Updated: Sep 15
I grew up at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon but never hiked the beauty in my backyard. I would run up the canyon but never thought to explore beyond that. After I got married and had kids, I decided that I would give them the gift of loving their backyard wilderness---things close to home for free. Now, our kids love the great outdoors and it makes for a perfect place to have teaching moments and help them find gratitude. We hope this post will help you and your family have special moments and make memories like it has for us!
Hiking Little Cottonwood Canyon
Whether you're a Utah local or just visiting the Salt Lake City area, you will find hiking in Little Cottonwood Canyon to be a new and invigorating experience. With its beautiful lakes, cascading waterfalls and awe inspiring vistas, you can't go wrong. We have rounded up the best hikes for families, kids or just wilderness lovers. Just be sure to check weather reports. We recommend summer hiking for the best experience as the weather is the most pleasant and the vegetation is in full bloom. Also, be prepared to see plenty of Utah wildlife including moose, elk and deer.
6. Snowbird Observation Point Trail (easy 1.0 mile)
This trail is perfect for kids of all ages or even for the romantic couple who wants a stroll. It is located at Snowbird and overlooks the beautiful Little Cottonwood Canyon. Head to the 3rd floor of Snowbird and walk out to the bridge where you will find the trailhead. Our favorite things about this trail were the amazing wildflowers in bloom (if you go in summer). Bonus: Go at sunset for perfect shade and beautiful skies.
5. Lisa Falls (easy 0.3 mile)
This hidden gem is perfect for those with young kids. It is the shortest hike in little cottonwood canyon but has an amazing reward of cascading falls off of the trademark Utah granite rock. It is about 7 miles up the canyon on your left. Parking is limited but since the hike is quick, people go in and out real quick making room for space.
4. Gloria Falls (moderate 2.3 miles)
This is one of our all time favorite hikes near Salt lake City. It is a little steep for kids and you will need to come prepared to bushwhack. We do this on date nights but if your kids are older than 10, they can probably do it. Make sure you wear good shoes as you will need to cross bridges and scale steep and rocky terrain. However, the falls are worth all the sweat. You will not regret seeing all the aspens either.
3. Little Cottonwood Creek trail to Tanner Flat (moderate 3.5 miles)
When Utah is not in a drought, this hike goes along a bustling creek. Be prepared to hop over rocks and go across dried up river beds. However, it is almost fully shaded which makes for a refreshing experience. Little hidden gems include spots of wildflowers and rock ruins. Kids also love to explore by walking on logs across the creek.
2. Lower Bell Canyon (moderate 2.4)
Disclaimer: This particular trail is not inside Little Cottonwood but it is near it. Park on Wasatch Boulevard just south of the mouth of the canyon. Shaped like a bell and one of the most popular hikes in Utah for kids, Lower Bell Canyon is absolutely gorgeous. It is full of adventure with steep inclines, bridges, rivers, caves and an incredible reservoir once you reach the top. The little creek near the peak is fun for kids to take off their shoes and wade in. There are plenty of fish and ducks to entertain the littles. It is not dog approved since it is a water shed so be sure to plan ahead for that. The V-shaped canyon behind the reservoir is breathtaking and the views of the Salt Lake valley are hard to beat.
1. Cecret Lake Trail (easy 1.8) or
Cecret Lake via Albion Basin (moderate 4.5 miles)
This hike is not so secret but it is spread out so you will get glimpses of quiet wilderness. Vibrant wildflowers and never ending moose and the reward of a crystal clear lake makes it our number one spot on the list for hikes in Utah. There are two ways to do this hike. If you have younger kids, consider driving up to the Albion Basin campground and parking up there. You will miss most of the wildflowers this way but you will get stunning views of Sugarloaf Peak coupled with Cecret lake.
If you are okay with a longer hike and wish to see all the famous Utah wildflowers at Albion Basin, then you will need to start at Alta ski resort and park in the lot there.