Gloria Falls | Little Cottonwood Canyon

We found a gorgeous new waterfall right in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The hike is relatively short and easy, and the payoff is great, at least in the wet year of 2019 when we visited. Gloria Falls plunges over 50 feet down a nicely tiered, wide curtain. Best of all, you can stand right in the spray at the bottom on a hot day.

Hike Info

  • Distance: 2.3 miles RT
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation change: 500 feet
  • Location: Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Tips: Part of this trail requires a little bushwhacking, so be prepared with good shoes.

Gloria Falls shares a trailhead with Red Pine Lake and White Pine Lake Trailhead. There is a rather larger parking area with restrooms 5.3 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon on the right (south) side of the road. It is not a pullout, but you have to turn into a parking lot.

All three trails start behind the restroom as one trail. They won’t separate for about one mile. Follow the trail down to the bridge at the foot of the hill and cross the creek.

All three trails begin here and head down to the river.
The first bridge over the river is not very far down the trail.

From the bridge, the trail climbs at a gradual slope for about one mile. It’s rocky and not wheel friendly at all, but there is a lot of shade, even in the middle of the day. You can’t possibly lose the trail, either, as it is wide and well-traveled.

Once you cross the bridge, the trail begins to climb.
The trail is rocky, so watch your step.
It is a steady climb, but there were many kids on the trail.
We found many beautiful spots along this trail.

After one mile the river comes into view and there is a junction. This part can be a bit tricky, but there are signs to help. The most obvious trail nearly doubles back on the way you’ve been traveling. This is the White Pine Lake Trail, which is a much longer hike. Right behind the wood sign, and close to the river a narrower, steeper trail climbs the hill. It’s called the Red Pine Lake Trail, and that is the one to follow.

When you come to this sign, make sure to take the trail to Red Pine Lake, which is a left turn for our cutie up there in the blue backpack.
The junction for Red and White Pine Lakes almost looks like a deadend at the river.
Follow this narrow trail up toward Red Pine Lake.

The Red Pine Lake Trail runs for about a tenth of a mile before coming to a long footbridge that spans the creek. It’s a beautiful spot to take a few pictures. As you stand on the far end of the bridge, look down the trail for a tiny second bridge, which is really a few boards helping you step across a wet spot. The turn off to Gloria Falls lies between the large and tiny bridge.

Once you cross this bridge, take a left into the bushes onto the hidden Gloria Falls trail.
If you get to the tiny bridge in the background, you passed the trail. It’s directly into the bushes.

It isn’t a very clear or obvious trail, and it’s only about 5 steps after the large bridge crosses the river. You have to wind your way through a tree or two, but it is easy to see other hikers have come this way. From this junction, it’s only about 100 yards to the waterfall, but it’s a difficult 100 yards. The trail isn’t clear, and many ghost trails head off in different directions. Some people have even tried to reach the waterfall from the north side of the creek, which is a mistake.

The trail walks along the edge of the river.
This last section of trail is rough and you have to find your own way.
Soon you will see Gloria Falls in the distance.

Our advice is to stay close to the river at first, but eventually find an easy way up the hill to the right. There are several paths, though it is steep, and little ones will need to be closely watched. Just remember, you can’t miss the falls as long as you walk along the creek.

Gloria Falls is a stunning waterfall.
This hike is a great family friendly trail.

This is our new favorite hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s tucked back in the trees, and you’ll need to do some adventurous hiking to find it, but it is by no means a secret as we saw several dozen other hikers along the way. Check it out and tell us what you think! For other great waterfall trails, visit our Easy Waterfall Hikes in Utah.

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  1. Christy

    This was a great hike, but at least 2 kids got too close, trying to cross over & almost fell in. The water is really fast & they would have died. Please keep your kids safe!