If you visit Arches or Canyonlands National Parks in the summer, you may be greeted by long days with temperatures in the triple digits. In those conditions, a simply swim in a cold creek can be as satisfying as any of those parks’ amazing landmarks. The Colorado River around Moab is swift and silty, so instead bathe in the refreshing waters of Mill Creek.
Mill Creek Trail heads deep into the Utah landscape southeast of Moab, but you only need to hike a quarter-mile to reach this fluvial refuge. Take the single track from the parking lot and head east parallel to Mill Creek, which has dug a fifteen-foot deep trench into the rocky plain. The level trail passes just to the right of a man-made waterfall at an old mill site. From here, the trail continues up along the creek, but if all you want is a refreshing dip, backtrack along the ledge for a few hundred feet until a path appears down the rocky bank. Once you descend to the creek, the hiking is over and it’s time to swim.
Mill Creek is shallow with relaxing pools and enough current to push you down a few rock water slides. Make your way upstream and you may see a few daredevils cliff jumping into the pool at the base of the falls. The deep spot is quite narrow, so jumping is not the greatest idea (unless you know a good doctor in Moab for broken legs).
Mill Creek is a great way to beat the relentless summer heat that comes with hiking in Utah. When you are ready to return to the 100-degree air, make a 180-degree turn, ascend the bank of the creek, and walk back to the parking lot. Mill Creek is located on BLM land. Dogs are allowed. No fee or permit is required to visit Mill Creek, so get out and enjoy.
Mill Creek Popularity: Mill Creek has become a highly (or overly) visited destination in the past decade. Trash, graffiti and other environmental impacts to the park and surrounding properties have increased as a result. New restrictions are enforced along Powerhouse Lane to address overflow parking and curtail visitors (parking may not be available when you arrive to hike). Take efforts to reduce the impact of your visit and help remove trash. Read more about visitor impacts in the Moab Sun News or help restore the area with Mill Creek Partnership.
To get to the trailhead: From downtown Moab, head south on Route 191. Make a left onto Sage Ave, followed by a quick right onto Holyoak Lane. Drive two blocks to Mill Creek Drive and make a left. Drive half a mile to Powerhouse Lane and turn right. Take this road for a third of a mile to the parking lot at road’s end. Park in the public lot and not where prohibited along Powerhouse Lane or on private property.
Trailhead address: Powerhouse Lane, Moab, UT 84532
Trailhead coordinates: 38.5619, -109.5169 (38° 33′ 42.8″N 109° 31′ 00.8″W)
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