Utah

Desert Mirage: 15 Hikes to Utah’s Most Refreshing Waterfalls

by Mac Misseldine

utah waterfalls

Utah may be a giant desert, but it’s still got plenty of waterfalls for adventurous hikers to chase.

No matter where you are in Utah, it’s safe to say there’s a waterfall within driving distance. Sure, many of the epic falls are down south at Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon, but you may be surprised at the number of waterfalls you’ll find near Salt Lake County and Utah Valley.

The point is, whether you’re looking for a quick afternoon hike near the city or a weekend adventure to a National Park, the state has plenty of picturesque water features to keep you entertained.

Even better, most of those waterfalls are easily accessible on family-friendly trails (though there are a few tough trails for the advanced crowd that likes a challenge).

Our list of the best waterfalls in Utah isn’t intended to be comprehensive — there are a number of smaller waterfalls that didn’t make the cut but are still worth a day hike — but all of the falls you see here are guaranteed to please.

So, lace up your boots, grab your camera, and remember to share your adventures with the Territory Supply community by using the hashtag #FindYourTerritory when you post your trail photos to Instagram!

Calf Creek Falls

calf creek falls
Photo: Stefan Serena

Why you should go: Soak up the beauty of a 126-foot waterfall as you cool off in the swimming hole at the base of the falls.

  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 521 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

There are two sets of waterfalls along Calf Creek: Upper Falls and Lower Falls. The latter is the big crowd-pleaser, dropping over 100 feet along mineral-stained sandstone and surrounded by the iconic rock formations of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls leads past a couple of granaries, beaver dams, and a neat pictograph on the opposite canyon wall. Hikers — especially families with children — like to cool off in the swimming hole when they reach the waterfall, so bring your water shoes and swimming attire if you want to join the fun.

More Information: Visit Utah

Kanarraville Falls

Kanarraville Falls
Photo: GSEC

Why you should go: A bucket-list hike that winds through a picturesque slot canyon to a hidden waterfall that’ll leave you speechless.

  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 734 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Once the best-kept secret in Southern Utah, the Kanarra Creek Canyon Trail is an epic hydro-hike that follows Kanarra Creek through a slot canyon to a hidden waterfall. Bring your water shoes and prepare to get wet with multiple creek crossings and about four inches of standing water in the slot canyon.

In order to preserve the natural beauty of the trail and prevent damage from over-use, local officials issue a limited number of day-use permits to access the Kanarra Creek Canyon Trail. You’ll need to reserve a permit well in advance.

More Information: Hike St. George

Archangel Falls

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: One of the best — and most challenging — hikes at Zion National Park.

  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,305 feet
  • Difficulty: Hard

Archangel Falls is a photographer’s dreamscape, featuring picturesque cascades surrounded by epic canyon walls at the end of a natural subway carved by centuries of flash floods. It’s one of those rare hikes where the journey is as magnificent as the primary attraction.

That said, the Subway Trail through Zion National Park is a challenging trail that’s reserved for experienced hikers. The technical hike requires some climbing, rappelling, swimming and wading through submerged portions of the canyon, and plenty of slippery surfaces. You’ll also need to acquire a permit, so be sure to plan ahead.

More Information: The Subway Hiking Trail

Emerald Pools

emerald pools zion
Photo: Jack Miller

Why you should go: An easy hike to an epic desert oasis with picturesque waterfalls and pools.

  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 114 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

Emerald Pools is a bucket-list destination that deserves a spot on your Zion National Park itinerary. There are a multitude of trails and hikes around the pools, ranging from quick-and-easy strolls to steep, strenuous paths. Whichever path you choose, the end result is the same — a picturesque desert oasis that you’ll never want to leave.

Note: the Upper Emerald Pools trail suffered major storm damage in 2018 and is currently closed until further notice. Check the National Park Service website to see when the trail reopens. In the meantime, stick to the Lower Emerald Pools trail.

More Information: Emerald Pools

Stewart Falls

stewart falls
Photo: Scott Garner

Why you should go: A two-tier waterfall that’s over 200 feet tall.

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 646 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Arguably one of the most photogenic waterfalls in Utah, Stewart Falls is a local favorite that draws a sizable crowd when the snow melts. It’s located near the Sundance Ski Resort at Aspen Grove, an area that’s well-worth a day of exploring after you visit the falls.

Most hikers — especially families with young children — stop at the 80-foot overlook to soak in the view of Stewart Falls. Adventurous hikers may continue down to the base of the waterfall, where you can cool off in the stream and enjoy a better view of the falls up close.

More Information: Utah’s Adventure Family

Donut Falls

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: An easy hike to a unique waterfall that drops into a cave.

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 531 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

Looking for a waterfall that’s a little out of the ordinary? Check out Donut Falls, a waterfall that flows through a donut-shaped hole in the ceiling of a small cave. It’s a relatively easy hike with a big reward, though you’ll have to contend with the crowds that flock to Big Cottonwood Canyon for trails and sights like this.

Most people visit Donut Falls in the warmer months, but some locals say it’s even cooler in the winter when the falls freeze. The hike is more challenging in the snow and the road closure adds an extra mile each way, but at least you won’t have to deal with a crowded trail.

More Information: Utah Outdoor Activities

Bridal Veil Falls

bridal veil falls utah
Photo: Mac Misseldine

Why you should go: a paved trail that’s great for strollers and wheelchairs makes this an easily accessible crowd-pleaser

  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 114 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

It’s one of the most overused waterfall names in existence, but at least this one lives up to the hype. Bridal Veil Falls is the prime attraction in Provo Canyon, a two-tiered 600-foot waterfall that’s viewable from the highway that winds through the canyon.

Bridal Veil Falls is perfect for families with young children and aging hikers who prefer to stick to the bunny slopes. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, try climbing up to the foot of the falls for a closer look.

More Information: Explore Utah Valley

Fifth Water Hot Springs Waterfalls

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: Come for the picturesque waterfalls and stay for the relaxing hot springs.

  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 636 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Most people visit Fifth Water Hot Springs to soak in the natural hot tubs, and they’re pleasantly surprised to find several waterfalls that create an Instagram-ready backdrop. The first waterfall is just above the main pools, while the second (and arguably better) waterfall is just upstream.

The area carries the token smell of sulfur that comes with any set of hot springs, but the water is surprisingly clear. It’s a popular spot so expect a crowd, but there’s plenty of soaking space for everyone to enjoy themselves.

More Information: Fifth Water Hot Springs

Bells Canyon Lower Falls

Bells Canyon Lower Falls
Photo: Shaan Hurley

Why you should go: A beautiful reservoir and waterfall framed by towering granite peaks in the background.

  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,456 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Located just outside of the Salt Lake area in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Bells Canyon Lower Falls is a popular hike that draws crowds most mornings and weekends. The first and final quarter-mile stretches are pretty steep, so come prepared with proper footwear, plenty of water, and maybe a pair of trekking poles for extra stability.

The reservoir is beautiful with the mountains in the background, but the Bells Canyon Waterfall is the real gem on this hike. It’s best to visit over summer when the snow is melting for the best water flow.

More Information: Hiking Project

Provo River Falls

Provo River Falls
Photo: Mike Renlund

Why you should go: Enjoy a scenic drive on the way to a thundering set of cascades located just off Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.

  • Distance: less than 1 mile
  • Elevation Gain: none
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Provo River Falls are deceptively named, leading many adventurers to assume it’s located in Provo Canyon. The cascades are actually situated off Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, about an hour east of Provo Canyon.

While it’s a bit of a drive, the good news is that the scenic drive is almost as great as the destination. Pack a picnic to make a day trip out of it, or bring your rod and reel for some world-class fly fishing.

Provo River Falls is a short walk from the highway, so it might be a stretch to call this a hike. The falls have carved a natural staircase into the rock, creating a magnificent multi-tiered waterfall with a thundering water flow when the river’s at capacity.

More Information: Utah Outdoor Activities

Battle Creek Falls

Battle Creek Falls
Photo: Kazu Ayoyama

Why you should go: A family-friendly hike to a picturesque waterfall just outside of Pleasant Grove.

  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 450 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

Battle Creek Falls is a family-friendly hike that’s great for all ages and skill levels. For a more challenging adventure, continue past the waterfall for a lengthier hike. You’ll often find experienced climbers rappelling down the cliffs, so bring your climbing gear if you want to join the fun.

More Information: Utah’s Adventure Family

Timpanogos Falls

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: skip the crowds at Aspen Grove and visit the Upper and Lower Timpanogos Falls

  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 554 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Timpanogos Falls can’t compete with nearby Stewart Falls, but it’s a solid off-the-beaten-path option for hikers who want to avoid the crowds. It’s a relatively short hike with a decent elevation gain, and you’ll often find ice along the trail late into the summer.

Timpanogos Falls slows to a trickle in the fall, so it’s best to visit this waterfall during the summer when the snow is melting.

More Information: Utah’s Adventure Family

Scout Falls

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: A fairly easy hike to a nice little waterfall along the popular Mount Timpanogos Trail.

  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,089 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

You’ll run into Scout Falls on the way to the summit of Mount Timpanogos. Depending on the season and water flow you may find anything from a measly trickle to a magnificent cascade, so shoot for a summer hike if you want to see Scout Falls at its best.

Experienced hikers usually pause for a breather here on their journey to the top of Mount Timpanogos, while beginners and families can stop here and head back before the trail starts getting tough.

More Information: Utah’s Adventure Family

Adams Canyon Waterfall

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: An easily accessible trail with beautiful scenery, plenty of shade, and a 40-foot waterfall.

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,430 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Adams Canyon offers some spectacular scenery. Following the North Fork of Holmes Creek, the trail passes several smaller waterfalls on the way to the 40-foot Adams Canyon Waterfall.

Bring your water shoes and prepare to get a little wet as the hike requires some creek crossings. There’s also a natural wading pool where you can cool off at the base of the waterfall.

More Information: Utah Outdoor Activities

Mossy Cave Waterfall

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Why you should go: A quick and easy hike through the desert to a natural grotto and a small waterfall.

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 118 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

Located at the northern point of Bryce Canyon National Park, the Mossy Cave Trail offers a chance to see the park’s spires and hoodoos without climbing to the bottom of the amphitheaters. The family-friendly hike leads to a small waterfall and a natural grotto, both of which feature cool ice formations in the winter.

More Information: Mossy Cave Trail

Keep Chasing Waterfalls

Looking for more waterfall hikes? Check out our favorite waterfalls in Arizona, Colorado, and the Columbia River Gorge.

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