How does a short, fifteen-minute hike to a beautiful waterfall sound? Oh, and to get to where you start hiking requires only a pleasant fifteen minute drive from Provo. Oh, and you’ll probably have the waterfall to yourself. Sound too good to be true? Provo Canyon’s Upper Falls is all that and more.
Overshadowed by its admittedly more impressive and better-known brother, Bridal Veil Falls, Upper Falls basks in the glory of its own obscurity. On a recent foray to the 40-foot-high cataract, I drove past dozens of people swarming around Bridal Veil Falls. A mile down the road at Upper Falls Park, there was only one other car. I saw no one else on the trail to the waterfall except for a man and his dog who were leaving just as I arrived. I spent a good half-hour up there and still saw no one. I passed nobody as I hiked back to my car, and the other car that had previously been in the parking lot was gone. Not bad, not bad at all.
Here’s all the info you need: To get there, turn east into Provo Canyon by either heading north on University Avenue or east on 800 North in Orem. About 2.5 miles into the canyon, you’ll see a sign on the right side for Nunn’s Park/Bridal Veil Falls; Take that turnoff. You’ll come to an intersection where there is a parking lot to the right for Bridal Veil Falls and the road leading to Nunn’s Park on the left. Continue straight through this intersection and drive for another mile until you get to Upper Falls Park. This park, which will be on your right (south) side, consists of a lot of parking spots, some flat grassy areas and a handful of picnic tables. You actually can’t see Upper Falls from most areas in the park, but I assure you it’s there.
Park anywhere your heart desires and head straight between the second and third (when counting from the left) picnic tables to a narrow bridge over the river. Cross the bridge and you’ll end up on the paved Provo River Parkway Trail. You’ll see some derelict concrete structures in front of you. Follow the trail that is visible on the right side of these structures. The trail is a little bit steep in one or two places (though no steeper than the trail to the Y) and is well-trodden and doable by pretty much anyone. After a few minutes you’ll come to a spot where a trail forks off to the left, but keep heading straight up the hillside on the main trail. It shouldn’t be too long before you hear the roar of the waterfall and a couple minutes later you’ll be staring it in the face.
Take a picnic, play around in the freezing cold water and enjoy your time and solitude at one of the area’s most underrated natural gems!
Tristan Higbee is an outdoors correspondent for Rhombus.
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