Big and Little Cottonwood

Getting to Know the Cottonwoods

Here’s a Jeopardy-style question for all you intrepid trivia-buffs: What world-famous sibling ski-towns are separated by a common ridge on the western edge of the magnificent Rocky Mountains on Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range?

The answer, Alex: (and thank you for humoring us with our homage to the late great Alex Trebek), is Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon (referred to by the locals as BCC and LCC). Both areas are home to first-class ski areas and resorts: Little Cottonwood Canyon is host to Alta Ski Area and Snowbird, while less than an hour away, Big Cottonwood Canyon is where you’ll find Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Ski Resort. Both towns are less than an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City International Airport.

Homes-for-sale can be in short supply and are in what many would consider the pricey-but-deservedly-so range. You’ll see forest-side chalets (dressed with plenty of master-crafted wood-, brick- and stone-work), homes with expansive floor plans outfitted with big gather-round kitchens plus several bedrooms with en-suite baths (perfect for those who have ski-buddies primed to visit on a regular basis), secluded streamside estates on tucked-away lanes (ideal for peeps for whom privacy is utmost) and even multi-level entertaining masterpieces with spacious view-decks and towering windows to take in the majesties of Mother Nature. For those who prefer a lock-and-leave lifestyle, no worries: modern lofts, energy-efficient townhomes and cozy lodge-style condos are also part of the residential landscape. In addition, a limited selection of build-lots are available; some are in new master-planned communities and come with ready-to-build schematics, while others are in the bring-your-own-builder category.

The Feel

Living in Big Cottonwood Canyon or Little Cottonwood Canyon means that you must (we repeat, M.U.S.T.) love skiing, and for sure, powder-hounds of various persuasions call these areas home. Indeed, these snowy enclaves are a top-notch permanent home, home-away-from-home or vacay-destination for bevies of big-time skiers and snow-boarders because the area generally receives a ballparked 500 (or more…) inches of snow each year, the kind of fluffy white-stuff that makes all those quad-pulls, constant goosebumps, strained muscles, years of freezing-cold lessons and expensive gear more than worth it.

Along with snow-sports, the Cottonwoods’ lifestyle frequently includes season-appropriate rock-climbing and roaming view-rich hiking trails that appeal to picnickers as well as outdoor-fiends and friends in a variety of ages and abilities. However, hiking some of these trails and/or clambering up the area’s rugged cliffs can be quite strenuous (and the elevation is higher than what a number of newbies are used to), so if you’re new to the area, be sure to check your athletic cheekiness at the proverbial door and understand what you’re getting into. That said, yowza — those views! Awe-inspiring waterfalls, sparkling glacier-lakes, as-far-as-the-eye-can-see forests and more — we’re out of breath just thinking about it, because the area is truly just that: a breathtaking alfresco paradise.

The bottom line is this: If the thought of snow jettisons your mood into a cranky downward spiral focused on an exhausting weekend of plowing, shoveling and groveling for help with either of those chores, these gorgeous getaway towns are probably not a good personality match — you might want to swipe left on either of the Cottonwoods. On the other hand, if a heavy snowfall propels your everyday mild-mannered ski-jonesing synapses from their normally manageable state into a bundle of heebie-jeebie high-energy can’t-wait-to-get-on-the-slopes nerves, either Big Cottonwood Canyon or Little Cottonwood Canyon would pretty much be heaven on earth for you.

An Incredible Location

Things To Do

Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon are both home to first-class ski areas and resorts. These snowy enclaves are heaven on earth for big-time skiers and snow-boarders because the area receives 500 (or more…) inches of snow each year. Along with snow-sports, the Cottonwoods’ lifestyle includes season-appropriate rock-climbing and roaming view-rich hiking trails that appeal to picnickers as well as outdoor-lovers in a variety of ages and abilities.

Here’s just a small sampling of what there is to do and see (and eat, eat and eat some more!) in Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon and surrounding areas.

Little Cottonwood Canyon Skiing
Alta Ski Area
  • 2,614 skiable acres
  • 2,538 vertical feet
  • 6 lifts (3 high-speed)
  • Calls itself a “ski area” not a “ski resort”
  • Skiing only; no snow-boarding

  • 2,500 skiable acres
  • 3,240 vertical feet
  • 10 lifts (six are high-speed quads)
  • An aerial tram covers 2,900 vertical feet in approximately 7 minutes
  • Longest run: Chip’s Run, 2.5 miles

Big Cottonwood Canyon Skiing
Solitude Mountain Resort
  • 1,200 skiable acres
  • 2,494 vertical feet
  • 8 lifts
  • 77 runs
  • Base: 8,005 feet
  • Summit: 10,035 feet

Brighton Ski Resort
  • 1,050 skiable acres
  • 1,745 vertical feet
  • 6 lifts
  • 66 runs
  • 100% of terrain is accessible from high-speed lifts

Hiking trails and picnic areas
In both Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon, you’ll find dozens of hiking trails that are an idyllic outdoor getaway perfect for folks with a varied hiking skillset including mom/dads with baby backpacks and curious toddlers all the way up to experienced experts intent on achieving a personal best time. In addition to hiking, you’ll find numerous picnic areas with tables, creek-side views and more. Some require reservations, so be sure to check before heading out. A few (and as we said, there are many, many more…) of the most popular trails and picnic areas include:

Little Cottonwood Canyon
Cecret Lake Interpretive Hike
  • 0.75 miles one-way
  • Easy elevation climb of 420 feet
  • Pronounced “secret”

Lower Albion Meadows Hike
  • 0.5 miles one-way
  • Rated beginner
  • 100 feet elevation gain

Twin Lakes Pass Hike
  • 1.8 miles one-way
  • Rated intermediate
  • Elevation gain 1,350 feet
  • Goes up into Grizzly Gulch

Catherine’s Pass/Lake Hike
  • 1.5 miles one-way
  • Rated intermediate/moderate
  • Elevation gain 800 feet

Lisa Falls Hike
  • Just under a half-mile
  • Rated easy
  • Elevation gain 120 feet
  • Short and rocky yet family-friendly

Big Cottonwood Canyon Hikes
Brighton Lakes Trail Hike
  • Climb 1,173 feet and meander past Lake Mary, Lake Martha and Lake Catherine
  • Rated moderate
  • 4 miles out and back

Donut Falls Hike
  • Kid-friendly hike leads you right into a creek and waterfall
  • Rated easy
  • 3.5 miles out and back

Silver Lake Loop Trail Hike
  • Easy hike loops around the lake
  • Rated easy
  • 0.75 miles long

Ledgemere Picnic Area
  • Borders Big Cottonwood Creek
  • Part of the Wasatch National Forest
  • 13 picnic sites with tables, fire-pits and barbecue grills

Little Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway
Rich with wildflowers, as is so much of this view-filled area, this beautiful 11-mile drive takes you into and along the stunning scenery of the Wasatch Mountains.
  • Goes past numerous picnic areas, campgrounds and hiking trails

Oktoberfest at Snowbird
Snowbird’s Oktoberfest festival attracts more than 60,000 visitors annually. This family-friendly event is held on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall and boasts beer, brats and carnival games/rides for kids of all ages.
  • Live music
  • Adventure-sport activities: zip lines and more

Big Cottonwood Canyon Half-Marathon
Mostly downhill, this popular race leads you past the beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
  • A good race for both half-marathoner newbies as well as experienced runners
  • USATF (USA Track and Field) sanctioned

Eat, drink and be merry*
*Some restaurants are not open in the summer-season, some are only open for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, so call ahead for details

Snowbird Ski Resort
The Aerie Restaurant and Lounge
  • Fine dining cuisine
  • Local, seasonal, organic ingredients
  • Located on 10th floor of The Cliff Lodge
  • Spectacular mountain views
  • Award-winning wine list
  • Fireplace, live music

The Atrium
  • Gourmet coffees, teas
  • Pastries, breakfast
  • Lunch served daily in the winter
  • 11-story windows with stunning mountain views
  • Table seating, also grab-and-go menu

  • 70’s twist on comfort food
  • Grill favorites
  • Retro vibe

Steak Pit
  • Steaks, seafood
  • Vegetarian options
  • Extensive wine list

The Forklift
  • Comfort food
  • Breakfast, lunch, apres-ski noshing

The Lodge Bistro
  • Gourmet bistro cuisine
  • Popular bistro and lounge

The Tram Club
  • Beer, wine, cocktails
  • Apres-ski specials

Tram Car Pizza
  • Made-to-order pizzas, salads
  • Hot sandwiches

Baked & Brewed Café
  • Hand-crafted sweets, pastries
  • Gourmet coffee, juices, smoothies, ice cream

The Birdfeeder
  • Walk-up food service
  • Burgers, sandwiches

General Gritts
  • Breakfast, sandwiches
  • Full-service deli
  • Grocery store, state liquor store

The Wildflower
  • Italian cuisine, pizzas
  • Appetizers
  • Lively apres-ski scene

Mid-Gad Restaurant
  • Burgers, sandwiches, snacks
  • Also sit-down restaurant with comfort-food options

Creekside Café & Grill
  • Coffee, burgers, burritos
  • Baked goods, salads, soups

Subie Shack
  • Food-trailer steps from lift
  • Yogurt, acai bowls, protein bowls
  • BBQ sandwiches

  • Food-trailer steps from the base of the Mid-Gad chairlift
  • Grab-and-go options, burgers, hot dogs, cookies, drinks

The Rendezvous
  • Cafeteria-style lunch restaurant
  • Burgers, sandwiches, salads, chili

Alta Ski Area
Cecret Coffee Shop
  • Mid-mountain grab-and-go outlet on snow-level of Alf’s Restaurant
  • Ski-up window
  • Coffee, espresso, hot chocolate, teas, beer
  • Snacks, waffles

Alf’s Restaurant
  • Family-friendly on-hill scenic lunch spot with mountain views
  • Indoor and outdoor seating
  • Hamburgers, sandwiches, fajitas, soup, chili
  • Local micro-brew selections
  • Collection of antique skis on display

Watson Café
  • Mid-mountain respite with fabulous views of Mount Superior and Mount Baldy
  • Sandwiches, pasta, pizza, bakery items, beer
  • Organic and locally sourced food
  • Two levels of indoor seating plus an outdoor deck

Honeycomb Grill
  • Contemporary American cuisine
  • Gorgeous views
  • Offers plenty of vegan and vegetarian options

Stone Haus Pizzeria and Creamery
  • Grab-and-go salads, pizzas, bagels, sandwiches
  • Smoothies, ice cream
  • Very family-friendly

Thirsty Squirrel
  • Apres-ski bar
  • Quick dinners, drinks
  • Pool tables

The Yurt
  • Mongolian yurt in a moonlit forest
  • Chef prepares meals in front of you

Moonbeam Lodge
  • Hot breakfasts, hearty lunches, apres-ski munchies
  • Burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches

Argenta Pub
  • Largest selection of cold beer at Solitude
  • Snacks, appetizers

  • Himalayan-inspired café
  • Curries, burgers, vegetarian options

Library Bar
  • Slightly upscale yet quaint and classy vibe
  • Carefully curated wine list

Little Dollie Waffles
  • Liege-style waffles
  • Quick, convenient

St. Bernard’s
  • Guided show-shoe trek through a starlit forest
  • At destination, chef prepares four-course meal in front of you
  • Limited availability; reservations required
  • Recommended ages 13 and older

Last Chance Southwest Grill
  • Latin taco bar
  • Chilies, nachos, spicy Southwest-inspired salads
  • Large outdoor seating areas

Molly Greens
  • Full-service bar and grill
  • Known for nachos, hand-tossed pizzas
  • Fireplace, magnificent views
  • Accessible by non-skiers

Alpine Rose
  • “Good chow” cafeteria
  • Breakfast specials, hearty lunches, dinners
  • Grab-and-go snacks
  • Accessible by non-skiers

Milly Chalet
  • Located at the base of the Millicent Lift
  • Burgers, burritos, beer
  • Patio for eating packed lunches

The Brighton Store
  • One-stop-shop café and convenience store
  • General store-type items

The Blind Miner Café
  • Coffee, espresso
  • Snacks, pastries