Take a hike in an evergreen forest to the state of New Mexico’s tallest waterfall, Brazos Falls (also named Chorro Falls), which is approximately 1200 feet tall! Be sure to keep in mind the waterfall only runs as a result of snow melt in late spring, usually throughout the month of May.
Anytime I hear the word waterfall I am enticed and so are my kids! Maybe it is because we live in the beautiful high desert of New Mexico and jump at any mention of water. Or maybe it is because the thought of a rushing waterfall is just so soothing. Whatever the reason, we love any hike that involves water.
We love this area so much that we purchased a little piece of land in the Brazos canyon that we enjoy camping on. For the past few years, we have spent many weekends in the Brazos with friends, family, and the plethora of deer that call this place home as well.
We enjoy taking friends up the Brazos Falls hike annually Memorial Day weekend. We have also hiked the falls trail in summer when the waterfall was not flowing, and had a great time.
Driving to the base of the Brazos Falls along NM512 will be a treat for the entire family. In addition to the massive cliffs increasing in size as you approach, I can almost guarantee you will be delighted with the presence of deer along the road. The wildlife in the Brazos is pretty special and very abundant. Within the village of the Brazos, the deer are very familiar with people and may even walk up to your car with the hopes of receiving a snack. However, you should resist the temptation to feed them or get too close.
The Brazos Falls hike is one that the kids (about 8 and older) really enjoy and feel a huge sense of accomplishment after completing. You can see it as they outstretch their arms at the top of the climb and yell out a “whoop” as they look out over the beautiful vista.
This hike is not for the faint of heart, but I am certain any determined school-aged child and older can make it. We have had younger kids (6 and younger) along on this hike that end up being carried by their strong and determined fathers which can be tough. And, we have had older people, not acclimated by the elevation turn back about half way up.
I am not going to lie. It is quite steep in a couple sections of the trail, and steadily climbs much of the second half of the hike. But, just when you think the trail may never reach the top, it does. And the view and spray of the falls will take your breath away. It’s one of the most magnificent views in Northern New Mexico. You can even see Heron Lake and beyond from this lookout point. The key to a successful journey is frequent stops and taking your time. One more thing helps - bringing lots of candy. Candy makes the hike a happier one. Given the particularly steep sections and higher altitude, this hike is not recommended for those with health issues. Also note that sections of the Brazos Cliffs are on private property. The local residents allow respectful hikers to use the Brazos Falls trail and park in the area, but please be respectful of the Brazos residents and their property. Remember you are in their backyards and driveways, so please be courteous. Also be aware that you are in black bear country. Use the necessary precautions. We carry an air horn and bear spray, but have never encountered a bear along the trail. We have seen bears in the canyon but have never had any problems.
If you are hungry after your hike, The Cliffview Restaurant at the base of the cliffs serves up dinner and drinks most weekends evenings for dinner in summer. There are also restaurants 20 minutes north in Chama that are open more regular hours year round. The Three Ravens Coffeehouse is a hidden gem serving up wood fired pizzas and yummy coffees year round in nearby Tierra Amarilla. We have stayed at the Brazos Lodge and have friends who have stayed at Corkins Lodge, both of which are right at the base of the Brazos Falls. We also have friends who have rented private cabins in the canyon through vrbo.com (vacation rental by owner) and those that have stayed at a motel in Chama. There is also camping at Heron Lake and a few different RV Parks in Chama. Please see our Chama Sidetrack for more information on Chama and the vicinity.
Northwest of Albuquerque near Chama, NM