Big Cottonwood Canyon Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Big Cottonwood Canyon


One of 3 routes to Guardsman Pass.

Explore this Climb

PJAMM Cycling LogoDark Sky logo



pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-night weather icon

Mostly Cloudy

2.3 mph ENE with gusts up to 7.8 mph

0% chance of light rainfall

10:34 PM (local)
PJAMM Sunrise Icon6:07 AMPJAMM Sunset Icon8:42 PM

Wind Speed


pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

55° 45°


pjamm cycling rain weather icon

54° 41°


pjamm cycling rain weather icon

59° 44°


pjamm cycling rain weather icon

54° 44°


pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

62° 45°


pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

67° 47°


pjamm cycling partly-cloudy-day weather icon

70° 48°

Climb Summary

Cycling Big Cottonwood Canyon - share the road sign and canyon walls

Cycling Big Cottonwood Canyon - one of Utah’s great bike climbs.

17 miles gaining 5,521’ to elevation 9,709’ at 5.4% average grade

Beginning of Big Cottonwood Canyon bike climb - Hwy 190

Start of climb on Hwy 190 (Big Cottonwood Canyon Road)

Big Cottonwood Canyon is a destination both in the winter and summer.  This bike climb heads up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road which, if we continue straight at the 13.8 miles mark, ends at Brighton Ski Resort.  The entire bike climb is on the Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway (SR-190) which runs from the intersection of Wasatch Blvd/Hwy 190 to Guardsman Pass. The origin of this highway dates to 1933.

Riding Big Cottonwood Canyon by bike - Wasatch National Forest sign.

We enter Wasatch National Forest (908,000 acres est. 1907)

On our way up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Hydroelectric Plant on Big Cottonwood Canyon bicycle climb 

Daisy flowers on Hwy 190 Big Cottonwood Canyon cycle climb


At 13.8 miles turn left onto Guardsman Pass Road and climb another 3.1 miles and 1,100' to the top of Guardsman Pass (accessing this major Utah Pass via the west).  

We almost immediately enter the Wasatch National Forest as we begin our climb and continue for nearly 14 miles through a very scenic canyon, following (by view or sound) Big Cottonwood Creek from mile 2 until we turn left and begin climbing Guardsman Pass Road.  

    Bike climb to Guardsman Pass via Big Cottonwood Canyon - street sign.

Turn onto Gurardsmand Pass Road at mile 13.8

We begin some steep switchbacks just after the 13.8 mile mark as we complete the climb (3 miles at 7.1%)  up to the top of Guardsman Pass - the views along this portion of the climb are at times spectacular.

View down on roadway and mountains on Big Cottonwood Canyon climb by bike from Guardsman Pass. 

Bicycle ride up Big Cottonwood Canyon - Wastch Mountains

Guardsman Pass can be accessed from the north (via Empire Pass North-Park City side - YouTube Playlist) and the east (#14 - Guardsman Pass East - Midway, Utah).  An up-over-back ride from the beginning of Big Cottonwood Canyon up to Guardman Pass then down to Midway and back entails 51 miles riding and 8,939' of climbing (major footage for the buck!).  

Cycling to top of Big Cottonwood Canyon - Guardsmand Pass - view from the top.

View from the top of Guardsman Pass                                                          

We pass Solitude Ski and Board Resort at mile 12.  For provisions before heading up to the top, continue straight at the junction of Guardsman Pass and Big Cottonwood Canyon Roads (mile 13.8) for a quarter mile to Brighton Ski Resort where there is a lodge, cafe and bathrooms which are open during the non-winter season.  A “cleats on the ground report” comes from New Orleans cyclist Ray Clement:

Here's a photo of the cafe/general store at the top of the climb:  They've never given me any trouble despite the "No Public Restrooms" sign. But for those less willing to go into the cafe, there's a nice restroom just to the right once you reach the top loop. Water fountain, private stalls, and the toilets flush!

Bike ride on Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway (SR-190)


​Roadway and Traffic Report:  As you can readily see from our videos, the first 13.8 miles of this climb on a highway and cars can zip by at a good clip, although there is a very good shoulder/bike lane for the bulk of this strech, although the general flow of traffic is mild to moderate.  Traffic on Guardsman Pass Road is light.  The roadway surface is excellent as of August, 2014.

This canyon named “Big” Cottonwood because it is longer  and wider  than “Little” Cottonwood (Snowbird/Alta) 4 miles to the south.  However, the two are equals as to scenery and exceptional cycling experiences - they are both “must do’s.”

Steepest ¼ and mile begin at mile 15.8 (13% and 9.6% respectively)