Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Our search for clearer, cooler weather brought us south to Salt Lake City and then east up into Big Cottonwood Canyon. There are two canyons in the Wasatch range east of the city. Big Cottonwood is the wider, longer canyon that has two ski resorts, one campground, and tons of hiking trails. It also has a seasonal road that travels all the way through the canyon and over to Park City.

Utah welcome sign
Hello Utah!
Gate's Pass Road - Utah
The road over Gate’s Pass into Park City. We thought we might travel that way with the Airstream, but after driving it with the truck decided going up and around on the main road was the wiser choice

Little Cottonwood Canyon is just a few miles south. This canyon is shorter and narrower. It also has two ski resorts, one campground and a bunch of hiking trails. We choose to stay in the Spruces Campground in the Big Canyon simply because it got great reviews and was reported to have a strong cell signal. Turns out we made the right choice because the only place you can get a signal in Little Cottonwood is at the ski areas, and the campground is in a dead zone.

Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT
The famous S-Curve in Big Cottonwood Canyon

When we pulled into Spruces, the attendant offered us up a pull-thru site (this happens all the time – it’s like they think everyone with an RV is afraid to back it up), but we said we prefer privacy over convenience so he stuck us all the way at the end of the campground in site 85. It was perfect.

Spruces Campground, Utah
All tucked into the trees

Despite a small amount of road noise, our site was quiet and secluded. Even though we spent the summer in the mountains, it’s been a really long time since we parked our house in the forest. It was so nice to see the trees and smell the evergreens. The Cottonwood Canyons are used as water supply sources for Salt Lake (hence the strict “no pets” rule) and as a result, the forests here are pristine. After the first Mormon settlers stripped the canyons bare, it was decided that if this area was to supply the city with water it should probably be treated better. So the trees were replanted and strict regulations were put into place. One hundred or so years later and the forests in these canyons are some of the healthiest we’ve seen in a long time.

Spruces Campground, Utah
Another really nice back-in site

The only issue with our perfect site was the lack of sun for solar power. And warming power — it was cold in the canyon! I guess our wish for clearer, cooler air had been granted. We only got direct sun for maybe an hour or two during the day which meant daily generator use was a must. Especially since we were running the furnace at night, in the morning, and even once during the day. Did I mention that it was cold? We’re certainly not solar snobs and running the generator is not really a big deal, but it had been so long since we used it that Tim had to clean out the carburetor to get it to run properly.

We had both been reading up on hikes in the canyon and were excited to tackle some of the trails. Unfortunately, the day we left Boise I got a nasty cold that kept me under the weather for most of the week. Ugh…this is what happens when I visit a city after months in relatively isolated areas.

Despite my less than stellar health, we did go out for a few shorter hikes and a fun drive up and over the pass from BCC to Park City.
Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

We also went into town for a night out later in the week. Even though the pizza we had at Settebello was sub-par at best, we enjoyed a lovely walk around the city and ended the night with some delicious gelato that made up for dinner.
Salt Lake City, UtahSalt Lake City, UtahSalt Lake City, UtahIt wasn’t exactly the week we had hoped for. With no big fun hikes and some struggles with the cold (we ran out of propane one very cold morning), we left feeling like it was kind of an off week but hoping for better things to come at our next stop in Park City.

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7 Responses to “Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah”


  1. Jodee Gravel

    SLC is a pretty city and I was sorry we didn’t have time to see more of it. Your spot in the trees is gorgeous! I’m always having hosts apologize for not having a pull-through when it’s no big deal for us to back in to just about any site – I guess others complain? Love the pic of the pretty lake. We sure liked Park City :-)

    • Amanda

      Maybe it’s the weekend RV folks who don’t like backing because every full-timer I’ve ever met has no problem backing up :) SLC is a really pretty city. It was our first time and we had a blast walking around downtown.

  2. Marshall

    Oh, wait, y’all were staying at Spruces Campground? I’m a little slow sometimes. As you know, I stayed there. Great hikes in the area, so too bad you were under the weather. And, yeah, I remember the road to there…

    • Amanda

      Yup, once again it was your Campendium review that convinced us to stay there. You were spot on. A little pricey for dry camping, but the sites were nice and the cell signal better than any canyon we’ve ever been in. Will have to go back for more hiking.

  3. David B

    We were traveling west on Hwy 80 Sept 12 from Wyoming to SLC coming down the grade the afternoon winds just rocked our Bambi and Tacoma from side to side. Pretty country if one has time to look around and relax from clutching the steering wheel….

    • Amanda

      Ugh! We drove that road in the opposite direction a few days later. No wind that day, but I can imagine it would not be fun on a windy day. Stay safe out there!

  4. Debbie

    That was some climb up the road but beautiful. I love the cold air of the Rockies but a heater is good too. Nice post.


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