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Southern Utah hike leads to enchanting waterfall

Updated June 18, 2019 - 2:10 pm

Set within a wide Navajo sandstone canyon, Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of the most stunning waterfalls in Utah.

Though the waterfall is your destination, the hike itself offers incredible scenery, including wetlands, beaver dams, prehistoric pictographs and granaries, and beautiful Calf Creek itself.

The trailhead is located in the Calf Creek Recreation Area’s campground, at an elevation of 5,346 feet. The hike is six miles round-trip but only moderately strenuous, as it has only a 190-foot elevation gain. It is also a safe hike for children who can handle the distance.

The hike follows Calf Creek intermittently, and in some areas if you look close you can see brown, rainbow and brook trout. As you get closer to the falls you might find beaver dams that have formed small ponds and marshy areas that support cattails, reeds and river birch.

Wildlife in Calf Creek Canyon includes mule deer, ground squirrels, porcupines and mountain lions. Birds you might see here include wild turkeys, hummingbirds, spotted towhees, peregrine falcons and robins.

Be sure to bring your binoculars for a better view of the pictographs painted in red pigment on the sandstone cliff face on the far side of the canyon. They appear to be warriors of some sort and are a good representation of Fremont-style rock art.

The ancient Fremont culture inhabited Utah from AD 700 to 1300. It is thought that they farmed this canyon, growing corn, beans and squash and harvesting the pinyon pine nuts found in abundance here. You might see the two granaries on the cliffs above the trail. They were used to store food and seeds.

About half a mile before reaching the falls you will hear them even before you see them, as the trail at this point is canopied by mature deciduous trees, primarily box elder.

Once out from under the canopy, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the waterfall and large pool beneath. On the cliffs beside the waterfall you will see water-loving plants growing out from nooks and crannies. Look for maidenhair fern, scarlet monkey flower and Easter flower.

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