A towering alpine wonderland rising high above the Salt Lake City Valley, Little Cottonwood Canyon draws skiers from all over the world in the wintertime. But here’s the insider secret: summertime in Little Cottonwood Canyon (dubbed LCC by locals) is just as glorious as wintertime. The temperatures dip 20+ degrees cooler than in the valley below, wildflowers dot every slope in sight, and the views go from great to better-than-great with every step.
Little Cottonwood Canyon’s two ski resorts are mellower during the summer than winter, but there’s still plenty going on—they offer countless ways to savor the balmy summer, which is a fleeting treat at these elevations before winter starts setting in again early in the fall. Snowbird Resort is abuzz with activity, particularly on the weekends. They’ve established themselves as quite the year-round destination for families, couples, and friends, with a number of summer events and festivals as well as daily activities. Alta Resort stays a little quieter, letting the wildflowers (and a primo weekend brunch) do the talking.
You could spend a lifetime exploring the in-resort and on-trail adventures in Little Cottonwood, but here’s a quick list of ten absolute must-do’s:
- Ride the tram at Snowbird
This is the perfect primer to get the lay of the land in this canyon. And … it’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous. From the Tram Deck at Snowbird Resort, you can buy a one-ride ticket to go 3,000 feet up to the top of Hidden Peak mountain. The ten-minute ride itself is beautiful, and once you step out onto an 11,000 foot summit, you’re on top of the world. You can enjoy a 360-degree view of the mountainscape cascading beneath you, with the city in the distance. Walk the three miles down on Snowbird’s trail system, or catch a tram ride back down if you’d rather not stress your knees.
- Hike to Red Pine Lake
A classic favorite, this popular trail takes you from the White Pine parking lot trailhead up to Red Pine Lake, a stunning high-altitude lake surrounded by jagged ridgelines with lofty peaks above. A pretty stream feeds the lake and provides the perfect picnic spot for day-trippers. The hike’s just about 3.5 miles each way, with plenty of elevation gain, so take it slow if you need to. We promise, the lakeside view is more than worth it. Pick up a trail map before you head out—the trail is quite well marked but there are a couple forks to be aware of.
- Oktoberfest at Snowbird
Every August through October, Snowbird puts on its very own Bavarian extravaganza, Oktoberfest—complete with a full bier garten, live music, and lots of yummy food. (Come for the pretzels, stay for the brats.) This family-friendly fest goes every weekend for two months, and entry is free. You can browse local vendors’ booths full of interesting wares, take the kiddos up to the Tram Deck to play on the giant trampoline, or try your best polka moves down by the beer tent.
- Brunch at Alta Lodge
Drawing locals every Sunday for a delicious cool-weather brunch, the Alta Lodge is perched on a hillside overlooking the entire canyon. Enjoy a fixed-price menu and stuff yourself full of classic brunch fare before heading out on a nice hike to burn it off. The views alone are worth it—but the food’s to die for too.
- Hike to Cecret Lake
Speaking of ways to burn off an Alta Lodge brunch, Cecret Lake is a Little Cottonwood standby, especially for families, as the distance is quite short. Drive up the dirt summer road above Alta town till you arrive at the trailhead parking lot, then hike about a mile up to the lake on the marked trail. The lake lies in a natural divot in the mountainside, overlooking the sweeping canyon below. Scramble up the rock fields above for a bonus workout with a little more vertical gain.
- Watch the sunset from the Cliff Spa
The adults-only Cliff Spa sits atop the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird, with a gorgeous outdoor pool, hot tub, and deck chairs—and a fitness/yoga studio inside. Pay a day fee to use the spa, located on the ninth floor of the Cliff Lodge. You’ll get a fuzzy robe, sandals, a locker, and free use of the workout/yoga facilities as well as the steam room and outdoor pool and hot tub. Many locals head this way around sunset in the summer months to sip a cool beverage as they watch the sun dip down-canyon, illuminating the rocky spires and peaks above you. The spa closes at 8pm, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy.
- Walk to Lisa Falls
This gem sits above an unmarked trailhead two thirds of the way up Little Cottonwood Canyon road. (Don’t worry, Google Maps can tell you just where to start.) A very short trail, less than half a mile, winds alongside a stream, leading to an epic cascading waterfall pouring over the granite cliffs. The walk is very family-friendly and makes for a refreshing lunch spot amid the waterfall mist on a hot summer day. Rock climbers love Lisa Falls too, as there are a number of sport climbing routes right alongside the waterfall.
- Take a wildflower tour at Alta
During the Wasatch Wildflower Festival each July, local guides offer free wildflower walks to the public, teaching you all about the local flora and fauna. But if you miss this particular weekend, don’t sweat it—your walk can be a fun treasure hunt if you’re equipped with a local flower guidebook and a little patience. Find some showy daisies, monk’s hood, larkspur, alpine geraniums, and Indian paintbrush for a guaranteed good time.
- Full moon dinner on top of Hidden Peak
This makes a magical date night or a fun family adventure too. Each month during the full moon, Snowbird hosts a mountaintop buffet in a windowed building overlooking the entire canyon. They swear the moon looks bigger from a little closer up, and they just might be right. Reserve in advance for this fixed-price meal, then take the tram up at 6:45pm to enjoy a summit meal before riding the tram back down under the starry skies.
- Cool Air Concert Series at Snowbird
Snowbird puts its open-air Tram Deck to good use all summer long, hosting free concerts every Saturday afternoon for the public to come enjoy. Knock out a hike or bike ride first, then come have a seat and a snack while you savor the music. The resort books excellent local artists and even draws some from afar too. You can bring your own food and beverages, or snap some up at one of the deckside eateries.