Hondo means “deep” in English. Hondo Falls are found high up South Fork Rio Hondo above “Taos East” Condos. See the topo map near the bottom of this page.
This photo shows an 80’ high section of the very upper end of Hondo Falls at about 10,400’ elev.
As Hondo Falls descends elevation it becomes less of a waterfall and more like a cascade. These cascades are continuous and more than 400 feet of elevation drop, cutting thru one solid mass of granite bedrock the whole way. This photo below shows an 80’ high portion of Hondo Falls also within it’s upper reaches.
The middle reaches of Hondo Falls here, become less steep.
This photo below shows 50’ high Lower Cataract Fork Falls who’s upper portion shows near the top of the photo above.
A hundred yards or so upstream from this lower falls is another Cataract Fork Falls 50’ high with 3 tiers.
25’ high Lower Hondo Falls is downstream from Hondo Falls about one-third-mile at roughly 9800’ elev.
Timberline Falls 100’ high….!!!
See more photos at the bottom of this page.
name- Hondo Falls
height- 400’ total elevation loss of the entire cascades. The higher individual waterfalls are about 60’ high.
type of waterfall- a tiered-cascade
GPS coordinates- ±36°32.916’N 105°27.768’W
season-May thru Oct …earlier is better
ownership- Carson National Forest
access- fairly difficult... ah... better read the essay below
nearest town- Taos Ski Valley is about 3½ miles north of here
fun fact- The South Fork Hondo Basin is AMAZING…!!!
South Fork Rio Hondo is a wonderful – WONDERFUL place...!!! The mouth of the South Fork Rio Hondo is well-known because of commercial condominiums here known as: “Taos East.” Book yourself a room there sometime… you’ll be glad you did…!!! There is a NO ENTRANCE sign here as shown in this photo below:
Stay out of their yard…!!!
There is a misunderstanding concerning public access here into the South Fork Rio Hondo and on into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. The truth is that public access has ALWAYS been legal here. When I was young, 50 years ago, South Fork Hondo Trail was open to the public and freely enjoyed by all. Access here has NEVER been legally closed…!!! South Fork Hondo Trail is grandfathered in. Public access here has a documented history. Stay on existing roads and trails.
Stay off of their private property.
in May 2022- New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that: All waterways in New Mexico are Public Domain. Therefore, wading up the stream bed is totally legal.
Immediately beyond the houses, you will find “South Fork Hondo Trail.” It is no longer maintained and fallen trees must be either climbed over, under, sideways, down (the Yardbirds.) However, navigation does get easier as you progress up the canyon into higher elevation.
About 3½ miles in, you will come upon a very interesting “natural” blockade... the “Rock Fall”. The creek flows thru a short section of gorge with sheer sidewalls almost 100 feet high. This little box canyon is about 30 feet wide. A large portion of the southwest wall recently collapsed completely filling the gorge from sheer wall to sheer wall with rocks and boulders... 30 feet deep... Scrambling up the Rock Fall is “do-able” enough. This rock fall has buried a waterfall that was likely about 25 feet high.
Another fifty yards upstream is a beautiful waterfall 25 feet high... Lower South Fork Hondo Falls -see photo above. It is fairly easy to get up and around.
About a third of a mile farther upstream is a wonderful water-show... in fact... a double water-show... Two separate sets of waterfalls on two separate creeks. The two largest tributaries of this drainage join here. Both of these creeks dance beautifully between sheer granite walls down splendid cataracts, cascading for almost four hundred feet of elevation.
Take notice on the map below that the northeast face of Vallecito Peak called Granite Wall, is about 900 feet high and sheer. Has it ever been climbed...??? Also notice the two creeks called Rescue Creek on the map below. This is where the Taos Ski Valley Ski patrol find those who ski too far out-of-bounds and end up on the wrong side of the mountain. Broken Waters Creek flows down from the Tummy of the Pregnant Lady Mountain. Please see the photo at the bottom of this page and you will understand why this mountain received the local nick-name: “The Pregnant Lady”.
Please do a right-click “save as” to print yourself a copy of our map below as it is far more accurate than any other map available.
Enhanced USGS 7.5’ topo map
Thin red lines above are one-mile squares
Here are two photos of South Fork Rio Hondo Pond where the elk like to wade.
Avalanche Creek is full of huge spruce logs deposited by many snow avalanches thru the years... but this 40’ high waterfall is nice anyway...!!! This photo was shot during a very low-water time. I’m sure that all the exposed rock in this photo would be covered with beautiful frothy-white waterfall foam during late May and early June snow runoff.
The Northeast Face of Vallecito Peak… The “Granite Walls” can be seen here, just above timberline…and South Fork Rio Hondo Pond can be seen in the thick timber near the bottom of the photo.
The Pregnant Lady Mountain as seen from Taos. She is lying on her back here beyond Cid’s Food Market. You can see her breast, ribs and tummy very well in this photo.
Send questions and comments to dscott@TheMarbleSculptor.com