Zapata Falls Campground sits at 9,000 feet at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It offers sweeping views of the San Luis Valley, the San Juan Mountains and nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park—plus spectacular sunrises, sunsets and night skies.
A new trailhead in the campground supplies a link to the South Zapata Creek Trail #852, and the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. A second trail, North Fork South Zapata Trail #868, just above the campground in the day-use area, leads visitors on a mildly steep half-mile hike to the falls that give the campground its name.
The falls were formed when South Zapata Creek wore a groove in the crystalline rocks of the Sangre de Cristos, allowing its water to spill onto the soft alluvial soils below. Over millennia, the creek has carved a dim, deep and narrow chasm through which water tumbles some 30 feet. In the summer, the falls offer a cool respite; winter temperatures turn them into a giant ice sculpture.
Getting to the falls is an adventure in itself, involving a wade through cold creek water and a climb over slick boulders. The falls are located on land owned by the Colorado State Land Board, and people who visit them need to be cautious and realize that the climb can be risky.
Zapata Falls area is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Special Recreation Management Area. The campground is located on BLM Road 5415, seven miles southwest of the Great Sand Dunes National Park.