The Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of Utah’s scenic byways and takes you on a breathtaking 16-mile journey along the meandering Big Cottonwood Creek in the upper reaches of the Wasatch Mountains and National Forest above the Salt Lake Valley. Wind your way past old mines, epic fly-fishing spots, world-class rock climbing sites, dramatic alpine scenery and vibrant fall foliage to the historic Silver Fork Lodge, Solitude and Brighton Ski Resort, and the scenic route over Guardsman Pass.
Top Attractions in Big Cottonwood Canyon
Hiking & Biking
Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon offers year-round outdoor recreation at its best with endless historic trails for hiking, biking and exploring the scenic Wasatch mountains. Our favorite hiking trails are Donut Falls, about 9 miles up the canyon and accessible in the snow too, Willow Lake, near Silver Fork and the Brighton Lakes Loop to Lake Mary, Martha and Catherine surrounded by the spectacular granite peaks. The classic Wasatch Crest Trail can be accessed from Big Cottonwood Canyon for one of Utah’s most epic and scenic mountain biking experiences.
The Big Cottonwood Creek runs all the way down the canyon with several deep fishing holes and some of Utah’s best fly-fishing spots from the mouth of the canyon all the way to Solitude Resort. Silver Lake at Brighton Ski Resort is stocked with brook and rainbow trout, the Brighton Lakes offer excellent fishing or head to the Mill B trailhead and hike the trail to Florence, Blanche and Lillian Lake, all stocked with brook trout and surrounded by tranquil mountain views.
From March through November, Big Cottonwood Canyon offers outstanding rock-climbing on the towering granite walls, crags and buttresses of the Wasatch mountains. The single pitch Dogwood Crag is a mile up the canyon and Dead Snag, a little further up the canyon, is predominantly multi-pitch. A little further up the canyon are the harder lines at the S Curves for excellent sport climbing and traditional climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Silver Fork Lodge
The historic Silver Fork Lodge has a rich history dating back to 1947 when it was once the general store for the Silver Fork community. Today, the lodge continues on in the traditional mining spirit and is open year round for visitors to dine indoors or on the outdoor patio overlooking the rugged cliffs of Honeycomb Canyon. A must-stop on your scenic drive of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Solitude Ski Resort
The summer months at Solitude boast mountain disc golf at the top of the mountain, Saturday yoga classes on the lawn overlooking the ski slopes, lift-served mountain biking and hiking trails with miles of pristine single track trails and summer solitude. Winter in the Wasatch backcountry is nothing short of spectacular and Solitude Ski Resort does not disappoint.
Solitude is smaller than the Alta Ski Area yet boasts 1,200 skiable acres (10% beginner, 40% intermediate, 50% advanced), pristine Nordic trails and snowshoe tours and fun clinics for the whole family. Whatever the season, be sure to soak up the epic mountain views with heart-warming comfort food at Honeycomb Grill along canyon creek.
Brighton Ski Resort
Brighton Resort is the second oldest ski resort in Utah (and one of the oldest in North America) located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. In the summer months, stroll the boardwalk to Silver Lake for trout fishing, picnics with possible wildlife viewing and beautiful scenery. In the winter months, Brighton offers loads of snowy adventures with 1,050 acres of diverse skiable terrain for all levels of skiers and snowboarders on 66 runs with night skiing and some of the best corduroy in Utah.
The Guardsman Pass scenic byway (Utah 190 West) is a beautiful backcountry mountain pass that leads from Brighton Ski Resort through the Deer Valley to Park City, or you take a diversion south through Wasatch Mountain State Park down to the Heber Valley. The pass sits at an elevation of 9,740 ft and is only open from May to October due to heavy winter snowfall. There are several hiking trails, lakes and scenic lookouts along the route with spectacular spring wildflowers and a rainbow of fall foliage in autumn.
Stay with Alta Chalets and take a scenic drive down the narrow glacier carved canyon and towering granite walls of the Little Cottonwood Canyon to reach the UT-190 intersection to discover the top attractions and explore the beauty of Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon.