Stairs Gulch

Our latest waterfall adventure was up Big Cottonwood Canyon. We’d heard of a small waterfall just off the road called Hidden Falls. We paired that short walk with a more difficult hike to another cascade called Stairs Gulch. Stairs Gulch is much different than any falls we’ve seen. It is more like, well, stairs than a big waterfall. There is no big drop off point, just many tiny cascades that drop off small ledges and tumble over rocks.

Stairs Gluch is a unique waterfall! (Spring)
Stairs Gulch–see the water coming down in stair like sections? (Fall)

The gulch is very steep and rocky, and the hike is more moderate, though our three year old made the uphill hike. Although the hike is a steeper climb, it is short (only .6 to where we turned around), and extremely beautiful, particularly in the fall when the leaves are red. We also enjoy this trail in the Spring when it is so green. The trail weaves through the trees, and we especially love the sheer granite walls, complete with mountain climbers, that tower all around.

The trail starts here and heads up the mountains.
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If you come to this huge shale slide shortly after you start your hike. you are in the right spot!
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The trail climbs steeply up toward the small waterfalls.
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One of the prettiest trails we have seen in the Fall.
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In the Spring the trail is very green. We almost lost sight of each other walking through the greenery.
The mountains loom over you as you hike along.

About 1/3 mile up the trail, you’ll begin to hear the waterfall off to your right. You can take any of a number of small trails through the brush to see the 1-6 foot cascades that continue up the canyon for another quarter mile. We love branching off and checking out all the different little waterfalls along the way. You might need to rock hop every so often, but most of the falls can be seen without getting your feet wet. If you’re feeling agile, you can leave the trail permanently and rock-hop up the creek following the cascades.

There are little trails that branch down to the river.
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One of the small falls we branched off to see.
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Another falls that we found on the hike.

Our boys love this trail because it definitely offers more opportunity for exploration. They love being able to be near the river and the falls. It’s a great spot to throw rocks, float sticks, spot bugs, and have fun. Stairs Gluch is the perfect hike for the adventurous family.

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The hike is great for adventurous boys.
There are lots of spots for throwing rocks, which is our boys’ favorite past time.
We love exploring on the Stairs Gulch trail.

The total roundtrip is around 1.3 miles. We always turn around after we reach the large section of Stairs Gulch, but the trail does continue on further. If you have ever explored further, leave a comment and let us know what happens on the trail.

This is where we turn around, when you have to cross the river to continue the trail.
The views are spectacular.
We crossed the river to take a few pictures, but we didn’t continue on the trail. You can see the trail heading up on there right there.
This is the large section of the Stairs Gulch trail.


To access the trailhead, drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon 2.8 miles to the Storm Mountain Picnic Area parking lot. Park directly across the street from the lot (there’s room for 2 or 3 cars). The trail starts there on the south (right) side of the road. If there is no room, you can drive another block up the road and park near the sign that explains storm mountain quartzite. There is a large parking area here.

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Watch for this sign, and then the parking area is right after.
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There’s room for a few cars, but there is extra parking further up. You can see it up in the top left corner.

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