|Elevation Gain||581 ft|
|My Time||1 hr 25 min|
|Closest Town||Salt Lake City|
Hiking to Gloria Falls
Gloria Falls is a fun hike in the Little Cottonwood Canyon area near Salt Lake City. The hike has some water crossings and elevation and is best for moderately skilled hikers. I hiked in late June and the water was high and there was still a bit of snow so waterproof shoes may be helpful. Gloria Falls was also really rushing in late June making it hard to get too close without getting sprayed but it was amazing.
The hike to Gloria Falls starts off in a parking lot near the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The drive up through the canyon is pretty amazing. Once you get to the trailhead the trail starts through a grove of aspens before descending a bit. At about a tenth of a mile in you will come to a bridge to cross the Little Cottonwood Creek.
The water was really high when I crossed and the bridge was partially submerged. Once I crossed the water had swamped a bit of the trail as well. It wasn’t too bad to get onto dry ground but I can see times this all would be flooded out so be careful in the early seasons.
After the bridge, the trail stays flat for another tenth of a mile. The trail is wide and well defined and easy to follow (when it isn’t under water!) and the early part of the trail is pretty simple. At about a third of a mile the incline starts and stays with you the rest of the hike.
The Long Hill
When the elevation starts it is more of a consistent uphill than any really steep climbs. The next mile of the hike, which is a majority of the hike, has a grade of between about 5-19%. It is mostly in short bursts of steep and long gradual inclines. The trail is wide still and easy to follow so if you take your time you should be fine.
The best part of the long hill is that there is a lot of open views of the mountains on the other side of the canyon. The area has also had some recent avalanches and the downed trees can be seen from some of these open windows between the trees. It was really green and impressive and the views were amazing which led to many stops. Which also helped me catch my breath!
At just about the one mile mark of the hike you will come to the White Pines Fork. This creek was really high and moving rapidly down the mountain. Luckily, you don’t have to cross it here and the trail to Gloria Falls is through the rocks that are near the Fork. Don’t go up the road from here, like I did, as that will take you away from the falls.
The Upper Third
As you make your way up from the first sighting of the White Pines Fork you will soon have to cross the water but at this point of the trail there is a bridge. The bridge is made of a log and is relatively easy to cross but there are no hand rails.
After the bridge, there was a lot of snow everywhere and I actually got a bit lost. The trail was covered and there were footprints leading in every direction and I followed the wrong ones a bit. When I finailly found the trail it wasn’t really the trail but it was the snow that was heading in the right direction so I followed along.
The snow led right next to the river and as I got closer to the falls the trail did finally reveal itself. The water was moving really fast and the river was melting everything around the edges that it touched. I was able to follow along the dirt path that led to the falls and it was nice to finally find it after being a bit lost in the snow.
Gloria Falls isn’t the tallest waterfall, only about 50 feet, but it is impressive. When I went in late June, the water flow was so powerful I could feel the spray from about 50 feet away. The water raced down the tight canyon and bounced off rocks with an aggression unmatched. It was fascinating and awesome in the power of the water.
I stayed up at the falls for longer than usual. I just couldn’t get past the power that was coming down and battering the canyon walls. The sound was deafening. I could barely talk to people just a few feet away. But it was magnificent and beautiful at the same time and something I really enjoyed.
The whole hike was enjoyable. The power of nature was on display all around and it was one of the more enjoyable hikes I have been on. The mix of mountain views, aspen and pine, high water all led up to the ultimate finish, the power of Gloria Falls.
Video of the hike to Gloria Falls
I have put this time-lapse video together of the hike to Gloria Falls so other hikers can get a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get the latest outdoor content.
Elevation and Distance
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby. Plus, it gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 2.81 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 581 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 8,183 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hour and 25 minutes.
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The hike to Gloria Falls is a consistent uphill climb that has its challenges with the elevation. However, the trail is mostly wide and easy to handle which even’s out the steady but moderate elevation gain. I am going to list this as a moderate hike.
The trail is really well used and well defined and for the most part it is pretty easy to follow. There was still a lot of snow on the ground in late June when I hiked this trail. The snow blocked most of the trail up by the falls and made navigating a bit challenging. It also led to post holing so depending on the time of year could lead to different terrain challenges. There is a good amount of tree cover which helps with some nice shade on the hike and a couple of bridges that lead over water.
Access for Gloria Falls
The Gloria Falls trailhead is located just before you get to the Alta Ski Area on Little Cottonwood Road. There is parking for about 15 cars and vault toilets are available at the trailhead.
Wrapping up the hike to Gloria Falls
I really liked this hike. The incline was a bit challenging but had plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view. Being the wet season there was water in several places on the trail and the water was at a really high point which was really enjoyable. The hike itself was short enough to not wear me down but difficult enough to feel like I got a little workout.
The falls were great and had so much power behind them. It was fascinating to see all of the water fly over the edge and compress down into the small canyon. I have seen a lot of waterfalls and this might have been the most powerful in such a small confined space. Overall, a really enjoyable hike that will be good for most people.
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