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Big Cottonwood Canyon

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Description: Just start at the parking lot and head east.
Comments: A little warm up is a smart idea before hitting the mountain. This is a challenging ride with steep grades and a narrow shoulder. Average grade is about 7.8%. Be sure to have warmer clothing available for the (fast) trip down if it's going to cool down.
Distance: 14.70 miles (one way)
GPS track log: Here (right click and select "Save Target As")
Total Elevation Gain: 4584 feet
Elevation Profile:
ride elevation profile

Interactive route map: (colors indicate relative elevation): legend

User Ratings

This monster of a ride is a must for anyone looking for a challenge in Salt Lake. Steep grades and breathtaking views come together for this outstanding ride.
Posted Sep. 24, 2006 by Joe

Beautiful ride! Beware of colder temperatures in the late afternoon.
Posted Sep. 26, 2006 by spinprincess96

The best reward for going uphill is flying downhill. If you do not have to contend with traffic, you come descend all the way and only brake twice: For the s-curve and as you descend the Storm Mountain and turn to cross the bridge over the creek and curve around the old Utah Power station. This is a great ride.
Posted Sep. 27, 2006 by Lovetoskipowder

My favorite climb in the Salt Lake/Provo area. Around the mid-way point, the angle is mellow enough for you to spin and take in the scenery. They did a very nice job with the shoulder. For full value, take the sharp left a little bit before Brighton. This is Guardsman's Pass. You will do more climbing with spectacular views. You'll come around a switchback where the mountain bikers park for the Wasatch Crest trail. For the following 100-200 yards, you will climb a 15 percent grade at just below 10,000 feet.
Posted Sep. 30, 2006 by 514Climber

A demanding ride for anyone over 40, but incredibly rewarding. Because the grade is modest in the middle and also toward the top, you can appreciate the stunning scenery. Today (9/23/07), the aspen were pure gold. The descent is nowhere near as fast as in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but the rock walls encroaching the road liven up the ride down. It took 82 minutes up to the store in Brighton, and 25 down to the parking lot, fighting wicked winds.
Posted Sep. 21, 2007 by Todd

A great ride! Just one steep pitch near Storm Mountain, otherwise pretty manageable. And the trip back down is just superb; lots of scenery, little braking and good speed. A classic.
Posted Jun. 13, 2007 by kbg

A good challenging ride. You hear that the pitch around Storm Mountain is the worse part of the ride, but I thought it was manageable. Actually, the climb between Silver Fork Lodge and Brighton was the most difficult part of the ride for me, probably because I was somewhat tired by that point. Beautiful ride, but I wish the shoulders were a bit wider in spots. Weekday mornings offer reduced traffic, which adds to the ride quality.
Posted Jun. 22, 2007 by TrekGuy

Great ride! I try to get up there at least once a week. Climb is challenging but very doable. After switch back all seems pretty moderate to me and scenery is fantastic!
Posted Jun. 11, 2008 by Tk

I like your web site. I am confused about the average grade in Big Cottonwood. I have seen several other ratings that are different. For example, A Falcon Guide to Biking Salt Lake City (2007) gives an elevation gain of 3850. One way trip is 14.7. % grade is 3850/(14.7*5280). This gives an average grade of 4.96%. Even if your elevation gain of 4584 is correct, the % grade would be 5.9%, not 7.8. It is a great ride.
Posted Oct. 09, 2008 by bruce riggs

Just rode it today (7/25/09)! Great ride up, enough flat spots for some relief riding. The S curves were great fun on the descent. Be very aware on the descent if you like to go fast... scattered golf ball/baseball sized rocks on the shoulder pose a threat.
Posted Jul. 25, 2009 by kc4new

Beautiful ride. Has been a long time since I have ridden it, decided to do it again, and was very pleased. Take sufficient water to stay hydrated....especially in the summer months. If you need extra water at the top, Silver Lake visitors center next to the market place has a drinking fountain in front by the restrooms. I have never been so excited to see water in my life.
Posted Jul. 26, 2009 by Elav

What a great ride! I was a bit hesitant after reading the Falcon Guide as I'm not the best climber. However, after I drove the road first, I didn't see anything I couldn't handle (BTW, I'm 50). I rode the canyon on 8/29/09 and thought it was just spectacular! Now, I did stop quite a bit to take pictures as I'm from Maryland and this isn't our normal scenery. But, like I said, none of the climbs were overly difficult and I did appreciate the reprieve in the middle. Like TrekGuy said, the most difficult is from Silver Lake Lodge to Brighton (mile posts 13-16 approx) and I had to stand for the very last part as I came into Brighton. But, I was also a bit tired then too. The shoulder going up is good for the most part and I hope they continue to improve that. There isn't much of a shoulder on the way down but you're going nearly as fast as traffic in many spots. You do have to watch for rock debris on the way down and trying to not swerve into traffic coming up behind you. Recommend a mirror. Also, like TrekGuy said, weekdays are probably better. Since I rode this on a Saturday, there were a good number of folks hiking, fishing, ATVing, and biking with a good number of cars on the road and also parked along side. So, I had to be aware of that. With stopping, took me about 2 hours up and 26 min down. BTW, at the top there's also a Cafe/Store which I used to get sports drink and a great oatmeal cookie! The descent with the canyon winds made it quite manageable though I did have to pedal in that middle part. Handled the S curves just fine as well as the sharp left before the Stair power station(?). Now, you can park at the Park and Ride at the bottom but be aware that this does get crowded on nice weekends. Also, since you're near Wasatch Blvd, you could combine this with a ride on Wasatch. Hopefully, I'll be able to come back when the Aspens are changing color. But, I'd definitely bring arm/leg warmers if I come then as even when I went, there was a 15-20 degree temp drop from the Park and Ride to Brighton. Probably gets down to 40s or 50s in the Fall. Definitely a ride not to be missed!
Posted Sep. 02, 2009 by SBRDave

A long ride but well worth it. Save your energy for the last few miles. I really enjoy the view.
Posted Oct. 14, 2010 by Van

Did this for first time during visit from Baltimore, MD in July 2010. Rented a bike (Jamis Ventura) from Canyon Sports. Started my ride at Univ. of Utah. Excellent ride, very challenging if you like climbing. Did the entire 16 mile ride up the canyon from base to Brighton. Had lunch at the Brighton Store and met a really nice gentleman who was training for a 100 mile endurance run through the mountains...he was at least in his 60s I'm sure (I'm 51), well so much for my 16 mile climb. The descent was awesome! Total mileage 54.6 miles (round trip from Univ. Utah). Goal is to complete Little Cottonwood Canyon and Emigration Canyon in my next few trips back to the area. I will call it my "Triple Crown of Salt Lake City Climbing"
Posted Oct. 29, 2010 by BMWCCPrez

I love this climb. As most have stated it is wise to ride this on a weekday. As for the hardest sections, I'm torn between Storm Mountain and the top (I put this climb in the middle of a 3.5 hour ride so by the top my legs are spent). About 3 out 4 climbs up Big Cottonwood I have spotted Moose along the road. The descent is a blast, if the wind isn't trying to push you backup the mountain.
Posted Nov. 07, 2010 by kenny

In Salt Lake for a conference and brought my bike along. Thanks to the excellent information on this webiste, I picked the climb I thought I could handle. Started off at 1100 and probably had 5 cars pass me. As shown in the profile, the first 6 miles do have a steeper pitch than the rest of the ride. I missed the scenery during this part because of the extra effort needed! Once you pass this point the pitch seems flat in comparison and I did enjoy the scenery. A great ride and highly recommended! I live in Denver and this ride was similar to that up Squaw Pass, another enjoyable ride with a lesser overall pitch.
Posted May. 02, 2011 by Shoe

Fabulous ride with great views and a long, relatively flat stretch to rest your legs. I would definitely recommend a good warm up before beginning to prepare for the first three miles or so, but after that the slopes are more... merciful until the final two miles. Enjoy the decent, be wary as always of debris and mild road damage.
Posted May. 26, 2011 by Max

Excellent ride. I think the elevation is incorrectly listed as 4584'. My GPS puts this climb between 3850' to 3900'in the last 5 rides i've done. When climbing the canyon, make sure you spot out the road debris on the other side of the road to be sure you have a safe descent. This is a "Must Ride" for those in the Wasatch Front.
Posted Jun. 19, 2011 by Vinny

Terrific Ride, constant grade. I ride Teton Pass a lot and this rates higher. Teton Pass has a steeper grade, but only for 6 miles, this is 15 miles at 7%+/-. This is one climb everyone should have on their list. I rode from Sugar House to Brighton Ski area parking lot, 50.3 miles round trip. The views are incredible and the 4400' of climbing is a great challenge
Posted Jul. 18, 2011 by Corey

I just started cycling this year and I did this ride for the first time this morning. I started around 5:30 am from my house (about 4 miles from there to the bottom of BCC) so there was little traffic on the climb and descent, which is why I didn't find the shoulder width to be problematic. The Storm Mountain grade was the toughest section in my view, although the 2 miles from Solitude to Brighton were tough because I was tired at that part of the ride. I hadn't been up BCC in a while and forgot how beautiful it is - I was better able to enjoy the view, which included a couple of bucks and a coyote, on the ride down though. The descent is great - not much need for brakes on most of it. The road was in good condition except for a few rockfalls here and there - have to pay close attention on the descent. This is a great ride - I highly recommend it.
Posted Jul. 07, 2011 by Pete

This is a great climb. I just moved to SLC and this is the best ride I've done so far. I went on a Monday and started the climb around 10:30. There was some traffic, but nothing like when I drove up Sunday. I stopped at the Silver Fork Lodge for water, which was nice and cold. I also stopped at the Brighton Store, where I bought a delicious Heath cookie. Overall a great ride of about 60 miles and 5,474 feet of climbing from my house. I would definitely recommend this ride.
Posted Aug. 23, 2011 by Nick

Great ride! Took me 1.5hrs to get to Solitude. I would suggest to start the ride before 6pm (in mid-Aug). I have started too late - at 6.30pm, as the canyon is narrow I was riding in shadow/dusk all way up and it was a bit risky to come down with 40mph. I saw twice a mule deer standing right at the shoulder and since I dont do much noise they did not notice me until I was too close.. There was at least 20F temperature difference between the bottom and the top, I was freezing on the top quarter of the ride while coming down. The only advantage of doing the ride so late was that there was close to no traffic at all.
Posted Aug. 24, 2011 by Mike

great ride. only felt posting for following suggestion. as you come around the Brighton loop and feel like you still have legs, take the right to Guardsman pass. A nice stand alone climb makes for a great extension to the BCC ride. Not exactly sure about length or altitude gain but approximately 2.4 miles and just over 1000 feet up.
Posted Aug. 27, 2011 by New2Road

This ride was amazing, and I'm sure glade that I started with Big Cottonwood canyon instead of this one first! It's not an easy ride but I don't think it's as hard as people make it out to be, but the decent was a little bit hair raising at times!! I highly recommend this ride for the exercise and the great scenery throughout the ride!! The decent was way more intense than Big cottonwoods, so be ready for quite a bit more technical decent!
Posted Sep. 14, 2011 by snakeriverhombre

when i went, there was little traffic, and it was awesome: beautiful and, like most posters said, a little of everything: climbs, flats, curves. i did it the other day, late afternoon, so the ride down was COLD. be prepared; even at the bottom it is COLD in the shade (i froze, and the next day i bought arm warmers).
Posted Oct. 14, 2011 by tapmonkey

Did this ride today on my mountain bike ... very difficult ride, I think more difficult than Little Cottonwood. Very narrow shoulder in some parts, and lots of traffic nowadays with the ski resort open. You get to Solitude and think you are almost there, but Brighton is still a ways up the road ... and it is steep finishing the climb to Brighton. Awesome experience, but I think I will stick with City Creek from now on.
Posted Nov. 23, 2011 by Keith

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