Hiking the North Fork of Mill Creek in Moab has been on my hiking “to do” list every time I’m in town, but it always got put on the back burner for other trails. This time, since we had 5 dogs with us, we made it happen! Us and the dogs had done a dry hike the day before at The Fisher Towers, and really needed to cool off. We all had big dogs, and they tend to overheat quickly. Hiking along a stream seemed like the perfect way to cool off. However, I wasn’t looking forward to Charlie riding home 4 hours in the car home soaking wet and sandy. Sometimes you just need to let the dogs have fun and not care about keeping things clean.
The North Fork of Mill Creek Canyon is perfect for kids too, since it is only 1 mile to the 1st natural waterfall, and is considered the “locals swimming hole”. In Summer, be prepared to see possibly hundreds of people here on the weekends. Since it’s so accessible, it gets crowded quick – start early in the morning to have a quiet hike and enjoy the sounds of the stream. You may even see people jumping from the cliff side, but it’s not recommended. You can continue past the waterfall another 3/4 mile to a quieter area with another deep pool, which would also be good for swimming and few people will be there.
In Moab head south on HWY 191, and turn Left on E 300 S. Turn right on Fourth St., then left on Mill Creek Dr. At the first stop sign you can continue straight to Sand Flats Recreation Area, but you’ll want to turn Right to continue on Mill Creek Rd. Drive 0.5 mile, then turn left onto Powerhouse Lane, which will turn into a dirt road. Drive to the very end to the parking lot and TH.
Here’s a driving map from Moab.
Distance: 1 mile to waterfall, 1 3/4 miles to the end of the trail
Elevation gain: 150 ft
Time: 1-3 hours, depending how long you spend swimming
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes!
Since we got kicked out of our first camp site at Onion Creek near The Fisher Towers, we had to find another site to sleep that night. With a group of 10 people and 8 dogs, it was challenging. Two people in our group had been down Kane Creek Road, and suggested we try that. Kane Creek Rd starts out paved, with no shoulder, and is very narrow. After 3 miles or so, the paved road turns to a dirt road, and at 9 miles we came upon “Ledge A” campground. Thankfully we found 3 campsites available! Plus dogs were allowed. It only cost $15/night, and they allowed up to 4 tents per site. They do have vault toilets, but no water. An RV could make it here, but it requires crossing a stream. My compact car made it just fine.
The sun started to set, and we played one of my favorite camp games, Catch Phrase.
Byron made us his favorite camp desert, Mountain Man Pie.
3 cans fruit pie filling
1 box white cake mix
1 can of 7 Up or Sprite for a drier topping OR 1 stick of butter for a more dense, moist topping.
Dump the cans of pie filling in the bottom of a dutch oven, then sprinkle the cake mix over the top. Then add the 7 Up OR put the slices of butter on top. Once your coals are white and hot, put the Dutch oven on them, with coals on the top as well. Once the pie filling starts bubbling (15-20 minutes depending on how many coals you have), take it off the coals and let the top coals finish cooking the topping until the cake mix turns to a golden brown. Enjoy hot!
Enjoying our propane fire. I love this style of fire because it doesn’t make your gear (and you) smell like smoke, and it’s an instant fire. No hassle about buying or finding wood either.
Sunday morning we drove over to our next hike, The North Fork of Mill Creek just outside of town in Moab, UT. The drive time from our camp in Kane Creek was about 20-30 minutes. We arrived around 10:30am, and there were still a few parking spaces left. There is one restroom available, and doggie poop bags at the start of the trail.
You will see several “Trail this way” signs, but to reach the falls head straight (East) past this small brown building. The trail veering to the right in this photo is a bike trail. Bikes are not allowed on the main trail after this building.
For an interesting article on the area, the overcrowded-ness, & massive trash piles, check out this article from the Utah Public Radio. Please be responsible and “Leave No Trace” – pick up your own trash (and other’s trash if you see it, and doggie poop bags). This is another area that is in danger of being closed off due to irresponsible hikers/tourists leaving a mess.
Pass the old dam.
You can cut across the rocks, or just walk in the stream to get to the trail. You will end up crossing the stream about 3-4 times anyway, so be sure to wear water shoes.
About 0.3 miles in you will see a small trail split to the left. This just wraps around closer to the stream. We decided to take it since the dogs were hot. It’s not far off the main trail.
When the two canyons merge, you will see the trail sign pointing left. Take this and cross the stream.
The stream was only ankle deep for humans, and belly deep for dogs.
2nd stream crossing.
At 1 mile, you will see the main waterfall. The hole is deep enough to swim in behind us, and in Summer you may see people use the waterfall as a slide.
We wanted to get above the waterfall, and continue past the crowds. To do that, retrace your steps. About 50 yards before the falls, there will be a small game trail head left (north) up rocks. Take this to get above everything.
Charlie looks at the waterfalls.
On top of the waterfalls, the slickrock offers a good place to lay in the sun or view others swimming below.
All smiles for these pups!
The trail follows the canyon for another 3/4 mile. It’s really pretty, and the canyon is very wide, with close to 100 ft walls. Keep an eye out for petroglpyhs. As you continue, the cactus get very dense – keep an eye out!
We ended our hike at the 3rd set of “falls”, though they were really small. This is another great swimming hole, if the main waterfalls are too crowded. We hung out here to let the dogs swim and had a snack. This was our turnaround spot for the day. Dogs can make it here, but again, the cactus become quite dense and we had to pull a few spikes out of the dogs.
Moab is HOT in summer, but thankfully this swimming hole is available to cool off! We hiked here after summiting a peak close by, and it was the perfect refresher! We went on a Sunday at 9am to beat the crowds.
Charlie swims for a stick, as usual!
Enjoying the upper falls area with no people!
Always gotta sit in mom’s lap!
Need a place to stay in Moab? Check out Moab Flats!