Where to Eat & Drink
Whether you come up to ski, snowboard, climb, hike, or bike, Big Cottonwood is a great place to work up an appetite. The neighborhood’s best dining mainstay is the beloved Silver Fork Lodge. The restaurant/inn sits most of the way up the Big Cottonwood road, perfectly situated with views of jagged ridgelines and beautiful aspen-covered hillsides.
Silver Fork Lodge has been present since old mining days, and the restaurant still serves sourdough bread baked with a 70-year-old sourdough starter—talk about flavorful history. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, apres and dinner, 365 days a year, snow or shine. So stop in for a cozy spot by the oversized fireplace, order the tastiest pancake platter you’ve ever had, and bask in the scenery just outside the wall-to-wall windows.
Just a skip up the road at Solitude Resort, there are a few more eateries (and drinkeries) worth noting—in the Solitude Village (based at the resort’s upper parking lot) you’ll find the Honeycomb Grill, the Stone Haus Pizzeria, and St. Bernard’s restaurant. A pizza pie at the Stone Haus is one of the most perfect ways to refuel after a big day of adventuring—in the warmer months, you can polish it off sitting at a picnic table in the middle of the village, with full mountain views. The Thirsty Squirrel, open all winter and sometimes in the summer, offers the high-altitude beverages to wash it all down.
Finally, a few miles further at the top of the canyon, Brighton Resort is home to Molly Green’s restaurant and pub—a canyon community classic. It’s a bar, so bring the 21-and-up posse only, but the fare is tasty and the setting unforgettable. The pub sits in the top floor of an old A-frame cabin-style building that serves as a medical clinic, sack lunch area, and bar. You can sit by the fireplace and order one of the biggest nacho platters you’ve ever had, washed down by a cold draft brew.
Where to Play
Let us count the ways: whatever your mountain sport of choice, this canyon serves it up in spades.
By summer, be sure to check out the canyon’s famed hiking destinations, including Lake Blanche (moderately difficult, three miles each way), Lake Mary (easy, one mile each way), Willow Lake (easy, one mile each way), and Dog Lake (moderate, two and a half miles each way). Each trail offers its own unique vistas, wildflowers, challenges, and wanderings. Summer Saturdays are busiest, but go up early morning on a weekday, and you’ll share the mountain with nobody but the moose and the songbirds.
There’s also excellent mountain biking (lift served!) at Solitude Resort. You can pop in to the village rental shop to rent a top-notch bike and snag a trail map, then set out on the trails from there or hop a lift ride to the top for an easier start. The resort boasts a twenty-mile network of tree-lined singletrack trails and double-track dirt roads—each marked with its difficulty level.
While we’re talking summer at Solitude, be sure to check out the 18-hole disc golf course. Mountain disc golf is unlike any other—you’ll spend about half your time digging through wildflower bushes and shimmying up trees to locate wayward discs. However, you’ll spend all of your time smiling too.
By winter, snowsports excitement kicks into full gear. Both Brighton and Solitude are world-class winter resorts. Brighton is also known for its exceptional terrain parks, which attract the young set from Salt Lake. Both resorts have ample inbounds terrain to offer—and between the two resorts lies the Solitude Nordic Center, a sprawling network of perfectly groomed cross-country ski trails. You can stop in to rent some gear or sign up for a lesson and spend an afternoon in the perfect quiet of the canyon forest.
Where to Stay
Other than the quaint little Silver Fork Lodge (which is highly recommended if you like old-timey comfort and killer breakfast just downstairs), there is lodging aplenty at Solitude Resort. The resort has multiple buildings of condominiums for rent nightly as well as an Inn, which features hotel-style rooms. You can also check out the many nightly and weekly cabin rentals in the area if you’d like the full mountain getaway experience—because nothing says Big Cottonwood like a toddy on the couch by a woodstove fire after a glorious day out.