Enjoyable hike to the surprising Willow Heights

Tom’s Experience hiking to Willow Heights:

Willow Heights is a short and sweet hike up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City.

Willow Heights Hike

It travels through a beautiful aspen forest that ends at a small lake just below the Solitude Ski resort.

Willow Heights Forest

The total distance is about 2 miles and that is if you hike the loop around the lake.

Willow Heights Trailhead

The trail begins right off the side of the road. There is a rock that has been carved to show you where the trail starts but it can be difficult to see from the road.

Hiking Willow Heights

From here the trail will take you up through the aspens and the trail can get quite steep in parts. Fortunately it isn’t too long and makes for a great short-workout hike. Near the lake, the forest will open up into a pretty meadow and then you reach the lake.

Returning from Willow Heights

You can take a loop hike around the lake to see it from all angles and then return to your car the way you came, or you can simply make it to the lake and turn back around. No dogs are allowed on this trail at all and no swimming is allowed in the lake.

Tom’s Rating:

Trail Info: Head up Big Cottonwood Canyon for about 11 miles until you reach Silver Fork Lodge. From the lodge it is .3 miles to the trailhead. There are pulloffs on both sides of the road for parking and the trail takes off on the north side of the road. It can be difficult to find if you are first but the trail is popular enough that there should be vehicles there if you go later in the day. If you reach the Solitude ski resort you have gone too far.


Willow Heights Trailhead:     40.630321,-111.604614

Willow Heights Lake:    40.636948,-111.59734

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Explore the hidden Sulphur Creek

Tom’s Experience hiking thru Sulphur Creek:

One of the best back country hikes in Capitol Reef National Park is Sulphur Creek. This hike is an excellent introduction to canyoneering. It has waterfalls, steep cliff walls and you spend most of your time hiking through the river.

Sulphur Creek

This is best done as a through hike starting at the Chimney Rock Trailhead and hiking down Sulphur Creek to the Capitol Reef Visitors Center. This will require a shuttle, but if you only have one car you can try to hitchhike or walk about 3 miles along the road between the two trailheads.

Hiking through Sulphur Creek

From the Chimney Rock Trailhead, cross the street and follow a small trail down into a gulch. Follow that gulch to the left as it heads down towards the creek. There is one dry fall that you can hike around to the left which isn’t too difficult.

Sulphur Creek Fall

Once you reach Sulphur Creek you will spend the remainder of the hike wading in the creek. Hiking poles help a ton since you are rarely able to see your feet or the rocks you are stepping on. Follow the creek down and you will pass three waterfalls.

Sulphur Creek Capitol Reef

The first two waterfalls you are able to find a safe way down on the right of the waterfall. I wouldn’t call it easy but it isn’t too difficult either.

Sulphur Creek Middle Waterfall

The middle waterfall was my favorite out of the three. The last waterfall is the trickiest to climb down in my opinion and I’m really not sure what is the best way down. We were able to make it without getting hurt and with our baby in the backpack but it was definitely very challenging. I’m not sure how people could make it up going the opposite direction. The fact that we were hiking this in the late fall made it harder when it was already cold and we didn’t want to get more wet.

Sulphur Creek Lower Waterfall

We managed to hike the whole thing without getting wet past our knees which was definitely a success, however I’ve heard the water level can fluctuate so that may not be the case for everyone. After the third waterfall you are almost to the visitor center. If you would like you can hike up from the visitors center to the lower waterfall and play in the pool below the waterfall and creek along the trail. Overall the hike is about 6 miles one way and dogs are not allowed on any trails in Capitol Reef that are not paved. There is no park fee to do this hike as each trailhead is before the paying area of Capitol Reef. There is also a flash flood danger in this canyon so don’t do this if a storm is coming.

Tom’s Rating:

Trail Info: This is a one way hike and requires a shuttle between the two trailheads. From Torrey, Utah take highway 24 east and you will see the first trailhead on the left side of the road with a sign for Chimney Rock. Continue along highway 24 and the Capitol Reef Visitors Center will be on the left just off of highway 24 about 3 miles away from the Chimney Rock parking area.


Chimney Rock Trailhead:     38.315304,-111.304196

Visitor Center Trailhead:    38.291052,-111.261656

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