Bells Canyon, is located near Salt Lake City, Utah, high in the Wasatch Mountains, just southeast of the city limits. This particular canyon is the start of the Little Cottonwoods area, which includes iconic ski resorts like Alta and Snowbird. This whole area is within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
The Bells Canyon trail is located about 20 miles (~25 minutes) south of Salt Lake City in the town of Sandy.
There are three main trailheads for the Bells Canyon trail. The Boulders Trailhead, and the Granite Trailhead are smaller than Preservation Trailhead. Regardless of which one you park at, the total hiking distance doesn’t change much. Boulders and Granite have about a dozen parking spaces, while Preservation has probably double that.
|Preservation Trailhead||3400 Little Cottonwood Rd, Sandy, UT 84092|
|Granite Trailhead||3450 Little Cottonwood Rd, Sandy, UT 84092|
|Boulders Trailhead||10245 Wasatch Blvd, Sandy, UT 84092|
The Bell Canyon Trail is very popular, so these parking lots fill up fast. Expect crowds on holidays and weekends, so get there very early. The trail “opens” at 7am, so try to get a spot before that. The Boulder parking lot does not have restrooms or picnic areas. Meanwhile, the Granite and Preservation trailheads do.
For my money, I would try to find space at Preservation, then try Granite next, and Boulders last. Like I said before, the total hiking distance won’t change much, but it is always nicer to have a restroom nearby if you need it. Worst-case scenario, you can park at the nearby GK Gilbert Geologic View Park, and walk the couple of hundred feet to the Preservation trailhead.
Hiking the Bells Canyon Trail
For this review, I started at the Preservation Trailhead. If you instead start at Boulders, or Granite, your first 10 minutes may be a little different than mine. All three trailheads become one right before the Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir.
|Hiking Distance||4.6 miles (to Lower Falls)|
|Elevation Change||1,453 ft|
|Route Type||Out and Back|
Once passing the reservoir, the trail circles around until you cross Bells Canyon Creek via a bridge. After that, you’ll pretty much follow the creek the rest of the way.
As for the difficulty level, it changes as you get further down the trail. The trail is more of a moderate level for the first two miles, with plenty of shade and a gradual incline. However, it then becomes quite hard the last half mile or so as you approach the Lower Falls. You’ll find yourself scrambling over very steep terrain, littered with slippery rocks and small boulders right before the waterfall.
Hiking one direction can take about 2 hours, so plan on 4-5 hours for the entire out-and-back trip.
The trail was set in parts, so come prepared for that. The only good thing about hiking this after a rainfall is that the waterfalls will be stronger than normal! AllTrails lists the best months to visit this trail as June through October.
After reaching the lower falls, you can either continue up a little further to the Upper Falls, or turn around. We turned around as it was already a long day, and we still had about a 2 hour trek back to the car ahead of us.
Overall, the trail was worth it, despite the challenges towards the end leading up to the waterfall.
Edit: I just realized that the trail/area is actually called Bell Canyon, and not Bells Canyon. Whoops…