Cycling Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon - #32 US Bike Climb.
Ride 10.5 miles gaining 4,020’ to 9,380’ at 7.2% average grade.
Biking or skiing, there aren’t many spots better than the Little Cottonwood Canyon bike climb in Utah. During the winter, two of the premiere ski resorts in the country, Alta and Snowbird, are accessed via Little Cottonwood Canyon.
The climb begins southeast of Salt Lake City on Hwy 210
The bike climb ends at the top of Alta’s Sunnyside ski lift
During the spring and summer, this is a favorite climb for cyclists who live in, or travel to, the Salt Lake City area. One of the great advantages for climbers in this part of the country is quick access to four high-quality ascents within 20 miles of one another (Little Cottonwood, US #15 Guardsman, #39 Big Cottonwood, and #47 Empire Pass from Midway or unrated Empire climb from Park City) and only 24 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport. We flew in from Northern California on a weekday morning and flew out the next evening and were able to get Powder, Guardsman, Big and Little Cottonwood and Empire in during that 2-day, 1-night trip.
You can finish the climb at Alta Ski Resort (8.3 miles, 3,300' gained at 7.6% average grade, FIETS index of 9.29), or take it to the top! Continue through the Alta parking lot to Albion Basin Road where the road soon turns to gravel (manageable on a road bike - we used 28mm tires) for the last couple miles at a 5.6% average grade, ending near the top of Alta's Sunnyside ski lift.
The Little Cottonwood Canyon bike climb is “Little” because it is shorter and narrower than “Big,” which is four miles to the north. However, the two are equals in regards to surroundings and raw beauty.
Roadway and Traffic Report: As you can readily see from our videos, the first 6 miles of this climb is a highway and cars do zip by at a good clip, although there is a very good shoulder/bike lane for most of the climb. Miles 6-8 are past Snowbird and Alta and the final 2 miles are on a rough paved and then hard pack dirt/gravel road at 5.6% which is rideable on a road bike without difficulty.
Steepest ¼ miles begins at mile 3.6 (11.7%) and steepest mile at mile 3 (9.9%)