Our latest waterfall adventure was up Big Cottonwood Canyon. We’d heard of a small waterfall just off the road called Hidden Falls. We paired that short walk with a more difficult hike to another cascade called Stairs Gulch. Stairs Gulch is much different than any falls we’ve seen. It is more like, well, stairs than a big waterfall. There is no big drop off point, just many tiny cascades that drop off small ledges and tumble over rocks.
The gulch is very steep and rocky, and the hike is more moderate, though our three year old made the uphill hike. Although the hike is a steeper climb, it is short (only .6 to where we turned around), and extremely beautiful, particularly in the fall when the leaves are red. We also enjoy this trail in the Spring when it is so green. The trail weaves through the trees, and we especially love the sheer granite walls, complete with mountain climbers, that tower all around.
About 1/3 mile up the trail, you’ll begin to hear the waterfall off to your right. You can take any of a number of small trails through the brush to see the 1-6 foot cascades that continue up the canyon for another quarter mile. We love branching off and checking out all the different little waterfalls along the way. You might need to rock hop every so often, but most of the falls can be seen without getting your feet wet. If you’re feeling agile, you can leave the trail permanently and rock-hop up the creek following the cascades.
Our boys love this trail because it definitely offers more opportunity for exploration. They love being able to be near the river and the falls. It’s a great spot to throw rocks, float sticks, spot bugs, and have fun. Stairs Gluch is the perfect hike for the adventurous family.
The total roundtrip is around 1.3 miles. We always turn around after we reach the large section of Stair Gulch, but the trail does continue on further. If you have ever explored further, leave a comment and let us know what happens on the trail.
To access the trailhead, drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon 2.8 miles to the Storm Mountain Picnic Area parking lot. Park directly across the street from the lot (there’s room for 2 or 3 cars). The trail starts there on the south (right) side of the road. If there is no room, you can drive another block up the road and park near the sign that explains storm mountain quartzite.