Bell Canyon is what we like to call an “urban hike” because it starts right in Sandy city. This trail climbs the benches and ends up at a small reservoir. The trail to Bell Canyon starts at a small parking lot at the corner of Wasatch Blvd and Little Cottonwood Canyon Rd. This trail is not to be confused with the Bell Canyon Waterfall hike which is long, steep, and often a little treacherous.
- Distance: 1.5 miles RT
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 500 feet
- Dog-Friendly: NO
The hike to Bell Canyon Reservoir is 1.5 miles round trip, but it begins by quickly climbing up the foothills. The grade is only steep and rocky for the first 1/4 mile, and then it levels out a little, and the trail becomes less rocky. Even though it levels out, you are still climbing to the reservoir, it’s just a more gradual climb. This trail was busy, and I’m guessing it always is, because of its proximity to the city.
There are beautiful views of the city along the way to the lake. We hiked this trail in the Fall and the colors were beautiful. The next time we hiked to Bell Canyon was in the Spring, and it was so green that we are having a hard time deciding which season we liked better. We also saw a snake, a few deer, and some beautiful birds along the way.
Before you know it, you’ll climb over a lip and see a pretty little reservoir. It is down in a hole, and depending on what time of year you are there, the water will be at different levels. There is catch-and-release fishing, but no pets are allowed because this is a watershed area.
We found a bench and sat and enjoyed the view of the lake for a minute, but the boys wanted to get down closer to the reservoir. So we followed a small trail down to the water where we came across some ducks and geese. We had a fun time watching them dabble in the water, although the boys were sad that they couldn’t throw rocks. There are benches in different spots around the reservoir, and you can walk around a good portion of the lake.
The first time that we hiked to Bell Canyon Reservoir, we took the opportunity to hike around the reservoir and had quite an adventure– or misadventure. We took a side trail that led down to the water to show the boys the birds there (we saw a few mallards and some Canadian geese). On the way around, the trail led up to a spring and disappeared. We tried to cross the large boulders there and found ourselves in a pretty sticky situation. Dad, with the baby in the backpack, had to help Mom and the two older boys (4 and 7) scurry across huge boulders. Then we had to climb and claw our way back up to the trail. Word to the wise: Stay on the well-defined trail and do not stray. It got ugly fast.
We learned our lesson the second time we hiked, and we simply enjoyed the reservoir near the benches, and along the edge of the water. There are plenty of fun places to get near the water, and no need to walk all the way around.
This would be a great place to take a picnic lunch and enjoy next to the lake. You might have a hard time finding a soft place to sit, so bring your own blanket! We love this hike and how beautiful the area is. Bell Canyon Reservoir is a great hike for families! For other family-friendly trails, check out our list of 101 Family Hikes in Utah.
To get to the trailhead, go to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (Wasatch Blvd and Little Cottonwood Road (which is 9400 S). As you head east on Little Cottonwood Road, you’ll see a trailhead with parking and restrooms less than 100 feet up the road. This parking area is small, so we recommend hiking early or late in the day and on a weekday.