Roark Bluff is a popular spot for photographers. It's easily accessible, beautiful, and tends to have a variety of different lighting in the early mornings as the sun rises and reflects off the rocky bluff. Many an outstanding photo has been shot here.
Last fall, my wife bought me a spot in a Tim Ernst Photo Workshop (thank you Michelle!). I was super excited to take the course. I've enjoyed Tim's photography for years, and his hiking guides have been an invaluable resource as we've hiked the trails and waterfalls in Northwest Arkansas. So I was eager to learn some photography skills -- and in addition, enjoyed hearing some great stories and getting to meet someone who's words have inspired many a person to hike the Ozarks (including me).
And, I decided that as much as I love hiking the area, learning a few skills and tricks that would increase my odds of getting a good photo or three to share was well worth the investment for the course.
This picture was one of the early ones I took as the sun was barely rising and is one of my favorites that I took from the morning shoot. I love the stillness of the water, the reflections, and the hint of the beautiful day that is coming.
The Nars is one of those places that people photography a lot, but finding directions on how to get to the area are a bit more challenging. And because the "easy" way to get there requires crossing the Buffalo River it can be a bit intimidating.
However, on a really nice fall day this past October, we decided to go check it out. These two places are really unique places along the Buffalo River and truly worth checking out.
The Nars is essentially an area of bluff that over the years was eroded away by the Buffalo River on the West and Richland Creek on the East. While Richland Creek has moved a bit away from the bluff over the years, the bluff remains, leaving a super-interesting narrow area of bluff that can be crossed on foot and offers pretty amazing 360 degree views of the middle part of the Buffalo River valley.
While in the area, you'll definitely want to also check out Skull Bluff -- an interesting area of bluff along the river that appears as if the eyes of a skull are looking out from the water. Both use the same trail for a bit so we'll start at the same trail head and then take both trails.
The trail begins in Woolum along the Buffalo River. To get to Woolum, take Highway 65 to the Community of St. Joe (24 miles South of Harrison). In St. Joe, turn WEST onto State Highway 374 (There is a sign to Woolum pointing the way). After 1 mile the road turns slightly to the right and becomes gravel -- this is Searcy Highway 14. Follow this 5.6 miles to Woolum. There is a large parking area, a sign, and a pit toilet on your right - park here.
From the parking area, continue straight down the road toward the river on foot. At .2, the road reaches the river. As you look at the river, upstream is to your right, downstream to your left, and then there is another large creek that connects on the other side of the river: That is Richland Creek.
The best place to cross is about 100 yards upstream from where Richland Creek connects with the Buffalo River. Be sure not to cross downstream from where Richland Creek enters the Buffalo - otherwise you'll have to cross it too! The river levels were pretty low the day we went so crossing was relatively easy.
Note: If the water level is high and you cannot see the bottom DO NOT attempt to cross. This is a wild river and could be very dangerous at high river levels.
Once you cross the Buffalo River, the trail follows the river upstream for a few hundred yards and then curves to the left higher up on the river bank and then curves to the right. This is easy to follow and is actually a jeep road. If you have a 4WD and conditions are right you can drive right up to the base of the Nars. But it's a scenic and easy hike so I recommend just hiking it.
The trail follows this road the rest of the way and this is actually miles 164-165 on the Ozark Highlands Trail. You can actually drive in on this road from the south and the Richland Wilderness area also.
After crossing the river, the trail goes another .4 before hitting a wilderness sign.
At the sign, the main trail continues straight and follows along a bluff line. There is also a spur trail to the right that heads out across a pasture. That spur trail goes to Skull Bluff. We'll come back to it later.
To get to The Nars, remain on the main trail for another .8 miles. At this point, look to your right for a dip in the bluff height. At its lowest point, there is a "trail" that leads up to the ridge. You'll have to scramble up to The Nars here.
From the Nars, you'll get a beautiful view of both the Buffalo River and Richland Creek valleys. It's a great spot to sit for a snack, relax, and enjoy this vast world we live in.
As with all bluffs in Arkansas, be very careful as it is a very narrow bluff and it can be a long, steep fall in many places, so exercise caution.
When you are finished, hike back the way you came. Along the way back, you may see a couple of other trails that lead up to the bluffs -- feel free to explore -- there are many great views to be had from atop the bluffs.
The trail head and initial trail for Skull Bluff are the same as for the Nars. However, once you get to the wilderness sign, take a RIGHT along a spur trail that heads out across the pasture.
This trail follows through this pasture most of the way. At one point you'll pass the Hamilton Cemetery - -which is small, old, and not maintained.
The trail continues through the pasture with river bluffs off in the distance. Unlike the trail to the Nars, this is not a maintained trail so it is really rough in places and at times will have a lot of thorny vines. I'd highly recommend not doing this in the middle of the summer or without long pants on.
After approximately 1 mile from the sign, the trail heads down the hill into some trees and comes out at the Buffalo River. Skull Bluff is just upstream from here (to your left).
The best way to see Skull Bluff is to cross the river here (again, be VERY careful at river crossings and do not cross during high water) and turn left along the shore until you come to Skull Bluff.
Very impressive indeed!
When you've enjoyed the bluff, you can head back across the river and back the way you came.
Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult. The trail is flat and mostly easy. However, the combination of the need to wade across the Buffalo River and the scramble up to the Nars make this a bit challenging.
Footwear: Trail shoes or hiking boots are great. Bring some water shoes for the river crossing if you don't want to hike with wet feet.
Trail Guide: Tim Ernst's Nature Lover's Guide
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Distance: 3 miles round trip. Or, add 2 miles to above to hike to both places
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult. There isn't much elevation change here either, but there are two water crossings to get there which ups the difficulty significantly.
Footwear: Trail shoes or hiking boots, and again, water shoes for the water crossings
Trail Guide: Tim Ernst's Nature Lover's Guide
Star Rating 4 out of 5
Other trails in the area: Buffalo River Trail; Woolum to Highway 14, Ozark Highlands Trail toward Richland Creek Campground, and Tyler Bend Trails and Gilbert Area Trails are also nearby
I've seen pictures of the Red Bluff Overlook for many years but few people attempt to provide directions to this unique spot. Red Bluff (which isn't really all that red) is an interesting spot along the Buffalo National River where the river makes a dramatic horseshoe curve that allows you to look both up stream and downstream at the same time. It's a dramatic view that is pretty easy to get to but I think I see why people don't promote it a lot -- because it has the potential to be a pretty dangerous.
To get there, go to the small community of Gilbert along the Buffalo National River. Gilbert is a bustling little river stop during the height of floating season and is just downstream from Tyler Bend. Most of the buildings here date back tot he early 1900s - -and it's just 3 miles off of Highway 65.
When you get to Gilbert, there is a "T" intersection at the General Store. Turn LEFT at the General Store onto Osborne Road (the road to the right leads down to the River). Drive up the hill for a couple of miles (road turns to gravel just as you leave town), turn RIGHT onto Tomahawk Slab Road and follow it for a little more than a mile and then turn RIGHT onto Mercy Road. There is no sign for Mercy Road, but it's a pretty large triangle intersection so easy to spot. Go for about 3/4 of a mile down Mercy Road (stay left at the V) and there is a spot where the road dips down and then there is a fairly large pull-off parking area on the right. Park here. This is a pretty good road for a gravel road and we made it easily in our 2WD vehicle.
From the parking area, there is a little trail that leads a bit down the hill to a couple of different overlook areas -- both only a few yards from the parking area.
WORD OF WARNING. There is a lot of loose gravel at the overlook area and the only thing between you and a 200 foot fall is an old Cedar Tree. If you choose to go here; like many of the bluffs along the Buffalo River, be VERY careful.
This is an exceptional little spot and one we plan to get back to during the spring and fall color seasons.
The Ozarks were tough frontier for the early settlers. Rugged terrain and dense woods made travel difficult. And, like all settlements, water was of the utmost importance. And thus, many of the early settlements exist on some of Arkansas's most prominent waterways as water was necessary for life, travel, and in some cases, power.
Thus is the case of War Eagle Mill. War Eagle Mill is an historic (ish) Grist mill that sits along War Eagle Creek in Benton County (near Rogers and Beaver Lake).
The mill history dates back to 1832. The first version of War Eagle mill was flooded by a heavy rain season in 1848. The second version of the mill was destroyed by Confederate Troops who burned the mill to the ground to prevent Union soldiers from using it in 1962 just prior to the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Mill was rebuilt after the war in 1865, but then burned down again in 1924.
The current mill was built in 1973, and was built to historic specifications based on the blue prints of the third mill. War Eagle Mill is the only working mill in Arkansas -- and though only 40 years old, visiting is like stepping back in time to the days when this would have been a major food provider for the region. You can read a more detailed version of the history here.
The mill consists of three floors - the first has demonstrations of the grist mill in action and includes many food products for purchase that are ground at the mill. The Second floor features a lot of arts and crafts for sale and the third floor features a restaurant. We ate breakfast at the restaurant and it featured mill-made biscuits and gravy, eggs, pancakes (made from a variety of different types of milled grains), hashbrown casserole, bacon and sausage -- and everything was quite tasty.
Outside the mill you can explore the mill grounds, walk across the narrow, one lane, historic bridge built in 1908, and enjoy watching the mill wheel and the small waterfall area along War Eagle Creek.
There are no hiking trails at the mill -- but there are many short and long trails at Hobbs State Park nearby.
We were fortunate to get the opportunity to see a waters snake that had caught a fish take his fresh catch UP the waterfall and enjoy his brunch on a sunny rock on the top of the falls.
To get to War Eagle Mill, take Highway 412 to Highway 303 (14 miles East of Springdale, and 13 miles west of Huntsville) and turn NORTH onto Highway 303. War Eagle Mill is 8 miles down Highway 303 -- and you'll know you're there when you cross the narrow bridge.
This is a great place to spend the day for families, or to stop in while visiting nearby Hobbs State Park.
This is the last (at least for awhile) in a series of hikes that we've done in Utah. While this blog will continue to focus on hiking and places in Northwest Arkansas, I suspect that most readers like hiking and the outdoors in general and would appreciate the posts. Or the photos.
Last month, we made a return trip to Utah, this time to Northern Utah and Salt Lake City. We didn't have a lot of time, but did want to take a day out to go hiking. Having never been to Salt Lake City, I didn't quite know what to expect. But, the hiking near Salt Lake City was...amazing.
After a fair amount of research, and a friend recommendation, we decided to take the hike to Cecret Lake (Pronounced"Secret"). We had heard the wildflowers in the area were legendary - -and that proved to be 100% true. I'll be posting a lot of pictures -- but they don't do the abundance and vibrancy of the wildflowers justice. All of these pics were taken with an iPhone.
East of Salt Lake City are three major canyon roads: Mill Creek Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon. All three go up into the mountains to the various ski resort areas in the area....all of which have a significant number of hiking trails during the summer. All travel pretty significantly up in the mountains -- which makes for cooler temperatures which we much appreciated on this July day.
The trail to Cecret Lake is near the resort at Alta. Alta approximately 11 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon Road -- which is the southern-most of the canyon roads.
During the busy season, unless hikers arrive really early, they'll be expected to park in a designated parking area at the Albion Base Area, and then take a shuttle bus up to the Cecret Lake Trailhead (as well as other trails in the area). The buses run approximately every 20 minutes.
The line was short so we opted to take the shuttle up to the Cecret Lake Trailhead -- and then hiked back down to our car from the Upper Albion Meadows Trail.
The trail takes off behind the parking area/shuttle drop-off point. There are some pit toilets here, and some potable water spigots as well. The hike takes off gradually up the hill with views in every direction of wildflowers and the surrounding mountains.
The trail climbs very gradually at first. It's a very popular trail, and well-maintained, so it's easy to follow. And, if I haven't mentioned the wildflowers, they are everywhere: purple, white, yellow, orange, pink - everything.
I will note here that although you can look for miles in any direction and just see natural beauty and amazement, this is a popular trail, so you will be sharing it with quite a few other people. If you're looking for peace and complete alone time, this probably isn't the best hike. But the trail is popular with good reason.
There are a couple of spur trails on the route up the hill. The one to the left is the Devil's Castle Loop - -a short 1.8 mile loop trail that is also shared with mountain bikes. The one to the right goes to an amazing vista.
After a little more than .6 miles hiking, the trail starts to ascend aggressively up a wildflower-covered hill. This is the final climb to get to Cecret Lake.
After a couple of switchbacks, at .75 miles the trail reaches Cecret Lake. It's a beautiful, clear, mountain lake.
There is also a trail that goes all the way around Cecret Lake so you can view it from all angles. It's worth taking the nice stroll and stopping to enjoy all of the views along the way.
I'd estimate the it to be roughly .5 miles hiking to loop around the lake (this is not an official trail distance).
When you've had your fill of Cecret Lake, you can head back to the parking area the way you came.
On our way back down, I explored the stream a bit along the Devil's Castle Loop - -it was a really pretty mountain stream with more amazing wildflowers.
When we arrived at the trail head, we made the decision to hike the trail back down to the Albion Base Area.
The Upper Albion Meadows Trail descends along the hillside through more amazing mountain views and wildflowers.
If you are an avid hiker, I'd definitely recommend making the hike back down to the Albion Base parking area vs taking the shuttle back down. It's a beautiful hike.
This is a magnificent area with a lot of trails -- and one I look forward to visiting again at some point.
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip to Cecret Lake. The trail around Cecret Lake is approximately .5 miles. The Upper Albion Meadows Trail (back to the parking area) is 2 miles each way. So you can make this a 1.5 mile hike, or up to a 6 mile hike if you hike the Upper Albion Meadows trail both directions.
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate. The trails are well-traveled and easy hiking. The Cecret Lake Trail has an elevation gain of 420 feet so there is some climbing. The Upper Albion Meadows Trail has an elevation change of 1100 feet -- so it would be quite a bit of climbing to hike it both directions.
Footwear: Hiking boots or trail shoes are preferred. Tennis shoes would work if that's all you have, but the trail is a bit rocky so not preferred.
Hiking Guide: They give out trail maps at the Albion Base Area entrance.
In our 9 day trip to Utah last fall, no hike surprised us more for its scenery than the Tom's Canyon hike. It was our first day in Utah, and we were in our hotel in Kanab, UT with about a 1/2 day to kill. We hadn't really planned on hiking that day after a long day of travel the day before and a late afternoon event scheduled, but it was a beautiful day and the mountains were calling, so we decided to get out and stretch our legs. Besides, a short hike to get accustomed to the altitude would probably serve us well.
After doing a bit of research, we decided to hike the Tom's Canyon Trail. The trail delivered a fantastic hike through a box canyon filled with great views and wildflowers -- we were shocked that such a great hike existed right in the community of Kanab.
Getting to the Trail Head:
Take Main Street from the intersection of Center and Main (literally in the heart of Kanab) and then turn RIGHT onto 300 North. Go 4 blocks and enter the La Estancia Subdivision. Turn right at the waterwheel and then park along Ladera Street. There is a trail head kiosk on the south side of the street at the curve. This is less than 1 mile from the center of town.
The trail starts off up the hill a bit and heads toward "K-Hill". In many mountain towns, it's common to put the first letter of the town name high up on a mountain overlooking the city, and in this case, "K-Hill" is the hill that that has Kanab's "K".
After just 100 yards or so, the trail splits. The trail to the right is the K-Hill Trail, which is a nice trail in its own right. It's smooth, well traveled, and offers great views of the community of Kanab. Tom's Canyon Trail forks to the LEFT.
The trail turns around the back of the subdivision and relatively close to the rooftops of the houses. However, quickly the trail reaches the back of the subdivision and heads into the canyon beyond. After a short ways, the trail crests over a ridge and the view into Tom's Canyon with little sign of civilization.
The trail drops down the hill and continues through this valley -- with hills on all sides blocking the views of the community of Kanab. So while at this point the trail is less than 1/2 mile from the city, it feels like it's much further away.
This was our first time to the area, and we were really surprised by the beauty of the wildflowers in the desert. Yellow, purple, white and orange wildflowers covered the landscape making for just a peaceful scene.
While the trail itself seems well-traveled, we were the only ones on the trail on this Saturday afternoon in September.
The trail continues deeper into the canyon as the canyon narrows.
There wasn't a lot of wildlife on the trail, but we did manage to find this new friend.
After a good distance, the trail crosses a dry creek bed. This, no doubt becomes quite the gully during major rain storms. As with anywhere in southern Utah, be aware of the weather conditions, because these valleys are prone to flash-flooding and they can rise IN A HURRY. So cognizant of weather conditions.
Shortly after crossing the creek bed, there is another trail head. The trail to the left (that quickly heads UP the hill) is the Cliffs Trail. It runs up on the cliffs (get it?!) and high above the valley and connects with the Squaw Trail. The three can be hiked in tandem and form a nice loop trail -- we will definitely hike these three trails together next time.
We stayed to the right and went into the final stretch of Tom's Canyon. Here, the Canyon narrows considerably.
The trail passes a little picnic area and then goes a bit further into the canyon before the trail kind of runs out of steam at a "weeping rock" that has a bit of water seeping from it (and a fair number of wildflowers) during the wet season. It was at this point that we decided to turn back, although I suppose the more adventurous might do some bolder hopping up into the canyon. As we were short on time, we opted to simply turn back here.
The trail then heads back the way we came in -- through the canyon and the various wildflowers.
The entire hike is approximately 3 miles round trip. There is a bit of climbing on the trail, but the starting elevation and ending elevation are only about 20 feet difference, so the climbing is minimal. This makes this a pretty moderate hike. The distance, lack of elevation change, proximity to town, and great scenery make this a must-hike if you are spending any length of time in Kanab as a part of your vacation.
Tom's Canyon Trail Details
Distance: 3 miles
Footwear: Trail shoes are fine
Guidebook - The Kanab visitors center has fantastic topographical maps of all of the area trails.
One of the biggest surprises to our trip to Utah last fall was an unexpected stop at Red Canyon. In planning our trip, Red Canyon was an area that I never really saw mentioned. There was only one page on the area in our 300 page travel guide, and barely a mention of it on any of the online planning tools. However, when we passed Red Canyon on the drive to Bryce Canyon, we knew we had to stop in and check it out.
Red Canyon is 14 miles WEST of the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance on Highway 12. We passed the area shortly after turning onto Highway 12 from Highway 89. We took a couple of photos from the highway on the way to Bryce Canyon, but saved time at the end of our day at Bryce to come back and check out a few of the hiking trails here.
You can't miss the Red Canyon, as the highway actually passes through two tunnels carved out of the rock here., and the red rock formations are definitely striking as you drive through.
Red Canyon also has a 9 mile long paved biking trail that looks like a magnificent place for riding.
We stopped back by the Red Canyon Visitors Center which is on the east side of the park. There is a nice visitors center here with water, restrooms and trail maps. While the Red Canyon area is quite large and also contains several horseback riding and ATV trails, the section nearest the visitors center has many family-friendly trails that are for hikers only. And with several trail options, it offers nine different trails that can be combined to form loops that range from .5 miles to 15 miles in length.
In spite of the proximity to the highway, and accessibility, the trails weren't terribly busy when we were there and the scenery was fantastic.
We started hiking on the west side of the visitors center on the Hoodoo Trail. The Hoodoo Trail is a .3 mile loop that goes through the valley through sagebrush, juniper trees and just below two large hoodoos that rest high on the hill that appear as if they are standing watch over the area.
All of the trails are well-marked and easy to follow, and most near the visitors center don't stray very far from the highway, so you can usually avoid any fear of getting lost by knowing where the highway is at all times.
After a short distance, the Hoodoo trail turns to the right and forks. To the left is the Birdseye Trail -- that runs high along the bluffs further west for approximately .8 miles or the Hoodoo Trail continues back to the right. We remained on the Hoodoo trail.
After another short distance, the trail forks again. At this fork, the Hoodoo Trail stays to the right in the valley area and heads back to the visitors center. However, to the left is the Pink Ledges Trail.
The Pink Ledges Trail is a .4 mile trail that runs from the Hoodoo Trail about 200 feet up into the red cliffs, and then back down to the parking area by the visitors center. We turned LEFT here and took the Pink Ledges Trail.
After the climbing on the trail, it provides some spectacular views back to the hoodoos and the valley below.
The "Pink Ledges" name definitely was warranted.
A look back at the trail and the hoodoos.
Really, this was just a fantastic hike throughout. The trail was smooth and easy to follow, and even though there is a slight elevation gain, the trail seemed very family friendly.
The Hoodoo Trail/Pink Ledges Trail loop is roughly a .7 mile hike -- that was filled with incredible scenery and was the perfect spot after a busy hiking day for us. I'm surprised that this area isn't talked about more, because although it is overshadowed by Bryce Canyon just a few miles away, it is a great experience and would be a great entry point to hiking for a family with young kids or people new to hiking.
We'll definitely plan to spend more time here on our next visit to the area. We were pretty short on time after a busy day of hiking in Bryce Canyon and then heading down to Zion still that evening, but we are glad we made the time for our short hike here.
Red Canyon, Hoodoo Trail and Pink Ledges Trail Loop
At only 55 square miles (35,835 acres), Bryce Canyon is the smallest of our National Parks, however, it is also one of the most unique. Bryce Canyon is known for its Hoodoos; odd shaped rock formations left due to the erosion from wind and water.
And there is nowhere in the park that quite showcases these Hoodoos quite like the Bryce Amphitheater.
The Bryce Amphitheater is the heart of Bryce Canyon. You get there by going south on Highway 63 from Highway 12 and going through the main entrance into Bryce Canyon National Park. You will need to pay the entry fee.
Highway 63 is a 15 mile long road that runs through Bryce Canyon National Park and dead ends at Rainbow Point. It is the primary access road to the park.
From the park entrance, the road will pass the Bryce Visitor Center and after approximately 2 miles, there will be a turnoff for Sunrise Point. Find parking in the Sunrise Point area. There is a fantastic little general store here that will have almost any supplies you would want for the day.
After getting supplies, the trail will head up a paved path to Sunrise Point -- which features amazing views of the Bryce Amphitheater area. From here, there are dozens of options for trails and routes. One popular route is just to follow the Rim Trail that is a paved path along the entire Rim. It's 11 miles in total length, but the walk from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point is about 1 mile and lovely if you're not up for a hearty hike. There will be a lot of people here as this is a popular stroll for the tour bus crowds.
However, there is another popular loop that starts off at this Sunrise Point that travels down through the valley and offers amazing views of the heart of Bryce Canyon. The trail follows the Queens Garden Trail into the valley where it connects with the Navajo Loop and then climbs back up to Sunset Point -- and then follows the Rim Trail to the parking area. You can see the trail in the photo above - -and it's very easy to follow.
The trail heads down into the valley and winds in and out of a variety of hoodoo formations -- definitely giving hikers a different perspective of the hoodoos and the Amphitheater valley.
So, a quick note about photography in Bryce Canyon. It's a desert -- and there are limited trees and sun in abundant. In addition to the need to wear a lot of sunscreen, these conditions make photography a huge challenge. I highly recommend using a sun shade for your camera lens if you have one. Also, if you are really into photography and don't mind spending a little money, a good filter that can help filter out some of the light will be helpful as well.
Since I'm a better hiker than photographer, I had neither of these things which made it challenging to get some of the pics I wanted. It also created some challenging moments when I was shooting with one hand and holding my hat in the other to prevent sun spots. I also didn't end up with many good shots facing South.
I wouldn't feel too sorry for me though -- as I still ended up with hundreds of photos as it seemed that there were amazing views and incredible rock formations at almost every direction I turned.
The trail continues down into the valley. At one point it will intersect with the horse trail at the bottom, so it will be important to be sure you follow the main trail. There will be a lot of people on the main trail, so it was easy enough for us to follow.
Keep an eye out for the bristlecone pine trees - -some of which are up to 1600 years old!
Have I mentioned the really cool Hoodoos?
Once the trail intersects with the horse trail, the trail turns back toward the the rim - and a lot more cool views and hoodoos.
And even through a couple of tunnels.
After about 1 mile of hiking (yes, all of these photos are within a 1 mile hike -- did I mention it's scenic?) the trail arrives at the Queens Garden -- which a really relaxing place with a spectacular view of some of the most majestic rock formations in the valley. At Queens Garden, the trail has descended 357 feet into the canyon.
From the Queens Garden, take the Queens Garden Connector Trail as it flows further to the canyon floor.
This section of trail flows through tall pines that create nice shade and really interesting views of the hoodoos from the canyon floor.
As the trail reaches the canyon floor, it will eventually reach an intersection. This intersection is the connection to the Navajo Loop.
The section to the right goes up past a lot of rock formations, including the very popular Thor's Hammer. The trail to the left heads up through Wall Street. We chose to do the route through Wall Street.
The route through Wall Street goes through a high-walled canyon before hitting a series of switchbacks that climb 600 feet from the canyon floor to Sunset Point.
The 600 feet climb is a challenging one at 8,000 feet elevation, but the views are fantastic and Wall Street is visually stunning. Take your time climbing, and look back at what you have accomplished.
After making the accent. The trail arrives at Sunset Point. Take in the views of Sunset Point, and then follow the paved Rim Trail back to Sunrise Point and your vehicle.
Distance: 2.9 miles (600 foot elevation change down and then back up)
Footwear: Good trail shoes would be best, but tennis shoes would be fine
Rating: 5 out of 5 (this may have been our favorite hike out of all the great ones we did in Utah)
Most of my hiking time is in the Ozarks of Arkansas -- which features an amazing assortment of waterfalls. For all of the great scenery southern Utah has to offer, vast amounts of water in the desert isn't one of them.
So when there became an opportunity to do a waterfall hike in Bryce Canyon, we were definitely up for checking it out. The Mossy Cave hike is a very short hike (less than 1 mile) and a small 200 foot elevation gain, so it's a great trail for families with young children or people who can't hike long distances. This trail offers a lot for a small amount of effort.
The Mossy Cave Trail is in Bryce Canyon National Park -- but outside of the main area that most people visit and can actually be hiked without paying the park fee. To get to the trailhead, travel EAST on Highway 12 approximately 3.5 miles past the main park entrance. The road will go down a very steep canyon road and the trailhead (with toilets) will be on your right).
The trail begins in a small creek valley called the Tropic Ditch (or I've also seen it called Water Canyon) and past some of Bryce's famous Hoodoos. There are two different bridges that cross the creek.
The waterfall is actually visible from the second footbridge. The falls is roughly 25-30 feet tall and had a nice flow the day we were there in late September.
Just beyond the second bridge crossing, the trail splits. The path to the left goes to Mossy Cave, to the right, the top of Tropic Ditch Waterfall.
Mossy Cave isn't so much a cave as a rock shelter with a lot of moss growing in it. But it does offer the cooling temperatures of a cave which offered a nice respite on this hot day. Please stay on the trail and the overlook on this one to avoid trampling the delicate moss.
To the right leads to the top of Tropic Ditch Waterfall. While the area always served as a drainage during rainfall, in the 1890s, early Mormon settlers actually dug a trench to connect the drainage to from the East Fork of the Sevier River as a way to supply a consistent water supply to the town of Tropic. The drainage now runs year-around, although the "wet season" is May-October. Other than a short stop during the drought of 2002, the falls has flowed continuously for more than a century thanks to the work by these hard-working pioneers.
To get the the bottom of the falls, it's best to go back to the second footbridge and go down to the drainage at the bridge and then hike back up to the falls.
The total distance on this hike is 0.8 miles round trip -- so it's short, with a views of a cave, a waterfall and hoodoos which makes for a really nice, easy hike.