Look no hands! – Lisa Falls, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT

Two weeks ago our family had a mind-boggling line-up of outdoor activities that only one canyon I know of could supply at the same time: Little Cottonwood Canyon. We hit the trail Saturday morning in our snowshoes and hiked a 1/2 a mile up White Pine trail where lots of snow castle building, tractoring, and general mischief was had. The dads brought along the skis, skinned up the trail further and took a trip down a run called “Pink Pine.” It was a glorious bluebird day.

snowshoeing with kids, White Pine trail snow castles, kid's outdoor play sledding and snow play, utah

Sunday woke bright and just as sparkly as the day before, so we headed back to Little Cottonwood, stopped only a mile or two lower in the canyon and headed to Lisa Falls for some family climbing. Inwardly [and outwardly] I was chucking. That evil cackle that comes when you realize you truly live in the best place on earth. Snowshoeing and skiing on Saturday, then climbing on Sunday?! But then, those of us who live in Utah know this is commonplace.

Lisa Falls

3 yr old climbing - kid friendly crag Lisa Falls Lisa Falls is, well, unique. It is known by non-climbers as the fun-family-water-fall that is at the end of a really short hike. It is known to parents as a great place to bring the kids when you want to cool off on a hot summer day. And it is known to climbers as those easy slab climbs that still make you screech as your well placed smear slowly. peels. off. the rock.

The Lisa Falls Buttress is host to a wide variety of sport routes.  But just be ready to use your feet, and not much else. We started on, Flee Flicker 5.7 on the main wall to the right of the waterfall. Overall an easy climb. The crux is down low, as you move past the second bolt. Since it was like a party at the crag that day, we crossed over to the left side of Lisa Falls and set up some ropes on Sweet Spot 5.8+R. For most of these climbs you are not following major features or cracks, but rather smearing off micro-flakes, palming on a rough bowl, or crimping on crystals. We climbed it twice, doing two different variations, which I believe was a mix between Sweet Spot and Sweep Left 5:10b.

sledding and snow play, utah Lisa Falls, Climbing girls

While Lisa Falls is relatively easy and laid-back, it is great for getting your head in the game early season. I was forced to trust my feet, there aren’t any other options. And I was amazed how quickly panic set in when my feet began to slowly lose their purchase on the granite.

For the kids

3 yr old climbing - kid friendly crag Lisa Falls Honestly, slab climbs are REALLY hard for kids. My oldest (1st grade) is just reaching the point where I can coach her through finding a rough patch of rock to plant her foot on. Without solid hand holds, most the kids just scream and try to hug the rock :). But we did get the kids to enjoy the bottom portion of Flee Flicker, and there is a great 5.5 trad route that kids would enjoy, if you bring the gear to set it up.

Off the rock, this is probably one of the most-kid-friendly crags we have been to! A super short drive, followed by short approach and then an entire day playing in shallow, non-threatening waterfalls?! Kid heaven. There are even trees and bushes at the base to provide some shade during those hot days, as well as boulders for them to climb to their heart’s content. A good supply of snacks and water-safe toys made this day a success. Just be prepared to have damp kids. 🙂

6 yr old climbing at Lisa Falls

Lisa Falls for family hiking or climbing Tip Jar

1. Kids Keen sandals – In and out of water all day!

2. Mad Rock kid’s climbing shoes – Often parents forego kid’s climbing shoes, and on routes with large features and foot holds, that might be ok. But they really help out at Lisa Falls.

3. Hats and Sunscreen – We were in the sun all day. This crag will be bakin’ come mid-summer.

4. An engineer – 🙂 Lisa Falls was flowing quite nicely due to all the spring runoff, so the base of most the routes were under 2-3 inches of running water. Ten minutes later I noticed it had dried out a bit…then I noticed one of the dad’s damming it off, so we wouldn’t have to dodge running water all day.

5. Folding Chairs – Why not make yourself comfy? A really short approach enables that.


Park at the dirt lot on the left, 2.8 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon from the neon signs. Follow the distinct trail that heads up a shaded wash for approximately 200 yards.

Lisa Falls for family hiking or climbing

2 comments on “Look no hands! – Lisa Falls, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  1. Great article Alyssa, I have spent a great deal of time in the little cottonwood canyon and it definitely has great places for kids of all ages. I love the summer for the free climbing and the rock climbing. Again Great article I would highly recommend this canyon for a family outing.

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