Hiking Donut Falls in the Snow | Big Cottonwood Canyon

Hiking Donut Falls in the Snow | Big Cottonwood Canyon

Welcome Alexandra! She's guest posting on a hike we've all had on our bucket list, but just never seem to get too. She's giving us some winter inspiration to go hiking!

It took this California Girl a few years after moving to Utah before I was brave enough to go hiking in the show. I love hiking in the warmer months, but I'm not big into skiing or snowboarding and snowshoeing didn't sound all that fun to me with my toddler on my back (I'm more willing to try it now). A friend I met through Hike it Baby added a hike to Donut Falls to our calendar and talked me into it last winter. I joined a couple of moms and their babies, and now I'm kind of hooked.

Since the trail is so popular, the snow is packed down pretty well and snowshoes aren't really necessary, at least in my opinion. I've hiked it once in just my waterproof hiking boots, but I usually prefer to add a little traction with micro spikes or YakTrax. My oldest son is seven and he didn't really need the extra traction. His boots did just fine. We saw lots of folks with snowshoes who hiked off the trail a bit too. 

If you would like to hike this trail soon after a snowstorm, check online to make sure there isn't an avalanche warning in that area.

To get there, drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road for about nine miles and turn right toward the Jordan Pines Campground and Mill D Trailhead. In the winter, the gate at this road is closed, so you'll need to park along Big Cottonwood Canyon Road and walk to the trailhead. It makes for a longer hike overall, but there's plenty of parking and it's a really pretty walk. It's about 3-4 miles round trip depending on how much meandering and exploring you do.

We went this year on Martin Luther King Day since my first grader was out of school. It's usually one of the more popular trails in the canyons, especially on weekends and holidays when the weather is nice. It was pretty busy the day we went. I've also gone on non-holiday weekday mornings and have only seen a couple of fellow hikers. The temperature that day was in the mid 20s, but in the sun it was beautiful.


To keep my oldest son happy, I agreed to let him tow a small sled behind him as we hiked with the promise that he could ride it on a few downhill parts. It worked like a charm to help prevent whining on the hike and he was pretty good at keeping it out of the way of fellow hikers. 

One bit of advice, pay attention to where other hikers are walking and pay attention to where trails lead. With so much snow covering everything, it's easy to get sidetracked, even if you've hiked to Donut Falls many times in the summer months.

Once we got to the little canyon where the falls are, the snow was so thick that only little sections of the creek were visible. When little kids, it's kind of important to keep them close and stay on the packed snow. The snow can be so deep in some areas that a toddler or small child could easily sink in over their head. 

If you choose to climb up to the little cave where the falls are, be prepared for it to be steep and slippery. I was slipping even with YakTrax on my boots. It looked a lot easier to climb than it actually was, and I had my 30lb toddler on my back. Once I took a wrong step and my whole leg sunk into some deep snow. I had to sit on my butt to get my footing again. But it was still easier than in the summer when you're climbing over slippery boulders. Of course my first grader scrambled up there with no issue.

There was a small opening in the ice and snow to be able to get inside the cave. It was icy inside but still really fun to see. There were a few icicles hanging from the opening and I was happy to get a few shots with my camera. My oldest thought it was really cool.

When climbing down from the cave, the best and safest way down for me was to slide on my butt. My toddler sat on my lap and kept telling me over and over to go faster.

In the shade of the canyon, the temperature was a lot lower than in the sun, so we didn't stay and play there for very long. Hands and noses were getting quite cold. Once we were back on the trail and in the sun we warmed up quite a bit. 

Both my 7yo and my 2.5yo were dressed in wool base layers, then fleece pants and pullovers, and then they each wore a somewhat lightweight, down-filled jacket. Then their outer most layer was a one-piece waterproof suit from Oakiwear. We really love these suits because they're truly waterproof, even at the seams, and they cinch at the waist, ankles and wrists. So hands and feet stay dry and we can buy a much bigger size than they need and use it for multiple seasons as they grow. My oldest says he loves wearing his Oakiwear when sledding and playing in the snow because no snow ends up going up inside his jacket and into his pants when he when he wipes out.

My oldest got to ride his sled down a couple of downhill spots and my youngest eventually fell asleep in a toddler carrier on my back. It was really fun morning.

The Donut Falls trail is truly gorgeous and a lot of fun when it's a sunny day and there isn't a lot of wind. It's a great way to get yourselves and your kids out of the inversion and have some playtime that's free. 

So, who's hiked Donut Falls? Have you done it in the snow yet? #thesaltproject

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Visitor Info

Helpful Tips: 

Directions: Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road for about nine miles and turn right toward the Jordan Pines Campground and Mill D Trailhead. In the winter, the gate at this road is closed, so you'll need to park along Big Cottonwood Canyon Road and walk to the trailhead. It makes for a longer hike overall, but there's plenty of parking and it's a really pretty walk. It's about 3-4 miles round trip depending on how much meandering and exploring you do.

Baby Carrier : I use a Lillebaby CarryOn Toddler Carrier along with the Lillebaby Tummy Pad (to control the tummy pooch). It's super comfy for my 30lb toddler and is wider at the base than standard baby carriers, so his legs are more supported. Any hike longer than two miles and he falls asleep, even at almost 3 years old. It has a mesh panel for breathability and a large zipper pocket where I can stash an emergency diaper and wipes. For a little extra storage when I hike, I wear a 6.6 Pouch from 5.11 that attaches to my waistband. It holds my keys, iPhone, and a bunch of snacks for all of us.

Comments

McKenzie Cherrington
I have been wondering how it is to hike in the winter! I am so glad I saw this! Thanks for sharing! We have snowshoes but not enough for everyone in our family so I am glad to see it is doable without them!

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