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Play Unplugged Hike - Stewart Falls, UT

Play Unplugged Hike - Stewart Falls, UT
August 05, 2015

Located up on the Alpine Loop near Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon, UT, Stewart Falls is perhaps the best known waterfall in the greater Northern Utah area for families to enjoy. The hike is approximately 3.6 miles 'out and back' and is mildly strenuous due to the elevation change. The Stewart Falls hike can be done from June until October when the fall leaves turn and add even more color to this interesting hike. The fact that it is good for all skill levels and primarily used for hiking makes it the perfect hike for any Play Unplugged family looking to spend a few hours in the outdoors!

The time it takes varies from a little over one hour to a half day. Even with small kids, the round trip hike will take about a half day at a leisurely pace (depending on how long your kids want to play in the stream below the impressive waterfall) If your family is in good condition, and your kids are older than 10-years-old and full of energy, then it could be done in a matter of an hour or two without stopping for a picnic at the base of the falls. It is important to note that mid-morning is also the best time to photograph Stewart Falls as the sun will be at your back.

To get to the trailhead just take 800 North exit off Interstate 15 (I-15) in Orem, UT and follow it for four miles to the mouth of Provo Canyon and University Avenue which is coming north from Provo, UT.  Heading east on 800 North the road splits and you take the left curve which crosses over University Ave and heads up Provo Canyon. Stay on US Highway 189 for seven miles.  As you drive up Provo Canyon several miles you will go through a short tunnel.  Take the left a quarter of a mile after passing through the tunnel.  The road up the canyon  towards Sundance resort is called 'UT 92.'  Pass the resort entrance and keep going until you come across a parking lot on the left just past the ranger fee station and BYU's Timpanogos Lodge.  Now you are ready to hike!

The trailhead begins in the same paved parking lot as the hike up to Mt Timpanogos. The well-worn trail can be found on the first cutoff for the Mt Timpanogos trail, heading south whereas the Mt Timpanogos trail heads straight for the imposing view of Timpanogos herself. Once you make the cutoff marked by a wood sign, the trail reverses course and makes it's way up a ridge covered in large pine trees before cresting the ridge and leading into areas of heavy aspen groves with occasional meadows which are fed by seeps and small stream runoff in the spring time.  So be sure to bring hiking boots that you don't mind getting muddy.

Following the same direction southward, hikers begin to see glimpses of the stark gray walls of the box canyon which hosts Stewart Falls between the many scrub oak and aspen trees that line the trail. Once the trail begins a gradual but consistent descent, it will continue to do so until you reach the base of the waterfall. Hikers will pass two very large scree slopes filled with rocks from previous slides and that will be an indicator you are very, very close to your destination! Perceptive hikers will note that the canyon walls are made of the same, hard gray stone which they hiked through on the scree slopes!

Upon arriving at the falls you will immediately encounter a very large rocky area which has a significant drop off the other side. Be sure to keep any curious kids close so they don't take a header off it in their excitement upon arrival. From this vantage point hikers are rewarded with a view to see at least 3 different tiers to the cascading falls. To get to the river below, just follow the well-worn dirt path downward and it will terminate in the shallow river bed.

Parents note that there is a steep slope that leads up the northern side of the falls and is very enticing to kids seeking adventure. This slope is STEEP and can lead to injury. We recommend that kids do not climb it without parental supervision or a rope. We also advise NOT to climb down to the upper pool or go near the edges as the mist keeps a very fine moss on the rocky surface making it precarious for kids to be on the edge.

To return, just turn around and walk the 1.8 miles back along the trail to the parking lot!  :)

Elevation Low: 6,090 feet
Elevation High: 7,000 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 885 feet
Total Season: Early Spring to Mid Fall
Best Time: Mid June through August when daylight is longer
Pets: Allowed
Fee: Entry into the Canyon above Sundance Resort

Remember! A first aid kit for scuffs or cuts. A lightweight jacket or fleece if you get a late start. Plenty of water for hot mid-summer days. A flashlight/headlamp if you think you won't get back until after dark.