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Monday, July 25, 2016

Bells Canyon Waterfall Hike

Utah is home to some amazing hiking. You can leave a neighborhood and be on your way through canyons, past waterfalls and up to amazing peaks. But, the system isn't perfect and unfortunately, there are a lot of trails that do not allow dogs because they are protected watersheds. While I don't necessarily agree that dogs are 100% mucking up our water supply (other states drink their surface water too...), I am at least glad these trails are open to the public to enjoy. And of course, you always have some bad pet owners that don't clean up after their dog and ruin it for the rest of us. 

When I lived in Salt Lake City, I rarely did a hike where my dog wasn't allowed. I felt far too guilty going hiking and leaving my dog in my small apartment in the city. I always stuck to trails where my dog could enjoy the outdoors too. When I flew to Utah for Amanda's wedding, Olive obviously had to stay back home in Stonington, Connecticut. So what this meant was I was in Utah, with my hiking shoes, and without my dog. Bring on all the "No Dogs Allowed" trails. 

The first hike of my Utah Adventure was up to the waterfall at Bells Canyon in Sandy, Utah right by Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Beautiful hike that included a canyon, a reservoir, and a good sized waterfall. Really hot and better as an early morning hike. Steep towards the end which will leave you sweating and with a good workout. I enjoyed the scenic views and we even found some solitude at the waterfall.

The trailhead is located at roughly 10245 South on Wasatch Blvd in Sandy, Utah. It is clearly marked along the main road, right in front of a residential neighborhood. (GPS: (40.5649, -111.804). There are no bathrooms at the trailhead. 

There are a few spaces, however after some research I read to get here early as they fill up quickly, especially on the weekend. Make sure you only park in the designated lot, not on the roads or in the neighborhood.
Trail Map Source

Lower Reservoir: For a shorter hike, plan on making it to the lower reservoir, at about 1.5 miles round trip and 500'. Waterfall: For a longer hike, plan on making it to the waterfall, which will gain much more elevation and will be about 5 miles round trip and 1,500'.  Upper Reservoir: For an even longer and more strenuous hike gaining even more elevation, plan on making it to the upper reservoir, about 9-10 miles round trip and 4,000'.

Dogs are not allowed on this hike as it is a protected watershed. This is the main reason it took me so long to finally complete this hike. With Olive back in Connecticut, I could go on this hike guilt free.

The trail starts off in a fenced in path bordering a residential area. This was a smart way to keep trail access open, while keeping the public out of private property and peoples yards. The trail then continues until you hit a stream.

The beginning of the trail is mostly exposed and in the middle of July at around 1pm it was very very hot. If you are hiking this in the summer, make sure you bring enough water. I was so thankful that Amanda suggested I grab another bottle of water to bring along. We ducked under any tree we could find for shade while we readjusted our packs.

After about 3/4 of a mile, you will reach the first reservoir. This is a great place to turn around if you have young kids, or if its just a little too hot. This is a protected watershed and swimming is not allowed.

We continued past the lake and shortly after, we were in the shade among the trees. We passed the sign stating we were entering the "Peak Wilderness" and continued on to the first waterfall. Towards the end of the hike, before you reach the turn off for the waterfall, the trail gets steep.  This was also about the time that as Amanda and I hiked and chatted up the trail, something LARGE and LOUD came CRASHING through the woods. First thought in my mind is always MOOSE - RUN - SURVIVE.  Really, you should slowly and calmly back away and wait behind a tree.  (Generally, bull moose on their own are okay, but females with babies can be very aggressive). We were both quite shaken up and spent a few minutes behind a tree. We never did see the moose but we certainly heard it crashing down the woods along the trail. 

The first waterfall takes some scrambling to get to and some paying attention on the route. There is a sort of obvious trail splits from the main path to the left and towards the waterfall you will now be able to hear. Once you make this turn, the trail gets a little loose and tricky. Hikers need to make their way down a steep hillside filled with loose dirt and rocks. You have to go very slow and use trees for support. This will be very tricky if the falls are flowing fast, leaving a mist on the trail. The falls are beautiful and in the spring when the falls are heavy, the spray from the water can be felt at least 50 yards away. There have been accidents of people falling and slipping at the fall, so be very careful and do not get too close to the water. 

Rumor has it, there is a second waterfall up the trail but we stopped at this one. 

We walked just past the falls and enjoyed lunch on this set of rocks (Eva's Bakery apple blue cheese and arugula sandwich- yes yes yes). A hike up a canyon, past a reservoir, and to a waterfall. Utah Trifecta. 

Happy Hiking, 



  1. Interesting, I've done this hike 3 times and have never started from that TH. I always start from the Granite Trailhead, right as you turn into LCC from Wasatch Blvd (on the south side). It's always a great hike, but the last time I did it we hiked in pouring down rain. Sure made the waterfall look like it was raging 10x bigger compared to normal. One day I'd like to hike to the upper pond! -Alicia @

    1. I followed Amanda's lead on this one! I will update that there are multiple entrances, thanks for sharing!

      I would love to see this waterfall in the spring and hike to the upper reservoir! Do it and tell me all about it ;)

  2. The sign used to say Lone Peak Wilderness. There is another waterfall about 1/2 an hour past the first falls. Just as nice as the first one too. Then about an hour to hour and a half past the second falls is a reservoir. From the first falls to the second falls and reservoir it's steep and steeper with a few mellow spots to encourage you to keep going. It's well worth the effort. Nice hike description Katie.

    1. Aha! Missing the Lone! I heard about the second reservoir and waterfall - didnt have time this hike but will have to next time. Thanks for all the information!


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