Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series highlighting trails in Cache Valley and the surrounding area. The series will feature outings varying in length, difficulty, accessibility and popularity.
Late spring and early summer is waterfall season in Cache Valley. The melting snow rushes down the steep mountain slopes of the Bear River Range, gathering momentum and, in some locations, plunging over cliffs in spectacular fashion.
With few exceptions, local waterfalls are largely a seasonal phenomenon. In this arid climate, most will dwindle to a trickle or disappear altogether as the snowmelt runs it course and summer wears on.
As runoff typically peaks around Memorial Day, the clock is ticking on the best time to get out and hike to a couple of the area’s more picturesque falls.
If you go, keep in mind that June is also rattlesnake season. They would rather not interact with you, and will usually sense your presence and get out of the way well before you see them, but sightings tend to be more common around this time of year as the snakes have recently emerged from hibernation and are active in their search for food.
Also, it’s best to avoid playing and scrambling on the boulders and steep slopes around these natural waterfalls. These are ecologically sensitive areas, and it’s a good way to get injured.
This gem is found about 1.7 miles up a well-maintained trail along a tributary of the Left Hand of Blacksmith Fork Canyon. The route is suitable for nearly all ages and experience levels. It makes for a great hike any time of year, but is especially enjoyable right now with all the new greenery and a rushing creek leading to what many consider to be Cache Valley’s finest natural cascade.
Heading east up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, turn left into Left Hand Fork. From where the pavement ends it’s 3.2 miles, just past Friendship Campground, to a signed parking area with a restroom.
The trail is clearly marked. Mountain bikes, horses and motorbikes are also permitted here, so be courteous and aware of the multiple uses.
The trail starts uphill and continues to gain elevation at a steady, but not-too-steep rate. After a short while you will come across a fence and livestock gate — be sure to close it behind you, both coming and going.
The creek bed is usually dry through this lower section, but at this time of year it won’t be long before you see water. The landscape gets greener as you make the first of three easy creek crossings, and before long you’ll catch the unmistakable fragrance of pine as you enter the fir forest.
After the third creek crossing, the trail continues to climb and passes a stone “throne” that many like to sit on and take pictures. Shortly thereafter the trail switches back, leaving the creek and climbing the hillside, then switching back again to curl up around and back into the gorge. After negotiating a rocky spot in the trail, keep going and you’ll hear the roar of water. The waterfall appears through the pines and soon you’ll see a short scramble down a hillside to the base, where the cool mist will be welcome after the uphill trek.
Most will turn around at this point, but the trail continues up the hollow and joins a wide network of roads and trails leading to Logan Canyon and beyond.
WOOD CAMP HOLLOW
This hike is a little longer and more arduous than Richards Hollow, as the final portion of the hike doesn’t provide a clear trail. It follows a drainage that has been scoured by powerful avalanches over the years, and the wide-open layout provides a view of the falls long before you reach them.
From Logan, head up Logan Canyon and take a left at Wood Camp Campground. Continue past the campground and take the bridge over the river to the Old Juniper trailhead, which also has a restroom. Most visitors are here to hike or bike to the famous Jardine Juniper, but the seasonal waterfall is another worthy destination.
Start on the Old Juniper trail, where the Forest Service has been working to reroute portions of the trail that has become quite popular for mountain biking. About a half mile in where the main route temporarily turns east, take a left fork onto a smaller trail and you will begin heading west up Wood Camp Hollow. Like most Logan Canyon hikes it is a steady uphill slog, heading northwest up the broad canyon. The long ridge between Bierdneau and Jardine peaks dominates the western horizon. Before long you will be able to see all the way up the hollow to the falls.
The trail becomes less well defined as you make your way up, and the last half mile is more about finding the path of least resistance than following a clear trail. Long pants are recommended, as you will be rubbing up against sagebrush and other tick-harboring shrubbery. Definitely check yourself for ticks after this outing.
When the path becomes faint enough that it’s not immediately obvious where to go, the best bet may be to make your way into the boulder-strewn creek bed and pick your way up to the falls. Take extra care to watch your step through this section.
This out-and-back hike is about 4.7 miles round trip and gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation. Combined with the off-trail portion and the fact that much of the route is exposed to full sunlight, it provides more of a workout than one might anticipate.