Area Status: Open
Zapata Falls Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) is BLM. The campground is located on BLM road 5415, seven miles southwest of the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
The 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.
At a Glance
|| NO WATER - PACK IN PACK OUT The campground has two vault toilets but no water or trash service. The unpaved road from the highway to the campgrounds gains 1,000 feet in 3.6 miles and is rough in places. Passenger cars and RVs can navigate the road, but it may be too challenging for some vehicles. NO RESERVATIONS. Usually fills up by noon on Fridays for the weekend, earlier in the week for three day weekends.
||Accessible,Tent camping,Camping trailer,Toilets,Parking
Individual Sites: 23 sites $11.00 per night Maximum limits - 2 vehicles (plus 1 trailer) - 6 people - 2 tents Group Sites: 1 site $20.00 per night Maximum limits - 4 vehicles (plus 1 trailer) - 15 people - 5 tents QUIET HOURS & no generator use 10 pm - 7 am
Zapata Falls has 23 single campsites, one group site and one camp host site spaced around two, one-mile-long loops. The sites on one loop are designed for tent campers. Parking spurs on the second loop vary a little in length but in general can handle RVs, towed campers or other configurations of vehicles up to about 50 feet long. Each single site has a picnic table, fire grate, parking and tent pads and a bear-proof food locker. The accessible group site has three picnic tables, three tent pads and a group fire ring.
||Open year around - unless closed by snow
Blanca, Colorado, south of Great Sand Dunes National Park
||San Luis Valley Field Office
To reach Zapata Falls Campground: From Highway 160, about 5 miles west of Blanca, turn north on Highway 150 and travel about 10.5 miles to BLM road 5415; turn east and travel another 2.5 miles to the campground entrance.
To reach the road to the campground from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, travel about 7 miles southwest on Highway 150