We found a gorgeous new waterfall right in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The hike is relatively short and easy, and the payoff is great, at least in the wet year of 2019 when we visited. Gloria Falls plunges over 50 feet down a nicely tiered, wide curtain. Best of all, you can stand right in the spray at the bottom on a hot day.
- Distance: 2.3 miles RT
- Difficulty: moderate
- Elevation change: 500 feet
- Location: Little Cottonwood Canyon
- Tips: Part of this trail requires a little bushwhacking, so be prepared with good shoes.
Gloria Falls shares a trailhead with Red Pine Lake and White Pine Lake Trailhead. There is a rather larger parking area with restrooms 5.3 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon on the right (south) side of the road. It is not a pullout, but you have to turn into a parking lot.
All three trails start behind the restroom as one trail. They won’t separate for about one mile. Follow the trail down to the bridge at the foot of the hill and cross the creek.
From the bridge, the trail climbs at a gradual slope for about one mile. It’s rocky and not wheel friendly at all, but there is a lot of shade, even in the middle of the day. You can’t possibly lose the trail, either, as it is wide and well-traveled.
After one mile the river comes into view and there is a junction. This part can be a bit tricky, but there are signs to help. The most obvious trail nearly doubles back on the way you’ve been traveling. This is the White Pine Lake Trail, which is a much longer hike. Right behind the wood sign, and close to the river a narrower, steeper trail climbs the hill. It’s called the Red Pine Lake Trail, and that is the one to follow.
The Red Pine Lake Trail runs for about a tenth of a mile before coming to a long footbridge that spans the creek. It’s a beautiful spot to take a few pictures. As you stand on the far end of the bridge, look down the trail for a tiny second bridge, which is really a few boards helping you step across a wet spot. The turn off to Gloria Falls lies between the large and tiny bridge.
It isn’t a very clear or obvious trail, and it’s only about 5 steps after the large bridge crosses the river. You have to wind your way through a tree or two, but it is easy to see other hikers have come this way. From this junction, it’s only about 100 yards to the waterfall, but it’s a difficult 100 yards. The trail isn’t clear, and many ghost trails head off in different directions. Some people have even tried to reach the waterfall from the north side of the creek, which is a mistake.
Our advice is to stay close to the river at first, but eventually find an easy way up the hill to the right. There are several paths, though it is steep, and little ones will need to be closely watched. Just remember, you can’t miss the falls as long as you walk along the creek.
This is our new favorite hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s tucked back in the trees, and you’ll need to do some adventurous hiking to find it, but it is by no means a secret as we saw several dozen other hikers along the way. Check it out and tell us what you think! For other great waterfall trails, visit our Easy Waterfall Hikes in Utah.