Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA; Stacy Topping, Tacoma, WA, USA
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Cycling Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon -- #30 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.
Before heading to Utah on your Little Cottonwood Canyon cycling adventure, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.
The climb begins southeast of Salt Lake City on Highway 210.
Our climb is in the Wasatch National Forest (1906; 86,440 acres)
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 two-day, one-night trip.
Snowbird Ski Resort at mile 6.5
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) . . .
Alta Ski Resort parking lot at mile 8.3.
. . . or take it to the top (another 1.9 miles at 5.9%)! 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.
1.9 more to go . . .
Bruce and Stacy at the gate - May 2019.
The Little Cottonwood Canyon bike climb is “Little” because it is shorter and narrower than Big Cottonwood Canyon, 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 six 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 two miles are on a rough paved and then hard packed 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%).