hikes near salt lake city
A popular hiking trail in Alta, Utah at Albion Basin, Catherine Pass has it all. From a stunning array of wildflowers during the month of July to spectacular views of Lake Catherine below and even bull moose sightings on lucky days.
The trail starts at the first parking lot along the Albion Basin dirt road past the last of the paved area at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The trail is well marked and rated a class 2 which means you will run into some loose rocks and steep inclines. However, this popular family trail is suitable for older children.
The trail starts at the base of the dirt road, across from the Sunnyside parking lot. It starts with a steady climb in an exposed meadow but quickly moves into pine trees and shade. A variety of flowers dot the way.
|Bull moose resting in the meadow|
The trail levels off a bit at the meadow and then climbs a few steep switchbacks before reaching the ridge, which is 1.5 miles one way. At the ridge, enjoy the spectacular view of Lake Catherine. A trail cuts through the rocks in a steep descent for a relaxing break at the lake if you want to hike a little more. At this point, you can turn around for an out and back hike of just over 3 miles or you can hike to Brighton Ski Resort and see the other Brighton Lakes along the way. Twin Lakes and Lake Mary are worth the extra hike if you have more time. It is 3.9 miles one way to Brighton.
Put on your hiking shoes and don’t worry, athletic shoes will work for this hike too.
Just don’t forget your camera. This is one of those hikes you will be pinching yourself if you do.
Getting there: From I-15, take the 90th South exit in Sandy, Utah. Go east on 90th south. Follow 90th South East which will eventually become Little Cottonwood Road. Go up Little Cottonwood Road to the top at Alta Ski Resort. Continue east on the dirt road (Albion Basin Road) and park at the first parking lot on the south side of the dirt road.
I love Utah. Everything I want to do is here. There’s hiking trails galore! I’ve grown up at the mouth of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and it wasn’t until this winter that I discovered this trail. I looked it up on our handy Wasatch Hiking Trails Map to find the name of it.
North Fork Deaf Smith Canyon is the trail, although about a half mile in there is a fork in the trail. The left fork is the North Fork and is a little longer trail, approximately 3 miles up and then the trail kind of disappears. The right fork is much shorter, approximately 1 mile and then the trail ends. You can try to continue up but it’s some pretty heft bush-whacking. The 1 mile trail feels a little longer because it is windy and I did it in the snow which makes it a little more strenuous. Either trail is a beautiful hike. To get to the trail head, go along Wasatch Boulevard and just north of Little Cottonwood Canyon, enter the neighborhoods. Use a GPS to locate Kings Hill Drive. The trail head is at the end of the circle. You will walk along the Bonneville Shoreline portion to another road. Turn left and walk past a house. You will see the trail resume there.
|Walking along the beginning offers a nice view without a long hike.|
|You can never beat the view on the way up|
|The beginning of the trail is along the Bonneville Shoreline ridge. It is flat and unprotected. This section is quite short, approximately a quarter mile.|
As you continue the hike, you go into the canyon. It gets quite shady and cools off quite a bit. The river runs alongside the trail and also helps to keep it cool. You will definitely want to dress in layers for this hike whether its winter or summer because of the dramatic temperature change. Although it can get fairly chilly in the canyon, you will probably get pretty warm as your body is moving. I started out this hike in my down ski-jacket liner, with a long sleeve underneath. I brought gloves and a hat in my day pack but did not need them. I wore water resistant hiking pants and snow boots. In the summer I would suggest light hiking pants or shorts, short sleeves and a light jacket just in case.
If you go in the winter when there is snow, you may or may not need snowshoes. It is a fairly frequented trail and the snow is usually packed down enough you won’t need them. I did not use them on this day hike. There are a few sections of the trail that are moderately steep and can get icy, but they are short and there are tree branches, bushes and rocks to hold on to for stability. If you are nervous about your balance I would suggest bringing hiking poles.
On the south fork, the right fork, there is a small cave. I found these really cool icicles stalagmites. They reminded me of bowling pins. *To remember the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite just think a stalagmite MIGHT grow up to touch the ceiling and a stalactite has to hang on TIGHT not to fall. Works for me every time!* Though there is a little fire pit at this cave, refrain from campfires as homes are too close to this canyon. Not a good combination.
|There’s always hidden gems to find if you open your eyes and look|
|The stream freezes in the winter and is quite beautiful|
The trail fizzles out a little past the cave, but you don’t want to miss out on a great view! There is a small scramble up some boulders to get to this view, but if you are willing to climb a little, its definitely worth it. It’s really not that bad and very short.
|The view from the top! This view is a little off the trail and a little bit of a scramble to get to.|
|Never forget to have fun. Keep youth in your heart!|
|Trail head at Little Cottonwood Rd.|
The Salt Lake Valley boasts many hiking trails close to the city. The proximity to the mountains literally means minutes to beautiful hiking trails. Bells Canyon Trail at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is not only popular during summer but winter as well
The trail is accessed through two trail heads, one at approximately 10245 So. Wasatch Blvd. and the other at 3388-3398 E. Little Cottonwood Rd. I started from the Little Cottonwood Rd. trail head and parked in the lot. In the winter, parking is not a problem but the lot fills up fast during the summer, especially on weekends.
The trail begins with a steady, moderate climb with a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Vally along the way. About .7 miles from the trail head is Bell Canyon Reservoir. This is a watershed area and storage area for Sandy City, thus dogs are not allowed on the trail. Don’t even try to sneak in a hike with your dog. It is clearly marked and you risk getting a ticket.
|Bells Canyon Reservoir|
After crossing the footbridge, the trail gets steep and rocky so be prepared with the right footwear. During the summer, the trail is marked with cairns but in winter, it is trickier to follow. It does follow the stream and is traveled enough even in winter.Previous hikers leave enough prints in the snow to find it.
The Lone Peak Wilderness sign is a good indicator you’re heading in the right direction. By this point, the trail becomes steep, rocky and slippery if traveling in winter or early spring. In fact, I would recommend good hiking boots with a set of microspikes for this portion of the trail if winter hiking. A good pair of hiking poles made a huge difference for me as well. I saw hikers sliding down on their butts as the trail was too slippery to walk on without spikes.
The last part of the trail to the lower falls is strenuous, though the trail is rated as moderate. I had never been to the lower falls before and it can be tricky during the winter as the roar of the falls is absent. There is a large pine tree off to the left of the trail and a steep decline toward the falls. During the spring, the runoff can make the area in and around the falls treacherous. In winter, the ice can pose a danger as well so I don’t recommend hiking across the falls. People have fallen to their deaths doing so.
The round trip to the lower falls is about 4 miles. The trail does continue on to the upper Bells Canyon reservoir and to the upper falls. This is a about a 9.5 mile out a back trail that many use as an overnight trip in the summer. The trail to the upper falls is steep and rocky and takes longer to hike than many anticipate. I did not venture onto the upper part of the trail but will this summer.
The scenery of the sheer gray cliffs and views of the valley are spectacular. The rock walls are popular for climbers as well.
Bells Canyon is a must see hike for those who live in or are visiting the Salt Lake City, Utah area.
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