Hiker with flip-flops grateful to be alive after fall at Bridal Veil Falls

Sep 20, 2022, 8:36 AM

PROVO, Utah — A man who fell more than 30 feet while climbing Bridal Veil Falls with flip-flops is recovering from a broken back and said he is grateful to be alive during an exclusive interview with KSL TV.

Justin Hill hiked up Bridal Veil Falls for the first time with a friend last year. Since then he’s returned many times because of the view, the beauty and the peace he feels there.

But on Sept. 8, his days of hiking up the falls came to an abrupt stop, at least temporarily.

He had just wrapped up a job interview and was feeling good. So he made an unexpected stop in Provo Canyon, threw on his sandals and started making his way up the waterfalls.

But when he got to the point he had been to so many times before, he decided to go higher to try and get an even better view. He said he had to climb up a small rock wall to get there.

After soaking up the beauty for a time, he struggled to know how to get back down and ultimately decided the best way would be the same way he climbed up. But it was not as easy.

“I can’t describe how it was,” Hill said. “Definitely terrifying. I didn’t know what was happening.”

He was falling. And he would continue to fall an estimated 30 to 40 feet before crashing onto his back, with part of his body on the edge of another drop.

“The only thing that stopped me from falling another 100 to 150 feet — people were telling me — was this little tree.”

The pain was agonizing. He said it hurt to move and it hurt to breathe. But somehow he managed to inch himself away from the edge and then call 911.

Fifteen minutes into the call he could hear the ambulance. Someone was coming to get him. But he said he was on the phone for an hour and a half before a helicopter picked him up and carried him to safety.

Hill thanked the dispatcher who waited with him on the phone.

“Justin, are you OK? I need you to talk to me. What do you see around you? I need you to stay with me,” he remembers her saying.

The next day, doctors performed surgery to fix two vertebrae on his back. He left the hospital one week later with two rods and six screws in his back.

Monday was his first time back at the falls since the incident. He returned to the base with his wife and a cane to keep him from falling.

“Memories came back,” he said. “Both good and bad memories.”

And it hit him that he had almost died there. But, he said this would not be his last time back.

With a smile, he said he “definitely learned my lesson not to hike in flip-flops.”

“I definitely feel like someone higher above has bigger plans for me and didn’t think it was my time to go.”

KSL 5 TV Live

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Hiker with flip-flops grateful to be alive after fall at Bridal Veil Falls