I took this hike at the end of July. It’s a gorgeous trail with plenty of shade, cold mountain streams, huge boulders, flowers, pine and aspen trees, a meadow, and views of the enchanting falls themselves.
Be sure to bring plenty of water on this hike, especially if you go in summer. Things to beware of on this trail include: loose rocks, steep inclines, creek crossings, rough patches, and an occasional nasty pile of horse poop.
The trail head is just a short drive from the center of Alpine, Utah.
The trail is two miles long, but then you have to hike back down, making it a total of four miles. Its elevation changes by 1,617 feet, so plan on taking it slow. Personally, I spent about 90 minutes going up and about an hour going down, although I was stopping along the way to briefly talk with friendly people and to take pictures and videos.
You’ll park in the gravel lot, then begin the hike north on a rocky path through tall grass. Soon you’ll be able to see the near mountain peaks: View from the trail head.
Once you get into the forest, the views disappear, replaced with other beauties all along the way. Meeting a butterfly
About forty minutes up, there’s a short side trail marked by intriguing round boulders about as tall as your waist. This trail gives you a distant glimpse of the falls: Boulder trail to far view of falls.
Although the towering trees become thicker as you continue higher, there’s still enough light reaching the forest floor to let drifts of asters bloom under the tall pines: Asters and tall pines. Often along the trail you’ll see huge boulders and giant trees laid flat along the slopes– picturesque reminders of how wild and dangerous the mountains can be.
About two-thirds of the way up, the trail opens into a pretty meadow, the most level and easy part of the trail. It’s a short rest that contrasts with what comes next. Walking into the meadow
Much of the higher part of the trail is crossed by, or even composed of, wide, shallow creek beds. The clear water flows from melting glaciers higher up, and feels extremely refreshing until your toes go numb. Crossing the shallow stream Other trickling streams are so small and hidden among the plants that you hear them before you see them. Rivulet
At last, up ahead, through the trees, you’ll spy a signpost:
When you reach the signpost, take the trail on the left. Continue on, but not very far. On the left side of the trail, down the slope, look for a small tree with a black rope tied to it. Finding the rope to go down the trail to the falls Grab firm hold of that rope, and use it to help yourself go down the extremely steep beginning part of the trail to the falls.
This trail is skinny, damp, and rugged. It’s full of sweet-smelling plants that I couldn’t identify, but maybe you can from these videos: Lovely smells * More lovely smells. The trail is lush to the point of being overgrown– plants will constantly be brushing against your skin and hair.
Soon you’ll start to hear the roaring of the falls. Then you’ll come out on the rocky ledge, and at last you’ll have this beautiful view: At the falls. I stayed a few minutes to enjoy the scene. I had to be careful, because the steep rock surface was slippery with dust and grit, and I didn’t want to end up on the news as: “Stupid Hiker Dies at Falls.” I was tempted to try to get within touching distance of the water, but this same worry forestalled me.
On the way back I caught a view I’d missed on the way up:
This trail had my favorite amount of traffic on it: short periods of time when I couldn’t see or hear anyone else, periodic quick greetings with fellow-hikers, and even an occasional short chat with the friendliest hikers or those who needed a little guidance.
As I was writing this post, I came across a great website that describes this and many other trails: AllTrails.com. I used the information on that site to find out how long the Horsetail Falls trail really was, and what the change in elevation was on the trail. Now that I know that website exists, I’ll have to use it to find some other great places to explore.
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