Sunday Gulch Trail

Great hike that initially descends into the gulch over slick boulders. Very scenic trail with lots of mossy rocks, trees, water crossings and some small waterfalls. Sunday Gulch Trail is lots of fun.

Sunday Gulch Trail

Facts To Remember


Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 3 miles round trip / approx 3 hours
Elevation Gain: 214 feet
Starting Elevation: 1,705 feet
When To Hike: Year Round
Permits: Park Fee Required
Pets Allowed: Yes
Starting Location:  2.5 miles East of Sylvan Lake on Needles Highway
Time of Year: June, 2020

Parking and Getting There

The parking area is next to Sylvan Lake. There is plenty of parking spaces and overflow area but likely fills up fast on busy weekends. Fantastic area to picnic, enjoy the water and hike.

The trail for Sunday Gulch Trail is behind the dam. We just walked along and around Sylvan Lake until we saw a path through rocks to the trailhead.

Getting to Sunday Gulch Trail

The trail actually starts behind the dam on the backside of the lake. You could be at the trailhead in 10-15 minutes but Sylvan Lake is very scenic so be prepared for it to take a little longer.

Sylvan Lake and the dam are enjoyable in case you aren’t interested in the hike.

Stone Path Leading to Top of Dam

This area is opposite the parking area. A stone path through the water leads to the top of the dam.

Leading Down from Lake to Trailhead

This is a narrow part of the trail leading to the bottom of the dam and to the trailhead. Massive boulder hanging just above your head as you pass through.

Once we reached the bottom, we turned right and found the trailhead.

The Trailhead

The trailhead begins by going down. It’s a little dangerous as you have to go down steps, boulders and occasionally cross some water. The steps and especially the boulders were slippery at times so it’s very important to hold onto the railing as you work your way down.

The water was easily crossed but we heard in spring and early summer the water can be knee deep or higher, due to releasing dam water, so prepare for getting wet.

Mossy Rocks, Trees and Small Waterfall

The trail is actually really nice. The moss really softens everything and makes the trail more unique.


Up and Out

After we got to the bottom of the rocks, we explored a bit but decided to go back out the way we came in. We really enjoyed the boulders and stairs.

Once we arrived back at the start of the trailhead, we turned left and worked our way out and back to Sylvan Lake to have a snack and enjoy the views.

Our Thoughts

Great little hike with a fun yet slightly dangerous climb down the boulders heading into the canyon. The boulders, small waterfalls, mossy rocks and trees made this a good hike.

Plus whether you like hiking or not, the area around Sylvan Lake is fantastic. Rent a kayak, have a picnic, find a quiet spot on the big rocks that surround the lake and just sit and relax. Plus this area is the starting point for several other really good hikes such as Cathedral Spires and Little Devils Tower.

Are you Considering This Hike?

Check the weather, if rain or bad weather is expected, this would be better done another day
There are some slippery boulders and rocks, so hold on to the railing and make sure you are comfortable as you head down
If it’s Spring or early Summer be prepared for areas of higher water

Hike Recommendations

Water: Always bring plenty of water as summer temperatures can be very high
Food/Snacks: Always bring some food
Hiking Boots/Shoes: Traction is Important – No sandals, flip flops, slippers, dress shoes – remember there are some water crossings so your shoes will likely get wet
Hiking Sticks/Poles: Poles will reduce the impact on knees and leg muscles

More Useful Information

Sylvan Lake

Notch Trail, Badlands

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