Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bell Canyon – To The Lower Falls

Bell Canyon (also referred to as Bells Canyon) is a beautiful, somewhat difficult hike up the mountains above Sandy. I decided that Bell Canyon is to Little Cottonwood Canyon, as Ferguson Canyon is to Big Cottonwood Canyon. As in they are both smaller canyons just south of the much larger canyons.

To get here take i15 to the 9400 s exit. Take 9400 s east several miles to Wasatch Blvd (approximately 3000 e). and turn right. Go a few blocks and at about 10250 s you will see a very packed parking lot on the east side. Find a spot and begin the hike. If you can’t find a spot there is an alternate trailhead north on 94th and above Wasatch. The trail is a little longer, but easier from my understanding.


The trail begins below a neighborhood and follows the road for a little ways.


Then it steeply climbs the mountains.




There are a ton of wildflowers up here!


Before long you will hit a bridge. The already steep trail now gets even more steep.


The creek is raging!


More wildflowers. I haven’t seen this particular shade before.


Very rocky trail so far.


Nice view up the canyon. I love when everything is so green!

Bell Reservoir

A half mile later we have reached the lower reservoir. This is probably one of the prettiest reservoirs we have visited. Amazing view!




A view up Bell Canyon.


The wind blowing across the water.


Great view of the valley below.


Another shot of the canyon. I am pretty sure you can see the waterfall we are heading towards in the center there.

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Quick crop job. Still not able to confirm, but I am fairly certain it is the waterfall. I need to return with my telephoto lens to try and get a better shot of it. (more on this later)


Going around the reservoir the trail is a nice wide and flat dirt road.


Keep an eye out for this small signed trail split off the road. The sign at the trailhead says Bell Canyon. This one says Bells Canyon. Even the signage is confused as to which is accurate.



Before long the trail flattens out and you are out in a wonderful meadow filled with wildflowers of all sorts.







More flowers.


Fun tree tunnel.


And we reach the creek. It is really gushing! Luckily there is another sturdy bridge to cross here. This is a little short of halfway.


And then the trail gets a little more wild and lush.


Wild snapdragons with weird green ones. I am guessing these are just less mature?


More thin trail though the dense woods. I am just loving this.


This is cool, and kind of confirms the less mature theory. A few of these ones are kind of marbled green to pink. That’s cool.


I am not sure what these ones are, but they are pretty.


I love these signs.


Starting to get a little rocky again, and hitting the conifers.





The trail comes back near the creek again. At least this time of year, after the meadow you can hear it from most of the trail. It is really just gushing down the mountain, of course we have hit runoff season.


Pretty cliff faces above.


Nice little spring goes across the trail.


Rock in the woods.


Bent trees.


Next to the trees are a couple large boulders. This is about where the trails starts seriously going UP again.


Cliff faces. I think I am looking at what rock climbers refer to as the Bell Towers. I like the clever double entendre. Be sure to keep an eye out for Mountain Goats. We didn’t see any, but apparently they are common here.


Mountain bumble bee.




The trail gets really rocky, and I mean REALLY rocky, and seriously UP.


Pretty mixture of trees.


After quite a while of slowly climbing the boulder strewn trail, there comes a portion of the trail that is covered by a side spring. Luckily a few very helpful hikers let us know that shortly after this there is a major trail split, and if our goal is the (better) lower falls to be sure to take the left fork as there is not a sign. I was sure to pay it forward to people who asked us about it on the way down.



Pretty little spring.

I wish I had taken a picture of the trail split, but it really is like.. 20 feet after that spring. I know there is an upper falls, and an upper reservoir, but I don’t know how much further they are. Looking at the trail guide I used I would wager about another mile to the upper falls, and even another mile (at least) to the upper reservoir. The guide also said it is definitely more strenuous.


Nice view of the valley below.


So far the side trail out isn’t so bad.


Well that would be the waterfall behind the trees. In order to actually get a good view of it, we have to make our way down a pretty steep hillside.


Landis was a little more brave than I. I didn’t want anything to do with that ledge. Notice how muddy the hillside is there. The waterfall is seriously gushing, as you will soon see, way out over the edge and was producing quite the mist.





This waterfall is pretty damn impressive. The frustrating thing (which I believe is the cause of a couple accidents here) is that there really isn’t a good spot to view the whole thing. I would say this is probably 1/4th of it, the rest is hidden from view. Getting down below didn’t offer much more.


Look at the way it gushes out over those rocks. Such a powerful force of nature! Standing here is a little intimidating. It seems like it wouldn’t take much more for that water to plunge out even further and overtake the ridge you are standing on.


The best view of the first drop.


Landis hangs out on a boulder above the falls.


The mist was really intense! It was like being in a torrential rainstorm.

We then decided to continue down the really steep hill to see if there were any better views of the falls.


The Bell Towers.


Amazing view down the canyon.




Unfortunately there isn’t really a great place to get a full view of this cool waterfall. Maybe if the stream isn’t as high as it is there might be a safe place to cross? I donno, like I said there have been numerous accidents here so I would still be a little leery of doing so.


Better shot of the view down. This area is a large slab of granite that is a great place to rest and take in the views before you attempt to climb back up the steep slope.


Halfway back up looking at the impressive falls again.



A shot of the rest of the hill we need to climb back out of. There isn’t really a trail, you just have to figure the best way up/down.

And then of course after I complained about this, we ran into a guy with crutches and one leg climbing his way out of here. It really put some perspective on it. If he can do this, and heck the rest of the trail, who are we to complain about how tough it is? I didn’t talk to him (wish I had mustered the courage) but whoever you are, thank you for not only the change in perspective, but also for letting me know that whatever life hurls at you, if you are passionate about something, you can do it.

Well now is just the long climb down. I have to keep reminding me to not do my normal downhill pace. There are lots of boulders, and I am constantly looking around  so it is really easy to trip, or catch yourself. As always, I don’t ever want to be that guy on the news that had to be rescued so I try to be cautious.

As we reached the trail split that lead to the lower falls, or the upper falls we saw a young kid with a nasty cut on his leg, coming down from the upper trail. It looked like he was with a group so we thought nothing of it. He kept pace with us, and was pretty chatty but before long we realized the rest of his ‘group’ was gone. Finally Landis asked him if he was here with anyone? He said yes, and described an altogether different group we distinctly remembered being behind on the way up and we left them behind at the lower falls. Oh crap, man, they are still there! So we got him back with his group.

Moral of the story. A) The first aid kit we keep in the glove box is being moved to one of our hiking bags. I wish we could have covered his wound. And heck, who knows if we would have needed it up here. B) Parents, please, take your kids hiking! Instill an appreciation of nature early. However, know kids definitely have more energy than you. They will try to hike ahead. Set ground rules so they know not to get too far ahead of you. Particularly if you are unfamiliar with the trail, you never know how many splits there could be. Luckily this ended well, but it sure got me thinking about the dangers we don’t think about. He obviously hiked too far ahead, and missed the trail split, got hurt, turned around and then almost hiked all the way down with us! At least we could’ve taken care of his wound, but I can’t imagine the fear the family would’ve gone through if we hadn’t gotten him back to them.


Some more pretty woodsie shots.


I just liked the twin trees and the hole in the clouds.


More flowers.




Some more creek shots.

I thought we had gotten a late start but we continued to pass people heading up. Part of me wanted to warn them to be aware of time because this is definitely one hike I would not want to do in the dark.


Pretty blue flowers.


Another view up the canyon with some nice clouds.


Big spider… that appears to be carrying young. It’s interesting, I am actually pretty arachnophobic, but don’t really care when I see them on trails.


Back down to the trail.

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Some more wildflower shots on the way down.


And back down to the still packed parking lot.

Okay, I absolutely LOVED this trail, and I can’t believe we hadn’t done it before! It has everything! Luscious green mountains, waterfalls, a lake, and wildflowers. There truly is something for everybody here. It was a little tougher than most, with a little bit of “pucker power” as Landis mom would say. Again, I loved it, and it would be a perfect 10, but I am removing 2 for the crowd, the difficulty, and the confusion caused by inadequate signage.

squirrels 8 

As for difficulty. Boy this one was a bit tougher than I had anticipated. The first half mile to the reservoir was tough, then there is a great okay section, and then the last half mile or so was seriously UPhill and boulder strewn. For a 2.3 mile trail I guess that is not too bad, but it was a bit rough on these old bones. I would say this was a definite DR5 due to the long rocky parts, and the difficulty around the waterfall.

Dogs: Unfortunately this is watershed so dogs are definitely NOT welcome.

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