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Big Cottonwood Canyon  7200 South Wasatch Blvd

Big Cottonwood Canyon contains some of the best backcountry skiing in the Wasatch range. From the gentle slopes of Willow Fork and USA Bowl, to the steeps of Wolverine Cirque and Cardiac Bowl, there is terrain for every skill level.

Approximately 20,000 years ago, the upper portion of the 15-mile long canyon was covered with more than 500 feet of glacial ice. The glacier coming down Big Cottonwood Canyon slowly collided with a tributary glacier coming down Cardiff Fork (aka, Mill D South Fork). The collision stalled the two glaciers near what is now the Cardiff Fork parking area. Above this point the glaciers sculpted Big Cottonwood and Cardiff Fork into wide, U-shaped canyons. Below the stalled glaciers, water erosion carved Big Cottonwood Canyon into a steep and narrow trough.

In the 1800s, six lumber mills, named Mill A through Mill F, were constructed in Big Cottonwood. These mills were named in the order they were built, rather than by their location in the canyon. (A dozen other, less prominent, mills were also built in Big Cottonwood during this time.) By the mid-1850s more than a million board feet of lumber had been extracted from the canyon.

There was a shift from logging to mining in the mid-to-late 1800s during which time many dozens of mines were opened in Big Cottonwood Canyon, especially around the Honeycomb and Silver Fork Canyons.

The installation of a rope tow at Brighton in 1936 began the rapid transition from an extraction economy to a recreation economy. The last mine in Big Cottonwood Canyon closed in the 1950s. Solitude ski area opened, with two chairlifts, in 1957. Today Big Cottonwood Canyon is known for outstanding year-round recreation. It is also a protected watershed.

Getting to Big Cottonwood Canyon

Take the 6200 South exit from the I-215 belt route and head southeast (toward the mountains). Drive 2.7 miles and turn left at the 7-Eleven. Or preferably, leave your car at one of the skier park and rides and catch a bus.