Whether you’re seeking natural beauty, exhilarating outdoor activities, or a glimpse into the past of Utah’s storied valleys and canyons, Little Cottonwood Canyon has it all! Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons are nestled in the Wasatch Mountains on the east side of the Salt Lake Valley, an easy drive from Salt Lake City yet a world apart, offering captivating beauty and serene seclusion. 

Little Cottonwood Creek Trail 

Little Cottonwood Creek River

Stretching 3 miles from the mouth of the canyon to the Temple Quarry Ruins, this easy multi-use out-and-back trail attracts a regular flow of hikers, bikers, trail runners, leaf-peepers, and snowshoe enthusiasts in the winter season. 

The Little Cottonwood Creek Trail is packed full of Utah history and tranquil views of the Wasatch Front. From 1860 to 1970, the Temple Quarry was used to mine rock for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Salt Lake Temple, old buildings and granite boulders carved by Mormon pioneers line the trail, and nature abounds with blooming wildflowers, birdlife, butterflies, vibrant fall foliage, creek crossings, and scenic mountain views as you wind your way through Utah’s beautiful Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

You can hike Little Cottonwood Creek Trail up the canyon from the Temple Quarry Trailhead at the mouth of the canyon or from the Lisa Falls Trailhead in the upper reaches of the canyon near the Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Resort

Albion Meadows Trail

Embark on an unforgettable journey on the Albion Meadows Trail, accessible from the Albion Base parking lot or Goldminer’s Daughter parking lot near the base of the Wildcat lift. Begin with the Lower Albion Meadows Trail, a short easy 0.5 mile interpretive trail that parallels the Transfer Tow before passing through a vivid display of wildflowers on the iconic Alf’s High Rustler ski run, and on to the historic Engen Brothers jump hill that once hosted Alta’s famous Gelande competitions. After a cool creek crossing, you’ll reach the Sunnyside and Albion lifts.  

Here, the Lower Albion Meadows Trail connects effortlessly to the Upper Albion Meadows Trail, a 1.5-mile route suitable for beginner and intermediate hikers. From the upper trail, adventure awaits, as this trail links to the trailheads for Cecret Lake and Catherine’s Pass.  

Catherine’s Pass Trail 

Looking for a bigger challenge to elevate your hiking experience? Accessible from the Upper Albion Meadows Trail or a small parking area at the trailhead on Albion Basin Road, this invigorating 1.5-mile trail with a 1,000 elevation gain boasts an abundance of natural beauty and breathtaking views. Venture through enchanting woodlands, meadows of wildflowers, and tranquil wetlands with regular wildlife visitors. As you ascend, brace yourself for breathtaking views of Devil’s Castle and Albion Basin. The trail’s highlight awaits at the summit – vast views of the Alta-Brighton lakes of Catherine, Martha and Mary. From the pass, explore connections to Point Supreme, Sunset Pass, and Sunset Peak or dip down into the Brighton Ski Area in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Lisa Falls Trailhead 

The parking for the Lisa Falls Trailhead is located between mileposts 6 and 7 on Little Cottonwood Canyon Road. There is a small parking area on the south side of the road with a trailhead to the Little Cottonwood Creek Trail and another parking area across the street on the north side with an unmarked trail to Lisa Falls. Look for the huge rock between the Chevron arrows. 

Lisa Falls is a short and sweet family-friendly hike to add to your exploration of the Little Cottonwood Creek Trail. The trail follows a rocky stream bed up the north side of the canyon to unique waterfalls cascading sideways down the canyon’s quartz monzonite cliffs. The kids will love boulder hopping along the trail, and if you look up, you’ll likely see rock climbers scaling the cliffs. 

Temple Quarry Trailhead 

The Temple Quarry Trailhead is well-marked, with restrooms and parking at the trailhead and additional parking across the street in the Little Cottonwood Parking Lot. Start your adventure with a history lesson on the Temple Quarry Trail, a short wheelchair and stroller-friendly paved nature trail with historical markers and monuments, an amphitheater, and the Rocky Mountain Goat Lookout to try spot our iconic white mountain goats clinging to the steep granite cliffs! 

The Little Cottonwood Creek Trail branches off the Temple Quarry Trail. The first part of the trail is open, sunny, and not particularly impressive, but don’t turn around! After a short distance the trail reaches a paved road, Granite Cliffs Road, stay straight, take the next right onto Power Plant Lane, pass The Power Plant, and then follow the signs to continue along the Little Cottonwood Trail. 

Local tip: You can also veer off left on Wasatch Resort Road to connect to the Alpenbock Trail Network at the Grit Mill Trailhead. 

The trail picks up just past the power plant and continues to follow Little Cottonwood Creek up the canyon. From this point on, the trail is wider and well-shaded with hard-packed rocky surfaces, massive granite boulders (some still showing chisel marks made by pioneers), ruins of old buildings, and gorgeous canyon views. Around 2.5 miles in, the trail crosses the Little Cottonwood Creek Bridge where you can turn right to continue 0.9 miles to the historic Temple Quarry Ruins, turn around for a downhill descent back to the Temple Quarry Trailhead (fun for mountain biking!), or turn left to reach the trailhead to Lisa Falls. 

Tips for Hiking Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons 

Cottonwood Canyon Road

The Little Cottonwood Creek Trail travels through potential avalanche terrain. Before heading out on a snowshoe hike, please educate yourself on our local Interlodge policies and check the daily avalanche forecast online at Utah Avalanche Center

Please leave your furry friends at home. Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons are critical protected watershed areas that supply the entire Salt Lake Valley. Dogs are not allowed! 

The Little Cottonwood Creek Trail is an easy, family-friendly trail that requires no high-tech hiking gear. A pair of good hiking boots and trekking poles will help navigate the boulders, prepare for unpredictable weather changes in the higher elevations, and be sure to pack snacks and water for stops along the way. 

Stay Near Little Cottonwood Creek Trail 

Experience the ultimate retreat near Little Cottonwood Creek Trail with Alta Chalets! After a day of exploration, return to your own private mountain hideaway, unwind in a hot tub surrounded by panoramic views of the Wasatch Peaks, and enjoy the unrivaled comfort, convenience, and perks of a private Snowbird or Alta Chalet vacation rental

Questions? Call our local team at (801) 424-2426