We love waterfalls. If you follow us on Instagram, you might know that we started Waterfall Wednesday, which features one hike to a waterfall for every week of the summer. One of the waterfalls that we’ve always wanted to visit is Bell Canyon Lower Falls. However, we have saved it until our kids are big enough for this hike because it is fairly long and steep and the terrain is difficult. Now that our youngest is 10 years old, our family did well with this hike.
- Rating: Difficult
- Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 1490 ft.
- Dog-friendly: No
The hike starts at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. There is a new parking lot just below the old one, and it can hold a lot more vehicles. It is also located partway up the hill, which saves a bit of climbing. We recommend parking at the Bell Canyon Preservation Trailhead.
From the trailhead restrooms, go east and start making your way to the top of the ridge. It is a bit of a climb in this section, but it doesn’t take too long to get to the top of the ridge. It is very rocky on the climb.
Once you reach that ridge, you feel as if you accomplished something, but the trail goes right back down to the bottom. Now a new ridge becomes the destination. This one seems easier, though. This part of the trail is very well traveled, and it is wide and much less steep. We always see birds like juncos, buntings, and black headed-grosbeak in this stretch of the hike.
As soon as you crest the second ridge, you come to Bell Canyon Reservoir. There is a junction. Make sure you stay to the left (north) of Bell Canyon Reservoir on the wide dirt road in order to get to the Bell Canyon waterfall. Before we went on to the waterfall, we walked down to the reservoir for a little break. You can walk right down to the reservoir and see the ducks and geese that hang out here. For a long time, we just hiked to the reservoir and back. It makes a great destination all on its own.
After you leave the reservoir, follow the road uphill for a few minutes to a sign for Bells Canyon Waterfall. Turn onto this trail from the wide road.The middle portion of the trail is much flatter and has little shade. This part was the most enjoyable. We moved along fairly quickly. After a short, pleasant interval, you come to a bridge with one railing and cross the stream. This is near the middle of the gentle section. The trail also becomes shadier when you start hiking near the stream. Store up your strength, because the last half mile is quite difficult.
Eventually, the trail starts to climb. There is a real lung buster that goes straight up the mountainside. It is long and very rocky. Go slow and take frequent breaks. Also, watch your footing because the rocks can be slick and some unexpectedly move. We had two falls in this section, though neither was serious.
Finally, near the top of the climb, you come to a place where the trail is a bit wet. You can easily keep dry, but there is water that runs down the rocks. Just a few meters beyond, there is a long wooden board that turns you left toward the waterfall. There is also a very large pine tree at this junction, so keep an eye out for these signs so you don’t miss the turn off. As soon as you turn left, you can hear the roar of the falls. Within a hundred meters, you come around the face of the hill and see the large, crashing cascade of Bell Canyon Lower Falls.
Bell Canyon Lower Waterfall is impressive! There is a lot of roaring and mist as the water plummets from the brink and continues down a narrow chute. It’s easy to take a good picture, but the hill is steep and a bit muddy from the spray. Watch your footing as you walk around toward the spray or down to the foot of the waterfall. It is wonderful to stand in that misty spray on a hot day. Especially after you hiked straight up the rocky mountainside.
This is an out and back hike, so you will return the same way you came. It’s much easier on the way down, but the rocks can be treacherous. Make sure to take it slow and be careful as you descend. The climb to the Bell Canyon Lower waterfall is definitely worth it, but we only recommend it for older kids and healthy hikers.
This trail is tough, so if you are looking for an easier waterfall trail, check out our list of 20 Easy Waterfall Hikes in Utah.