Cascade Falls … Water Gushing from the Canyon Wall!
I had never heard of Cascade Falls when I decided to go mountain biking in Brian Head. We had been there once before on a ski trip and I had heard a lot of nice things about the mountain bike trails in general. I knew nothing about any specific trails.
My Parents Had Visited
When I announced we were going to Brian Head my mom brought over a scrap book that contained some photos of the area. The pictures all had a washed out, faded look … but one really captured my attention. It showed a river shooting straight out from the side of a canyon wall. She said the water was coming out of a lava tube that drained a nearby lake, Navajo Lake. Mom said it was called Cascade Falls … and it was a “must see” attraction. We took her advice and planned a day starting and ending in the Cascade Falls parking lot.
After doing a little research I quickly found I would not be allowed to ride my bike down the trail to the falls. Even though this page is about a hike (not a bike ride) I have chosen to share our experiences anyway. In other words, if you plan to do the Navajo Lake Loop you MUST take the hike to Cascade Falls!
I have created the following map for the Cascade Falls Hike and my ride around Navajo Lake. The purple segment represents the hike (you will have to zoom in to see it) while the orange shows the track of the Navajo Loop ride. The Blue “P” marks the trailhead for both the hike and the ride.
Have you hike to Cascade falls or biked in this area before? What did you think of it? Share your story with us and other visitors to this page here.
Line in Lake!
On the way to Cascade Falls we stopped at the Navajo Lake overlook. We first spotted a sparkling mountain lake with a white line right through the center of it. Then we read the sign that explained some unusual phenomena. Navajo Lake was formed several thousands of years ago when lava flowed across the canyon and blocked the path of the creek. The lake then started to fill … but never overflowed the lava dam.
How is this possible you ask? At some point a lava tube had formed connecting the bottom of Navajo Lake to the wall of the Virgin River Rim, a mile or so to the west. This lava tube, and another that links to Duck Creek in the south, are large enough to completely drain Navajo Lake like a bathtub.
For this reason men have poured a concrete wall right across the center of the lake, which prevents all the water from running down the tubes. Looking up from the sign (and down toward the lake) I noticed the wall was indeed cement colored, but with a greenish-blue tint. I knew it would not be long before the lake level would drop enough to expose the top and south side of the wall.
At least ten cars were parked at the Cascade Falls trail head. Cindy and I grabbed a water and started hoofing it (no bikes allowed). We wanted to get started early as we knew Cascade Falls was a popular site.
Trail to Falls
The trail to the falls had been etched into the red rock walls of the Virgin River Rim. Water seeped from several different sandstone and limestone faces along the 1-mile trek, often causing hollowed out caves and overhangs. Recently built wood bridges and stairs made for an easy hike. The trail culminated with an wonderfully designed 8×10 foot wood platform.
Standing on this elaborate deck I could easily identify the same “must see” feature as in Mom’s photo … water shooting straight from the side of the canyon wall, then cascading down to the bottom of the ravine several hundred feet below … thus the title Cascade Falls. It was really unusual to see this much water near these red rock cliffs … let alone blasting right out the side. Usually any water running down this type of cliff is just a muddy seep … this was crystal clear.
Looking down the cascade Cindy noticed a little black bird doing an unusual dance below the platform. It looked like it was snatching insects out of mid air … then looked like it was washing itself in the over spray from the crashing creek. We watched his/her little show for a good ten minutes and upon leaving promised each other we would look up this little critter and see what it was and what it was doing. Cindy did look it up and found it was called an American Dipper … and it was, indeed, snatching bugs from amid the spray.
The hike back to the car was similar to the one to get there except we were constantly afforded a solid view of Zion National Park, which lay to the south west.
Hiking back to the parking lot we were amazed at how many cars there were. We only saw a couple of people hiking to the falls. We figured most of the visitors must have been hiking and biking on the Virgin River Rim Trail. I would soon come across several after mounting my mountain bike.
To read about my ride around Navajo Lake please click on the Virgin River Rim Trail (the first leg of the loop).
For a summary of all rides in the area please click Brian Head Mountain Biking.