Alright, so, if you follow us on Instagram or know me in real life, you'll know I'm all about finding the secret places that not everyone knows about. I prefer a lesser-known and quieter park to a more grandiose and crowded one. I like to be able to explore and discover things for myself and feel like I don't have to share them with anyone else.
I'm so glad we gave a busy spot a chance in Moab. My favorite hike out of all of our time there was one of the most well-known places. Right in town.
I usually plan for our next destination while we're on the way there. I scope out Campendium, iOverlander, and All Trails to find out what my priorities are. My husband is usually working, so I mostly have free reign at planning our stops.
When prepping for Moab, there are so many different things to take into account. For instance, my first attempt at finding us a desert oasis waterfall hike ended in a bone dry canyon which, though beautiful, was definitely not a waterfall.
Early on into planning, I began to see Mill Creek Falls popping up accompanied by some really cool photos. I wrote it down and moved on. Then, on our way out of town and back to our boondocking site one night, we happened to drive by the trailhead and it was PACKED (not surprising since Moab itself was suuuuuper busy at this time). I was, of course, disheartened and wondered if we should take it off the list.
Fast forward several days, and we're at the top of Porcupine Rim above Castle Valley and we're really craving a swim. Samus is a water dog through and through and we knew she would love to take a dip. When she was younger she could swim for hours on end. So we started looking into hikes along creeks and rivers around Moab again.
Mill Creek popped up once more.
I told Sven that was the one that we drove by that was very busy, (on top of that it was now the weekend). But we could always move farther down the creek for some privacy, I figured. We decided we'd give it a try. It was helpful that we were already on that side of town, so we didn't have to go through the construction traffic on the main street. We began our descent from the mountains through the Sand Flats Recreation Area.
When we got there it was, again, packed. We didn't have the highest of hopes so we just went with it. We found a parking spot right by the trailhead entrance, even though there were many cars parked farther down on the main road. The first thing we noticed was there were a lot of people and dogs leaving and entering. Despite the crowds, the approach to Mill Creek Falls is pretty neat, you have to wade through the creek and duck under cliffs throughout the just under 1-mile hike.
As we began to approach the main fall, the hum of laughter, chatter, and loud music became detectable. Since the rise of Covid these sounds have become all but foreign to us. Once we reached the focal point waterfall, we saw that there was a large gathering of cliff jumpers (which was insane because it seemed like 4 feet of water there, max, but I digress) as well as spectators. We took in the scene for a few moments while trying not to inhale and then decided there must be a trail over the falls. We scrambled our way up over the rocks and quickly left the crowds behind.
The hike from this point on was awesome. The red rock canyon walls towered above us and Mill Creek was right by our side the whole time. About fifteen minutes' walk past the busy area, we came to a much smaller but entirely unoccupied waterfall where we played and frolicked with the dogs.
Once we had cooled off, we felt energized and invigorated and decided to continue with our hike to see what we could find. We wound our way through the Juniper shrubs and sands of varying viscosity, and didn't pass any other people until we came up to the next little waterfall.
Now this waterfall... this waterfall was something else.
There was no path that continued on past this waterfall that we could see, so in order to keep hiking, we had to climb through it. We were feeling adventurous so didn't question it. No problem, that waterfall is tiny, right? Yeah not so much. first of all, the water was ice cold and about up to my armpits. When I got out, my skin was red it was so cold. We also had the two dogs who were not going to willingly scale the freezing waterfall and a bunch of crap in our backpacks that we didn't want to get wet.
So here was the plan:
I was to swim to the waterfall carrying Nym, deliver her safely to the other side, then scale the fall and wait for Sven to bring the backpacks. He would bring the backpacks over then escort Samus up the fall.
Here's what actually happened:
I made it to the waterfall still holding Nym but the falling water made her nervous so she quickly decided to climb onto my back, scratching me all along the way. I finally convinced her to go up the rocks to dry land, but I could not for the life of me climb up the slippery waterfall. From the outside it looked so easy, but damn those rocks were slick. Finally I got up. Sven came over with the backpacks and the second half of the plan went down without a hitch somehow. We warmed up relatively quickly in the desert sun and kept trekkin'.
Just a few hundred yards farther was yet another waterfall, and this one flowed sideways! I called it the sideways waterfall. I'm very original, I know.
We probably kept hiking for about another mile or two before anything else exciting happened.
That next exciting thing was that we passed another family hiking with a dog. We shared a few laughs along with our stories about getting up the waterfall (they confirmed that this was the only way to continue on the hike) and just walked maybe another half mile before we decided to turn around.
All in all, we ended up walking about 7 miles down Mill Creek and had such a great time.
Moral of the story: don't let a bit of a crowd deter you. If we had seen a livestream of the parking lot or the main fall before we left, we probably would have decided not to go and missed out on our favorite hike in Moab. Bonus points because it was a lot less crowded on our way out around 5:30.