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YOUR ZION + SOUTHERN UTAH ADVENTURE

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11 Epic Waterfalls in Southern Utah

Finding waterfalls in the desert feels like some kind of magic! Rushing water is what carved out so many of the cool sandstone formations in the desert, but it still seems special to see the water running at full force in this dry environment. Experience a true desert oasis at one of the many incredible waterfalls in southern Utah.


The Top Waterfalls in Southern Utah to Explore

These epic waterfalls in southern Utah are my absolute favorites and are definitely worth exploring during your visit to Zion and greater Zion.

  1. Hidden Haven

  2. Kanarra Falls

  3. Emerald Pools

  4. Lower Pine Creek Falls

  5. Mossy Cave Trail

  6. Red Reef Trail

  7. Gunlock Falls

  8. Ashdown Gorge

  9. Water Canyon

  10. Cascade Falls

  11. Toquerville Falls

BONUS! Hellhole Canyon


The waterfall hikes in Utah range from super short trails to longer day hikes, and from flat, paved trails to rock scrambling adventures so you can see a waterfall no matter your hiking comfort level.


Girl standing in front of waterfall at Hidden Haven in Parowan

1. Hidden Haven

Hidden Haven is one of the awesome waterfalls in southern Utah, and at only 1.4 miles round trip, it’s pretty family friendly. But be aware that flooding has washed out parts of the trail and made it a little sketchier in places. We had to go a roundabout way last time I visited due to the flooding.


LOCATION

Hidden Haven is located off of UT-143 between the town of Parowan and Brian Head Ski Resort. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Zion.


LENGTH

1.4 miles round trip


TRAIL DETAILS

There’s a small parking area along the side of the road. At the trailhead, and from here, you’ll follow a creek along the road for a while along a mostly shady trail. Eventually the defined trail will disappear, and you’ll be hiking over rocks with a bit of minor scrambling. Keep an eye on your kids and be prepared to lend a hand in the tricky sections here.


Soon you’ll come across the unique sight of water flowing down the blocky, angular rocks here at Hidden Haven.


WHEN TO VISIT

This is one of the Utah waterfall hikes that you for sure want to visit in spring. It was going strong when we saw it, but the rest of the year it is usually just a trickle. This is a great hike to get away from the heat in Southern Utah because it is at a higher elevation.


Girls standing in front of waterfalls at Kanarra Falls

2. Kanarra Falls

Kanarra Falls is just so cool – and I mean that literally! The water can be quite chilly, but the setting in a slot canyon is incredible and dipping your feet is a nice break from the desert heat. While it used to be a hidden gem, it’s not so secret anymore, and now Kanarra Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in southern Utah.


Here’s an overview of what makes Kanarra Falls so special, but be sure to check out my full Kanara Falls post for even more in-depth info about this spectacular spot!


LOCATION

You’ll find Kanarra Falls in the small town of Kanarraville, UT, which is located just 15 minutes south of Cedar City and 1 hour northwest of Zion.


LENGTH

4.4 miles round trip


TRAIL DETAILS

This hike starts on a dirt road that soon becomes a dirt path next to a small stream…just a hint to let you know you’re headed to a waterfall. At some point, you’ll have to hike in the stream, and after a little over a mile you’ll reach a waterfall, but believe me, this is not the end of the trail…the really good stuff is still to come!


Keep going about 10-15 mins past that waterfall to reach the stunning slot canyon. Head through the slot canyon – take your time to take it all in! – and you’ll come to a waterfall with a ladder to climb up.


The ladder is intimidating and slippery, but it’s worth doing. Kids will definitely need some help with this part though! Go as far as you want to bask in the beauty before turning around and heading back the way you came to the trailhead.


PERMIT INFO

Permits are required to hike to Kanarra Falls, and they cost $12/person. Permits are limited to 150 each day, and popular spring and summer weekends sell out weeks in advance, so plan ahead. You can find out more details and purchase Kanarra Falls permits here.


WHEN TO VISIT

Summer is the best time to visit Kanarra Falls, but that means it’s also the most crowded time. Spring and fall are also good times to visit, but I would recommend bringing neoprene socks in those seasons, because that water really is SO cold!


Emerald Pools waterfall

3. Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools is an absolutely classic hike in Zion and one of the must-visit waterfalls in southern Utah. It’s always spectacular, but if you can catch it during a rainstorm, the falls are truly epic!


LOCATION

The Emerald Pools are located in Zion Canyon near the Zion Lodge (Stop 5 if you’re riding the Zion shuttle). You don’t need a permit for this hike, but you will need to pay the Zion National Park entrance fee ($35/vehicle) or use an annual parks pass to get here.


LENGTH

3 miles round trip to the Upper Pool, 2 miles round trip to the Middle Pool, 1.2 miles round trip to the Lower Pool


TRAIL DETAILS

Choose your own adventure at the Emerald Pools! The Lower Pool is an accessible hike on a wide, paved path that still offers great views of Zion’s rock formations from a green oasis. The trail to the Middle Pool is also paved, but it heads up a ridge, so it’s a little steeper. The views over the dropoff into the canyon are really cool.


To get to the Upper Pool, you’ll have to take a sandy, rocky path, but wow, is it worth it! Sheer cliffs surround the pool, and the waterfalls are amazing when they’re running.


WHEN TO VISIT

Spring will offer the most dramatic water flow, but fall is also a good time to visit Emerald Pools. You can actually do this hike year-round, but summers will be hot (go in the morning) and in winter, ice can make parts of the trail slippery and sections will often be closed. Bring Yaktrax with you in the winter. They may come in handy..


4. Lower Pine Creek Falls

Lower Pine Creek Falls is one of the best hikes in Utah with waterfalls to escape the crowds, because even though it is located in Zion National Park, it is one of the rare hikes the park doesn’t actually advertise.


LOCATION

To get to Lower Pine Creek Falls, drive up Route 9 from the Zion Visitors Center toward the Mount Carmel Tunnel. Pull over at a paved parking lot just before the switchbacks start – if you go over a bridge, you’ve gone too far.


You’ll need to pay the Zion National Park entrance fee ($35/vehicle) or use an annual parks pass to get to Lower Pine Creek Falls, but you don’t need a permit.


LENGTH

0.7 miles round trip


TRAIL DETAILS

Don’t let the short length of this trail fool you...this is not a simple, flat trail, so you’ll need to work a little to get to this waterfall! While the trail to Lower Pine Creek Falls starts as an easy to follow dirt trail, it soon becomes indistinct, and you might have to turn back a few times if you go the wrong way.


After the first small pool, I like to climb up the rock wall on the right side…look for the stacked boulders to help along the way. You’ll have to cross the stream and do some more scrambling, but eventually you’ll reach a nice sandy beach which is a perfect place to rest and have a snack before heading back.


Kids can certainly do this trail – and I’ve taken my kids on it several times – but this is not a flat, paved trail, so you and your family should be comfortable with some boulder scrambling and stream hopping.


WHEN TO VISIT

Lower Pine Creek Falls is flowing all year-round, so you can go anytime. But be aware that this area experiences flash flooding, so don’t go on this hike if it is raining up canyon or if rain is in the forecast.



5. Mossy Cave Trail

If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon, Mossy Cave Trail is a must-do. This is a short hike into the hoodoos with a little waterfall at the end.


LOCATION

Mossy Cave Trail is located in Bryce Canyon National Park. The trailhead is just off UT-12 on the north side of the park near the entrance, so it’s a quick stop if you don’t have time to venture farther. You will need to pay the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance fee ($35/vehicle) or use an annual parks pass to access Mossy Cave Trail, but you don’t need a permit.


LENGTH

0.8 miles round trip


TRAIL DETAILS

This trail follows Water Canyon, where you can see some of the famous sandstone spires that make Bryce stand out. You’ll have to make two stream crossings, which are generally easy to rock hop, but be careful when the water levels are high. After the second crossing, you’ll come to an intersection, and you’ll find the waterfall to the right. You can also go to the left to explore Mossy Cave itself.


WHEN TO VISIT

To see the waterfall, check out Mossy Cave in the spring or early summer when the runoff is at its highest.


6. Red Reef Trail

Red Reef Trail is the trail I did before I was even “outdoorsy”...and I take just about everyone who visits me here because it showcases a little bit of everything that southwest Utah has to offer, including a cool waterfall (when it’s in season)!


LOCATION

Red Reef Trail is located in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, between Hurricane and St. George. You have to pay a $5 fee at a self-pay station or use your National Parks Pass to get in.


LENGTH

3 miles round trip


TRAIL DETAILS

The Red Reef Trail is sandy but clearly marked and easy to follow. Head past a tree stump that looks like an elephant to a rock tunnel you can climb up. When the water is flowing, you’ll follow a stream bed to a pool of water where kids – and adults! – will love to play.


After you’ve had your fun in the water, head up a rocky trail where you can take in the view. Keep going to an arch where you’ll find petroglyphs.


Check out my post on Red Reef Trail for even more details and tips for this hike.


WHEN TO VISIT

Spring is going to be your best chance to see the waterfall here, but it’s also the most crowded time of the year. Fall and winter are lovely, even if the waterfall isn’t running.


7. Gunlock Falls

When the water is flowing, Gunlock Falls draws a crowd to see the amazing series of waterfalls cascading down the rocks. Before visiting it I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about but once I was standing in front of the massive red rock waterfalls I understood. These waterfalls are absolutley stunning.


LOCATION

You’ll find Gunlock Falls in Gunlock State Park, about half an hour northwest of St. George. The entry fee to the park is $15/day for out-of-state vehicles ($10 for Utah residents).


LENGTH

Less than ¼ a mile round trip…….it isn’t really even considered a hike.


TRAIL DETAILS

The trail to the falls is short and easy, but make sure to wear shoes with good traction because the rocks around the falls get super slick. Kids will love it here, but keep a close eye on them and stay a good distance away from the edge of the falls.


Gunlock Falls is extremely popular when it’s running, especially on weekends, so go as early as you can to avoid the crowds, which sometimes reach capacity in the park.


WHEN TO VISIT

Like most waterfalls in southern Utah, Gunlock Falls runs in the spring, but not every year. Before 2020, it had been at least five years since the falls were running. If you want any chance to see Gunlock Falls, go in the spring of a year after heavy snowfall when runoff will be high.


Couple standing in front of waterfalls at Ashdown Gorge in Cedar Canyon

8. Ashdown Gorge

Ashdown Gorge is an awesome alternative to The Narrows hike in Zion. It features two spectacular waterfalls…and way fewer crowds on the trail.


LOCATION

Ashdown Gorge is located up Highway 14 in Cedar Canyon outside Cedar City. The road is paved, so any vehicle can make it out here, but it is a remote area with no cell reception after Cedar City, so I highly recommend carrying a satellite communicator out here, just in case.


LENGTH

8.8 miles round trip, but you can make it shorter or longer if you want. The distance to the waterfalls is about 3 miles round trip.


TRAIL DETAILS

This trail is steep at the start, but becomes a gradual hike up the canyon the rest of the way. You’ll hike in the creek for part of the trail, and will also have to hike over boulders and logs at times, which means kids will totally love it!


You can turn around whenever you want on this out and back trail, but make sure to do the slot canyon section and check out the waterholes and natural pools along the way. To see the waterfalls, go to Flanigan Arch and follow a little offshoot creek to the left for about 10 minutes, then take another for about half a mile.


WHEN TO VISIT

You will get wet on this trail…there’s just no way around it…so it’s best to go during warmer temps. This is another area prone to flash floods, so make sure to check the forecast for the Cedar City area (which can be very different weather than Zion) before doing this hike.


Couple standing in front of waterfalls at Water Canyon in Southern Utah

9 - WATER CANYON

Water Canyon is a hidden gem of a hike located just outside of Hildale, UT. The trail is beautiful and interesting from start to finish with rock scrambling, sheer red cliffs, a shallow year-round creek, a waterfall canyon oasis, and stunning valley views. This hike makes for the perfect morning or afternoon adventure for outdoor lovers and adventurous families.


LOCATION

Water Canyon is located just outside Hildale Ut in the Canaan Mountain Wilderness south of Zion. This is a convenient hike if you are staying in Hurricane or Kanab on your trip to Southern Utah. It is a 55-minute drive west of Kanab and a 40-minute drive southeast of Hurricane.


LENGTH

To get to the first section of the flowing waterfall canyon, the trail is 4.25 miles round trip. You can hike up the canyon further, but this is for advanced hikers only.


TRAIL DETAILS

After a bumpy 1-2 mile dirt road, you will come to designated parking and the start of the sandy trail. The path is well worn and, at times, splits off, but whatever route you take, it always comes back together.


This hike can be a little tricky for some due to all the rock scrambling that is required. As you venture up the canyon look up to your right to find an arch in the rocks.

Also, keep an eye out for narrow slots along the trail that only little kids can slide into. The wide-open canyon at the end of the hike has streams and waterfalls and is the perfect spot to rest, eat lunch, and explore. Return the way you came.


WHEN TO VISIT

I have hiked Water Canyon in the spring, summer, winter, and fall. Winter is a little more tricky because there could be snow and ice, but if you're lucky, the canyon walls will be covered in ice. It's quite a sight!


In the spring, you are more likely to get beautiful flowing waterfalls in the canyon due to all the spring runoff.


In the heat of the summer, this is a great trail because the flowing stream is great for cooling off and there is plentiful shade. The canyon is lush and green, and oh so pretty!


Views at Cascade Falls in Duck Cree Utah

10 - CASCADE FALLS

Big views and a waterfall for 1.2 miles of hiking…….yes please! Cascade Falls is one of those hikes that seems too good to be true. With stunning views overlooking the southern edge of the Markagunt Plateau and Zion National Park, you will find it hard to keep an eye on the trail and not trip……haha!


The water travels through a cave system draining from Navajo Lake. This unique waterfall flows straight out of a cave and cascades down a steep mountain and fills the North Fork of the Virgin River.



LOCATION

Cascade Falls is located on Cedar Mountain in the little mountain town of Duck Creek.


LENGTH

The trail is 1.2 miles out and back with moderate elevation gain.


TRAIL DETAILS

The Cascade Falls trail is well maintained follows a ridgeline to the end of the trail where you will come to a stunning waterfall flowing out of a cave at the side of a cliff.

The trail is grave with stairs and benches lining the path. The stairs do a great job of keeping you from slipping as the elevation goes up and down. The overhangs, rock formation and stunning views make this hike interesting from start to finish.


This hike is kid friendly but keep little ones close and hold their hand. The gravel can be slippery at times and there are steep drop offs..


WHEN TO VISIT

The best time to visit is late May-October. All other times of year this trail is covered in snow and not accessible. In dry years the water may not be flowing in the fall so make sure to go in the early summer to catch the waterfall flowing at it’s best.


11 - Toquerville Falls

This cascading double waterfall oasis in the middle of the desert is what desert dreams are made of. The first glimpse you get of these spectacular falls, while traveling the rocky dirt road, makes it feel like a mirage in the desert. With a swimming hole and lots of exploring, Toquerville Falls is a destination that the whole family is sure to love.


If you plan to visit Toquerville Falls you need to be aware that there is a 5.8 mile stretch of road that is not accessible with most vehicles. You will need a high clearance vehicle with 4 wheel drive. Do not, I repeat, do not try to drive this road in anything less. You will get stuck or ruin your car. Don’t have a high clearance vehicle? Read on for how to visit these spectacular waterfalls and turn your visit into a grand adventure.


LOCATION

Toquerville Falls is located 5.8 miles north-east of Toquerville, UT. The bumpy and rocky dirt road needs a high clearance vehicle with 4 wheel drive.


LENGTH

These waterfalls don't require hiking. The trick of these waterfalls is finding a vehicle that will get you here. I don’t recommend hiking the 5.8 mile road. It is very dusty and very hot with no shade in the summer.


TOQUERVILLE FALLS TOUR WITH MAD MOOSE RENTALS

Most people don’t have an off road high clearance vehicle but everyone should get a chance to visit these amazing waterfalls. That is where Mad Moose Rentals in Southern Utah comes in.


My 3 kiddos and I went on the ATV tour to Toquerville Falls with Blake of Mad Moose Rentals and its was the most fun and memorable adventure of our summer. We started at their location at Quail Lake and drove the backroads of Southern Utah to the waterfalls.


It was a stunning and action packed drive and I felt like a total badass navigating the rocky roads. It was so much fun! The drive took a little over an hour and by the time we got to the falls we were covered, head to toe in fine dust. Jumping in the cool water at the falls was the perfect way to wash off and cool down. We jumped from the top fall to the bottom, swam, splashed and played in the water for about 30 minutes and then headed back.


The drive was shorter on the way back but just about as dusty. I love that their location is right next to the lake. We got out and immediately ran over and jumped in the lake to wash off the dust. My kiddos were in heaven! Make sure to reach out to Mad Moose Rentals to experience this fun waterfall adventure.


WHEN TO VISIT

The falls are running all year long but you will have the most fun visiting these falls in the summer when you can jump in the water and make a fun day of it. Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks.


The waterfalls going durning a rainstorm at Hell Hole Canyon in Kayenta

BONUS! Hellhole Canyon

The falls at Hellhole Canyon (aka Kayenta Canyon) only run when there’s a rainstorm, but if you can catch them flowing down the red rock, they are truly epic!


LOCATION

Hellhole Canyon is located in Ivins, just about 20 mins outside of St. George off of Snow Canyon Parkway on Taviawk Drive. Look for the “Kayenta” sign for parking.


LENGTH

3.2 miles round trip


TRAIL DETAILS

The hike will take you through Kayenta Wash, either on the trail or up the wash itself, which is very loose and sandy. Once you reach the mouth of the canyon, you can continue deeper to explore or turn around whenever you choose.


WHEN TO VISIT

Right after a heavy rainfall will give you the best chance to actually see the falls in action.


Tips for Utah Waterfall Hikes

  • Make sure you bring enough water! Even though your goal is to hike to a waterfall, you’ll be hiking in the hot desert and need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

  • Always bring plenty of snacks and sunscreen, too! Salty snacks are especially good when hiking in the desert.

  • Some of these hikes are at risk for dangerous flash floods, so make sure to check the weather forecast, and don’t hike in slot canyons when rain is in the forecast.

  • While pretty much all of these hikes are doable for kids, some of them do involve scrambling on rocks or trickier sections.



Happy Adventuring,

Arika




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