Ghost Falls Hike

Ghost Falls
Ghost Falls

Ghost Falls is a nice little hike. The first time we visited Ghost Falls, the leaves were changing and the weather was nice and cool. Unfortunately, we had a bad experience with it. First, the directions we got from the Internet were very bad. They led us to two different places– both of them wrong. Even with the iphone and GPS, we spent 45 minutes looking for the trailhead. Then, the trail is not well marked and spider webs all over the place, causing significant confusion. These factors caused our little ones to lose focus on the hike and it quickly lost its luster. We’ll try to help you find where you’re going a little easier, so you don’t face these same trials.

The baby was the only one too little to be frustrated with the directions.
The baby was the only one too little to be frustrated with the directions.

There are two different ways to hike to Ghost Falls. The first time we went, we hiked the long way and got lost for awhile. The second time we visited Ghost Falls, we drove on a dirt road that is not recommended for cars. We will write about both of our hikes and you can decide which one is best for your family.

Ghost Falls #1

The longer trail starts just behind the Draper LDS Temple and climbs up a small canyon to the falls. This trailhead also has 2 routes, and we ended up taking both of them. To access the trailhead, ignore everything you read on any other website, and just drive to the Draper Temple. Behind the Temple parking lot is a road that circles the temple along the ridge. It changes names several times, but if you go directly through the temple parking lot and turn right, you’ll hit Gray Fox Drive. Turn right and you should find Coyote Hollow Court on your left. The trailhead begins at a small parking lot at the end of the court. The trail here is roughly 1.5 miles depending on your route to the falls. (That means 3 miles round trip).

The leaves are gorgeous in September.
The leaves are gorgeous in September.

The spider web of trails begins here, but we navigated it with a little difficulty. As you drop off the ridge, stay to your left. You’ll wind up in the bottom of the canyon on a wide, flat trail lined by huge boulders on either side. This trail is called Coyote Hollow Trail, and is the main trail. Follow this trail until you get to a sign on the left that says something like: Do not use this trail when muddy. (Pass the Burnham Loop Trail twice, and if you get to the bridge, you went about 50 yards too far). You better hope the trail is not muddy, because that’s the way you need to go.  “Muddy Trail” loops up around and eventually crosses a bridge and comes to a very clear sign. The sign says go right to Ghost Falls, which is correct. The last hike up to the falls is easy. You’ll want to watch out for mountain bikers on all these trails, though, because they won’t be watching out for you!

Alternate route: Hike past the “Muddy Trail” sign and cross the bridge. You’ll be on the bare face on the opposite side of the canyon. It’s steeper, dustier, rockier, and less shady here, but you eventually come to the sign near the other bridge for Ghost Falls.

This lizard (look close) was one of three animals we saw. There was a deer, another lizard, and a few squirrels.
This lizard (look close) was one of three animals we saw. There was a deer, another lizard, and a few squirrels.

The falls are called Ghost Falls because sometimes they disappear entirely. They are really very beautiful and kid-friendly. Since the first time we hiked, the waterfall has changed a bit. There is now a fence that prevents you from walking into the water at the bottom of the falls. There is a sign that say this is the Wasatch Watershed and to keep out of the water. We were happy to stay out of the water, but because there is a fence preventing people from getting in the poison ivy, the brush has overgrown so much you can barely see the waterfall. (By the way, that trail that climbs steeply up on the left side of the falls goes nowhere and leads to almost nothing. Dad climbed up and saw a little more waterfall, but that was the end. He deemed it too steep and slick for kids to try.)

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This is the fence protecting the watershed. We spotted a bunch of snails on the bushed here.
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You can hardly see Ghost Falls now from all the growth.
Ghost Falls is the perfect place for the kids to wade.
You can not wade in the water now. The fence will prevent you.

Our recommendation when hiking from behind the temple is to make sure to take “Muddy Trail.” It’s shady and slightly uphill– a nice walk for youngsters.


Ghost Falls #2

We decided to give Ghost Falls another try from the back way, which requires a drive over rough roads. The first time we hiked this trail we had met a family who had come from the other direction and we finally made it back to try it out.

To find this trailhead, take exit 14400 South off of 1-15. You will find yourself on Highland Drive. Follow Highland Drive east for 4.6 miles until you come to a sign for Orson Smith Trail Head Park. There is a parking lot, but also a dirt road to the right as you pull into the parking area. A sign says high-clearance vehicles are recommended. The road would be pretty rough in a car, but we made it in our van and we passed two SUVs. It’s 2.5 miles to the trailhead and there are a few really rough spots, so it takes a little while. It was a gorgeous drive, and you have a great view of the valley and the east side of the temple. There is a sign when you reach the Ghost Falls trailhead, as well as a bathroom. The hike from this trailhead is 0.9 miles, or 1.8 round trip.

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There is a parking area with bathrooms for the start of Ghost Falls.
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After you pass the bathrooms, you will come to this sign. Head the way the sign points, and then take another right onto the trail.

This trail is very shady, as it drops down into the canyon toward Ghost Falls. Most of the time the trail is covered in shade with just a few spots out in the open. There are some little bridges where you cross the stream as you meander down to the waterfall. The hike down was very pleasant and enjoyable. There were a TON of mountain bikers, but not one other hiker on a Saturday morning.

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As you walk down the trail, you will see these signs and this entrance. Then you will know you are heading the right way.
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There are beautiful views of the valley and the LDS Draper Temple for the first section of the hike.
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You will cross 3-4 of these little bridges.
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The trail is nice and shady.
There is one big bridge and it is at the halfway mark.
There is one big bridge and it is at the halfway mark.

This trail is well signed and you will come to the bottom and cross a bridge to look back at the falls. We did this hike in summer and your could hardly see the falls through all the bushes. There is also a fence (pictured in the first write-up) to keep you from getting too close to the waterfall and possibly putting your feet in, which was a change from the first time we hiked to Ghost Falls. We did scramble on a few rocks to get closer to the waterfall. It was small, but still peaceful and relaxing since we had it all to ourselves.

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Once you come to this sign, head right and you are just a few feet away from Ghost Falls.
Ghost Falls 10
You can see the waterfall from this bridge. Then walk around and get a closer look.
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This is the top section of the little waterfall when we climbed on the rock to get closer.
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Ghost Falls from below. It’s almost gone…
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This is the best spot to see the waterfall. Dad climbed down to take this picture, but no one else did.

Warning: There is poison ivy here. There is a sign on the fence warning you about it, and we saw two bushes right behind the sign. We also saw some as we climbed out onto the boulders, so be aware if you are there when the plants are all green.

Ghost Falls 11

Ghost Falls 17
We also spotted this cute little fawn. We saw deer the last time we were here, too!

The climb back out is definitely uphill, but it is fairly gradual and just shy of a mile. We went fairly slow and no one complained (at least too much). It helped that there was a lot of shade. We liked this hike the best. We would recommend hiking to Ghost Falls this way if you have a vehicle that can make the bumpy rough road on the way there.


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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Jessica Christiansen

    We came up today to do this hike and tried to do the dirt road route (second shorter option), however there is a locked gate now so you can no longer drive that route, just hike or bike.

    1. Natalie Ockey

      Thank you for the update. We will have to find more information on this closure and see if it is permanent or not. We will update our post, so thank you for sharing.

  2. Pola T

    Thank you so much for this. We attempted this hike twice & got lost both times but By the pictures you posted I think we were there but didn’t realize since we went in the summer & I read that the falls was non-existant then.

    1. Natalie Ockey

      It is such a tricky place if you come from behind the Draper temple. From the other side, it’s a lot simpler. And yes, we were there this summer and it was a tiny trickle! Definitely a pretty hike, but not a super exciting end! Thanks for sharing about your experience hiking to Ghost Falls.

  3. Sarai

    Same thing happened to us. We got lost and spent an extra 45 minutes walking back to the starting point to start over in the right direction. Then went off one of the Burnham Loop trails on the way up, it is steeper and there is no shade. We took the actual Ghost Falls trail on the way back and that one was way easier and we where under he shade the whole time. One thing to mention is that during the Summer time there will be poison ivy right next to the water fall, so look out for that.

  4. Anonymous

    We met the Ockey Family at the falls and our son enjoyed playing in the water with their boys. We hiked down to the falls from above and enjoyed a shady walk down and back with only one small open meadow area. Aside from keeping an eye out for bikers running us over, it was a relatively secluded and peaceful walk. Although my wife and I concur on the difficulty of actually finding the dirt road that leads to the upper trail head. Maybe that means it will deter those not truly interested in finding this hidden gem!