Stewart Falls

Mt Timpanogos Wilderness / Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest / Provo Canyon / Aspen Grove / Sundance / Utah County, Utah, USA

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 3.5
Stewart Falls

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INTRODUCTION

Stewart Falls was definitely one of the more popular waterfalling excursions within the vicinity of Salt Lake City. And it was for good reason why the falls was so popular. After all, it featured a reportedly year-round flow on the backside of Mt Timpanogos while plunging over 200ft over a pair of drops that consisted of a giant main plunge followed by a smaller lower gushing tier. Its popularity was evident when I showed up on a warm Sunday during Memorial Day Weekend, where scores of people were cooling off in the spray as well as occupying the narrow trail. Perhaps the only caveat I had about visiting the falls was that I showed up in the early afternoon, which was when looking at this east-facing falls was against the sun. If I had to do it all over again, I would have done this hike in the morning when the falls would be backlit and there would be more likely to be fewer people.

The popularity of Stewart Falls belied the underlying degree of difficulty in this excursion. Actually, there were at least a couple of different ways to do the hike - one starting from Aspen Grove and the other starting from the Sundance Resort. Each route was said to require at least 3 miles round trip. Since I only did the somewhat rugged 3.6-mile round trip hike from the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead by Aspen Grove (see directions below), this is how I'll do the trail description. While I understand the approach from Sundance was less up-and-down and a little shorter than the one I wound up taking, the Aspen Grove approach was cheaper as I was only required to pay $6 per vehicle (though they accepted my National Parks Pass here) and it provided more opportunities to see the falls from different angles in addition to getting nice panoramas.

From the busy Mt Timpanogos Trailhead, the trail began just past a pit toilet facility with signage suggesting that the Stewart Cascades was another 2 miles away from here (my GPS log actually suggested the one-way distance was roughly 0.2 miles shorter than that). After rounding a bend with a partial view of some kind of cirque or bowl in the distance, the trail then started its narrow climb in earnest, which persisted for the next mile or so. The trail more or less hugged a ledge as it followed the mountainous contours providing glimpses of the valley and surrounding mountains cut forth by the Northern Fork Provo River. Eventually, the climb topped out as the tree cover briefly gave way to a clearing where many trees and shrubs were mysteriously bent in the downhill direction (to my left). I suspected that the bending vegetation might have been caused by avalanches as this clearing was well-within range of some neighboring mountains that could have easily spawned the unstable snow.

Beyond the apex of the climb, the trail then began a pretty long descent that initially passed through more forested sections providing some welcome shade to provide a little relief from the intense sun. As the trail eventually made a turn (at roughly 1.3 miles from the trailhead), that was when I finally got my first glimpse of Stewart Falls and the accompanying Stewart Cascades, which looked like other tall cascades blending in with the snow that was still present. The views from here also allowed me to look in the downstream direction towards the Sundance Resort area. Anyways, the trail continued descending along a somewhat narrow ledge as it would eventually reach a rocky outcrop looking right at the Stewart Falls. This was at about 1.7 miles from the trailhead. The final descent was on a narrower but still well-used path as it would eventually deposit me right at the base of Stewart Falls as well as a trail junction with the trail coming from the Sundance Resort.

While at the base of the falls, I was looking up against the early afternoon sun, which conspired to make taking photos a difficult task. I regretted my decision not to do this hike earlier in the day when the sun would have been behind me. Anyways, there was also a very steep informal scrambling "trail" that quite a few daring young folks did to climb up to a ledge that led right up to the upper drop of Stewart Falls. This was too steep for me so I didn't bother doing it. Meanwhile, there were dozens of other people content to sit in the spray of the falls while playing in the stream just downstream of the falls. After having my fill of the falls, I then had to hike back the way I came as I now had to make a pretty long climb to get back to the avalanche zone before the trail then made a final descent to the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead.

Overall, I had spent about a little over 2 hours away from the car. The pace of the hike was a bit herky-jerky because I often stopped to let people going in the opposite direction pass through while at the same time being caught behind slower hikers with limited opportunities to pass. I did manage to trail run on the final downhill on the return hike so that might have also offset some of the inconsistent hiking pace resulting from all the foot traffic. Regardless, I felt this could have been a hike that Julie and Tahia could have also done even though it was moderate in difficulty (especially if you're not acclimated to the altitude). Indeed, I saw many younger kids as well as some senior citizens doing this hike so I was definitely under the impression that it would make for a great family outing despite the moderate difficulty.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the kind of scenery that I was able to enjoy from the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead at Aspen GroveThis was the kind of scenery that I was able to enjoy from the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead at Aspen Grove
Aspen Grove was roughly an hour drive south of downtown Salt Lake City, which was most known for the beautiful Temple Square in the heart of the city's downtown areaAspen Grove was roughly an hour drive south of downtown Salt Lake City, which was most known for the beautiful Temple Square in the heart of the city's downtown area
Just a couple blocks to the east of downtown Salt Lake City was the Cathedral of the Madeleine, which featured a pretty grand interior that reminded us of some of the cathedrals found in EuropeJust a couple blocks to the east of downtown Salt Lake City was the Cathedral of the Madeleine, which featured a pretty grand interior that reminded us of some of the cathedrals found in Europe
The trail started from right behind that restroom facility at the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead near Aspen GroveThe trail started from right behind that restroom facility at the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead near Aspen Grove

On the day that I did the Stewart Falls hike, the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead was fullOn the day that I did the hike, the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead was full

The sign here said that the Stewart Cascades were two miles from this pointThe sign here said that the Stewart Cascades were two miles from this point

Initially, the Stewart Falls Trail meandered in the direction of that cirque up aheadInitially, the trail meandered in the direction of that cirque up ahead

Then, the Stewart Falls Trail made a sharp bend to the left and started climbing in earnestThen, the trail made a sharp bend to the left and started climbing in earnest

Given the sheer number of people on this trail, this was what led me to believe that this was a very popular excursion despite the moderate difficultyGiven the sheer number of people on this trail, this was what led me to believe that this was a very popular excursion despite the moderate difficulty

As the Stewart Falls Trail climbed higher, it provided some nice views of the valley below to the leftAs the trail climbed higher, it provided some nice views of the valley below to the left

The Stewart Falls Trail meandered amongst trees like what's shown here providing some partial shade as it continued its climbThe trail meandered amongst trees like what's shown here providing some partial shade as it continued its climb

The Stewart Falls Trail then meandered past this little clearing or meadowThe trail then meandered past this little clearing or meadow

Eventually, the Stewart Falls Trail stopped climbing when it went past this interesting section where the vegetation bent to the left, which I suspected must have been the result of an avalancheEventually, the Stewart Falls Trail stopped climbing when it went past this interesting section where the vegetation bent to the left, which I suspected must have been the result of an avalanche

This was where the Stewart Falls Trail ended its ascent and now started its descent to the fallsThis was where the trail ended its ascent and now started its descent to the falls

There were gorgeous panoramas seen from the apex of the Stewart Falls TrailThere were gorgeous panoramas seen from the apex of the trail

The trail then resumed its descent by re-entering more forested terrain providing some more partial shade from the afternoon sunThe trail then resumed its descent by re-entering more forested terrain providing some more partial shade from the afternoon sun

This opening was where I finally got my first glimpse of Stewart FallsThis opening was where I finally got my first glimpse of Stewart Falls

Zoomed in look at Stewart Falls from a distanceZoomed in look at the falls from a distance

There was still a little further to go in order to get right up to the Stewart FallsThere was still a little further to go in order to get right up to the Stewart Falls

Approaching a rocky outcrop with a pretty close look at Stewart FallsApproaching a rocky outcrop with a pretty close look at Stewart Falls

Joining this crowd of people checking out Stewart Falls from the rocky outcropJoining this crowd of people checking out the falls from the rocky outcrop

The final descent to the base of Stewart FallsThe final descent to the base of the falls

Finally at the base of Stewart Falls. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't so great at this time of dayFinally at the base of Stewart Falls. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't so great at this time of day

Some people did the steep scramble to the upper right to get right up to the ledge right next to the main drop of Stewart FallsSome people did the steep scramble to the upper right to get right up to the ledge right next to the main drop of the falls

This was the trail leading down to the Sundance Resort, which was the other way of hiking to the falls that I'd imagine was less up-and-down than the Aspen Grove routeThis was the trail leading down to the Sundance Resort, which was the other way of hiking to the falls that I'd imagine was less up-and-down than the Aspen Grove route

Starting the long uphill hike as I had my fill of Stewart Falls and headed back to the trailheadStarting the long uphill hike as I had my fill of the falls and headed back to the trailhead

Looking down at some folks on the Sundance Resort route to Stewart FallsLooking down at some folks on the Sundance Resort route to the falls

Back at the avalanche zone. The rest of the hike was now downhillBack at the avalanche zone. The rest of the hike was now downhill

Finally making it back to the Mt Timpanogos TrailheadFinally making it back to the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


View of Stewart Falls and neighboring cascades from the trail when I first spotted them


180 degree sweep from an outcrop with a butterfly-inducing view of Stewart Falls and the crowd of people basking in its spray down below


270 degree sweep from the base of Stewart Falls showing pretty much almost everything notable from this spot from the falls to the trail to the dicey scramble leading up to base of the main drop


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From downtown Salt Lake City, we went west towards one of the on-ramps for the I-15 heading south. We then drove on the I-15 South for roughly 36 miles to the Hwy 52 in Orem (exit 272). Leaving the I-15 and heading east on Hwy 52, we then drove for roughly 4 miles before keeping left to join the Hwy 189. Once we were headed northeast on the Hwy 189, we drove for roughly 7 miles passing through Provo Canyon to the first left turn beyond the tunnel (Alpine Loop Scenic Byway or Hwy 92). Once on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, we then drove up this mountain road for the next 4.5 miles or so into the Aspen Grove community. We then continued driving on Hwy 92 towards a kiosk, where we showed our National Parks Pass (or paid $6 per vehicle), and the Mt Timpanogos Trailhead was the first parking lot on the left. Overall, this drive would take about an hour.

Note that the Sundance Resort was about 2.5 miles from Hwy 189. Sundance Resort was an alternate starting point for Stewart Falls.

To give you some geographical context, Salt Lake City was about 45 miles (45 minutes drive) north of Provo, about 302 miles (over 4 hours drive) north of St George, 234 miles (over 3.5 hours drive) northwest of Moab, 215 miles (3 hours drive) south of Idaho Falls, Idaho, 421 miles (over 5.5 hours drive) north of Las Vegas, Nevada, and 688 miles (over 9.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles, California.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.


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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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