Albion Basin is part of the Alta ski area, at the top of
Salt Lake's Little Cottonwood Canyon. The ride is a broad, smooth dirt
road that climbs up to a camping area below Cecret Lake.
This out-and-back is 3 miles each way, with 820 feet of altitude gain. If
you're looking for information on the area singletrack, see the Catherines
Pass or Devil's Castle pages.
View south up the road, looking
towards the Devil's Castle. Photos June 13, 2002 by Bruce.
| The road surface is smoothed each spring. It's hard-packed,
and in most places is firm as asphalt. As car traffic increases, the road
can get a bit washboard in spots. The pedaling is perfect for strong beginners, "date rides," and
family biking picnics. It's best to take frequent breaks because the
combination of altitude and slope of the road will wear kids down fast.
View from parking near the Albion
Basin gatehouse in mid-June. The flat area just over the rise is Albion
The ride starts at 8800 feet elevation, above
Alta's Albion Basin ski lift, where the paved Little Cottonwood Canyon road
turns to the gravel Albion Basin road. The gate is usually closed until
July, but hikers and bikers can go up anytime. (Expect snowdrifts in the
pines until July.) This is a popular bike
route, and may be a bit crowded on summer weekends.
Buttercups emerge as the melting snow
exposes bare ground.
|This ride is not singletrack. Albion Basin is a nice ride with
beautiful scenery. Enjoy it for that. If the Albion Basin road is just too tame for you, you can catch
the connection to Germania Pass. There's also a short loop up the mountain
that offers some singletrack on the downhill. (See the topo map or GPS
Using the camera's self-timer, lonely biker
Brucie catches himself rolling in front of the rough granite of Sugarloaf
Dogs aren't allowed in Little Cottonwood, except for residents with
Alta city dog licenses. The family pooch stays home!
Looking back over the town of Alta.
|The road climbs through two switchbacks, then continues
south to the top of the Albion lift at mile 2.25. Continue straight as the
road heads slightly downhill. (Right takes you to the Germania Pass road,
straight past the lodge building. Left goes to the lift and a cabin.) At
the fork in the road at mile 2.75, the track loops through a campground.
Go right. On
the west end of the loop, you'll find the Cecret Lake trail. (No bikes!)
Lock up your steed and hike 1/2 mile to the lake.
Heading back, the sedimentary rock of the north
canyon wall is seen in front of our rider. In this rock, ores were mined
during Alta's big day as a boom town. The intrusive igneous rock of the
southern side of the canyon brought the metal ions that deposited in the
||After riding around the loop, you can backtrack on the road,
head left for Germania, or drop down the steeper route that forks
right a tiny distance down the Germania road. I advise against sending children down this more direct path. It gets steep and loose.
There's also singletrack in Albion Basin. For skilled and conditioned
riders, consider adding a jaunt on the Catherines
Pass trail or Devil's Castle.
What a difference a month makes!
(actually, it's 13 years plus 6 weeks, as this photo was taken July 28,
2015.). The lupine is waist high.
|Albion Basin is a riot of wildflowers through the month of
July. The week after the middle of July is probably the best time. During
peak season, you'll encounter a lot of cars along the road. The speed
limit is 15 mph and the flower hunters in their cars will be in
"mosey mode" anyway. So as long as your kids can control their
bikes, you'll be fine.
Paintbrush and lupine in the big
meadow of the basin, just downhill from the campground.
Bottom line: This is an easy ride, although the
altitude may tax the lungs of those who aren't in shape or acclimatized.
In summer there are beautiful wildflowers. And the mountains are gorgeous
anytime. It's a great family ride, especially when combined with the
nature trail at Cecret Lake.
Midsummer view of the Albion Basin area from the
parking lot near the gate.
||Getting there: From I-15, take the 90th South
exit and drive east towards the mountains. This will take you directly to
Little Cottonwood. When you arrive at the stop sign in the canyon, with
the giant illuminated Little Cottonwood conditions sign on your right,
turn right uphill and drive 8 miles to Alta. Keep straight until the end
of the road. Park on the right side of the road just before the
information booth (the booth is between the lanes of the road just before it turns to
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