The best winter days are perfectly sunny days just after a big snow storm. Such as today! If it were a weekday, I may have gone skiing. The weekend crowds make that a very unattractive proposition, so a hike it was going to be.
I hadn’t hiked Bell Canyon for a couple of years. I don’t know why, it’s beautiful, and the trailhead is only a 20 minute drive from our home.
The section from the trailhead to the waterfall is 5 miles round trip with a total vertical of about 1800 ft.
I got to the trailhead around 11, only a few cars there. Sunday mornings are better than Saturday mornings because a lot of folks are in church. A great start!
The trail skirts some gated communities before heading up to the lower reservoir. The first 0.5 miles are a little steep, but nothing crazy.
The lower reservoir is the final destination for most folks with kids and those looking for a quick getaway. It’s frozen over now. As the trail follows the contours of the reservoir it is mostly level.
Another way to get up to this point is to park at the trailhead on 9600 South and make your way up from there.
After the reservoir, another short steeper section follows, before the trail settles into its more gradual climb into the canyon.
There are a few forks, but the main trail is clearly signposted, as is the distance to the waterfall.
As the trail winds its way up the canyon, you find yourself surrounded by shrub and small trees, but keep looking for opportunities to enjoy the great views, both the valley behind you, and the range to your left.
About 1.3 miles in, the trail enters into National Forest territory. Hikers are warned that rescue attempts will take longer beyond this point. There have been serious incidents on this trail, as late as last summer when a hiker died after slipping and falling into the stream.
In summer, Bell Canyon is teeming with wildlife, apparently including rattlesnakes. I didn’t see or hear any wildlife, other than one single Acorn Woodpecker pecking away. My fixed focal length camera was entirely unsuitable to capture it. Ah well, I looked behind me instead and enjoyed some more great views.
The trail gets a little steeper again for the last 0.5 miles. It continues east to the upper reservoir. A short, clearly marked spur branches off to the left, to the falls. It being winter, the stream and the falls were mostly covered by snow and ice.
This was an extemely enjoyable Sunday hike. The trail was not busy, I saw maybe 10 people after clearing the lower reservoir. Total trail time was 2:30. I wore crampons for the entire hike and I would advise against hiking this trail in winter without them. I brought poles but did not use them. Be sure to have a warm layer for the hike down.
If you’re looking for some nice summertime pictures of this same hike, try here.