|Trail head at Little Cottonwood Rd.|
The Salt Lake Valley boasts many hiking trails close to the city. The proximity to the mountains literally means minutes to beautiful hiking trails. Bells Canyon Trail at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is not only popular during summer but winter as well
The trail is accessed through two trail heads, one at approximately 10245 So. Wasatch Blvd. and the other at 3388-3398 E. Little Cottonwood Rd. I started from the Little Cottonwood Rd. trail head and parked in the lot. In the winter, parking is not a problem but the lot fills up fast during the summer, especially on weekends.
The trail begins with a steady, moderate climb with a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Vally along the way. About .7 miles from the trail head is Bell Canyon Reservoir. This is a watershed area and storage area for Sandy City, thus dogs are not allowed on the trail. Don’t even try to sneak in a hike with your dog. It is clearly marked and you risk getting a ticket.
|Bells Canyon Reservoir|
After crossing the footbridge, the trail gets steep and rocky so be prepared with the right footwear. During the summer, the trail is marked with cairns but in winter, it is trickier to follow. It does follow the stream and is traveled enough even in winter.Previous hikers leave enough prints in the snow to find it.
The Lone Peak Wilderness sign is a good indicator you’re heading in the right direction. By this point, the trail becomes steep, rocky and slippery if traveling in winter or early spring. In fact, I would recommend good hiking boots with a set of microspikes for this portion of the trail if winter hiking. A good pair of hiking poles made a huge difference for me as well. I saw hikers sliding down on their butts as the trail was too slippery to walk on without spikes.
The last part of the trail to the lower falls is strenuous, though the trail is rated as moderate. I had never been to the lower falls before and it can be tricky during the winter as the roar of the falls is absent. There is a large pine tree off to the left of the trail and a steep decline toward the falls. During the spring, the runoff can make the area in and around the falls treacherous. In winter, the ice can pose a danger as well so I don’t recommend hiking across the falls. People have fallen to their deaths doing so.
The round trip to the lower falls is about 4 miles. The trail does continue on to the upper Bells Canyon reservoir and to the upper falls. This is a about a 9.5 mile out a back trail that many use as an overnight trip in the summer. The trail to the upper falls is steep and rocky and takes longer to hike than many anticipate. I did not venture onto the upper part of the trail but will this summer.
The scenery of the sheer gray cliffs and views of the valley are spectacular. The rock walls are popular for climbers as well.
Bells Canyon is a must see hike for those who live in or are visiting the Salt Lake City, Utah area.
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