique and enchanting in the San Isabel Recreation Area. Unique because you first hike down to the slide, making your way up at the end of the day, and enchanting because the entire hike is accompanied by the soothing sounds of the river nearby and the trail combines soft-pine-needled shade, sun-dappled-Aspen-grove meadows, and an occasional rock scramble to delight every taste.

A few reminders before detailing this day trip are: at 8,500 feet, this area drops approximately 15 to 20 degrees in temperature from the temp in Pueblo or even Colorado City, so bring along a sweatshirt; although my daughter has made the hike in flip flops, sturdy shoes are advised because this easy hike has occasional rock hopping at the riverís edge and some rock scramble; bring water and lightweight raingear; keep the season in mind as spring means higher, colder water with less people at the slide, while summer will bring warmer water with more people; and, although the round-trip hike takes just over an hour, allow time for the deep cool pools, water slide, and abundant flat rocks for sunning.

From I-25, enjoy a short drive through Colorado City and Rye and into the San Isabel National Forest on Hwy 165, approximately 15 miles. At mile marker 19, cross the dam at Lake San Isabel and find parking to the left just after the dam. After parking, cross the highway and find the unmarked trailhead leading down beside the spillway from the dam. This is the steepest part of the hike and is approximately 100 feet from road to riverís edge where the trail flattens and meanders nicely.

After crossing the river continue downstream just to the left of the river. Five minutes in, enter an Aspen grove meadow swerving slightly away from the river for a few moments, and on return the trail enters the river for the first time via well-placed rocks just along riverís edge. A slight loop up an over the rocks follows and then coming back to the river you find a pool adequate for soaking on a warm day. This is not the water slide.

Continue along the pine needle cushioned trail with a nice mix of sun and shade. At about 20 minutes in, you find a second deep pool area with large flat sunning rocks. This is not the water slide.

Again at approximately 25 minutes in, a rock shelf will cause the trail to loop up and around slightly away from the river. This point also offers a stunning view of rock wall down river and slightly to the right of the river. Shortly after this loop, and back at riverís edge, you will cross the waterís edge by stepping across rocks. Then find a beautiful waterfall and deep pool at the trailís edge. This is not the water slide.

At about 30 minutes in, the trail becomes more and more part of the rock canyon and the river. This is also the point where you have the best chance of getting wet as the trail skirts the edge of the river again. Take your time, as the rocks can be slippery. A natural rock crevice or crack is the best bet for footing as you make this short crossing to a larger flat rock area with beautiful views up and down the river. Another large pool is found at this point. This is not the water slide.

The trail will become soft pine needle at some points as you continue down stream and then at just about 35-40 minutes in, you turn a corner to find a nice opening in the rock where you can see a smaller upper pool with a water slide to the larger pool below. This area is surrounded by large flat rocks and towering rock wall. Most stop here, as this is the Natural Water Slide, but if you do venture further you will be delighted to find an even larger waterfall just beyond. This fall is only for viewing however and can be enjoyed from several secluded rocks.

After relaxing in sun cool pools, follow the same route up and out of the canyon.

Be careful to watch only once for the trail to meander to the right and away from the river. If you miss this turn, you will have to back track as the river is not navigable at this point and the trail loops shortly away and back. Enjoy the last chance to get your feet wet as you cross the river and head up the very steep, but thankfully short, hike to the road.


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The Greenhorn Valley View is a weekly newspaper serving the communities of the Greenhorn Valley in Southern Colorado,
including Colorado City, Rye, San Isabel, Beulah and Hatchet Ranch.

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