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Albion Basin

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 Basin.

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 file.) 

Using the camera's self-timer, lonely biker Brucie catches himself rolling in front of the rough granite of Sugarloaf in 2002.


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 limestone.

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 gravel).

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc

Riding resources:
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Multi-track Albion Basin GPX  (includes ST, Catherines, Germania)   Albion Basin Road only
   The Ultimate FileGPX track of intercanyon connections! Alta to Parleys, Park City, Millcreek, Provo!     
High-res topo for printing:  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:  Links to Little Cottonwood Canyon resources