Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spruces in Big Cottonwood Canyon - Campground of the Week June 25 - July 2

Finally it's stopped raining in Salt Lake and the weather up in the Wasatch Range is getting warm enough for pleasant camping. If you're looking for a quick get-a-way from Salt Lake, one of the most accessible campgrounds is Spruces in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Spruces Campground - east of Salt Lake City in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Spruces is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon less than a half-hour drive from Salt Lake City. Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the recreation jewels of the Wasatch Mountains and the Salt Lake area in general. Steep, craggy peaks rise quickly from the canyon floor, beckoning campers to come out and explore. Many popular hiking trails of varying length and difficulty leave from the Big Cottonwood Road and make Spruces on of the best campgrounds for hiking in Utah. The 3.5 mile Days Fork Trail leaves directly from the campground and accesses a beautiful canyon and old mining camps. Lake Blanche, one of the best day-hikes in this part of the range, starts a short distance down Big Cottonwood Canyon at the S-Curve parking lot. Hundreds of easily accessible rock-climbing routes have been established on the quartzite cliffs up and down canyon. Some of the most concentrated and popular collections of routes are at crags like Storm Mountain (which has one of the single best crack climbs in the Big Cottonwood, Gordo's Wall 5.10c), the S-Curve, and the Salt Lake Slips (great for beginners). Excellent single track mountain biking trails are located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon at Guardsman Pass, and via chairlift at Solitude Mountain Resort (the Sunrise lift started running for mountain biking and disc-golf on Saturday June 20th).

For being so close to such a big city, the wild character this campground maintains is remarkable. Stately spruce and Douglas fir trees shade many of the campsites and give the area a lush, alpine feel. Big Cottonwood Creek runs through the campground and attracts fisherman to the open meadow downstream from the camping. Moose frequent these wetlands, providing a good chance for a sighting. The loops and parking areas are paved, and the facilities are well maintained. Thick trees provide good separation between the sites. Spruces is a huge campground and is usually quite busy. If you plan on camping there on a weekend (especially the upcoming 4th of July weekend) make reservations in advance.

Campsites, facilities:
There are 97 sites for tents and RVs and three group sites for up to 50 people. Individual sites 10, 35, and the three group sites are wheelchair accessible. Picnic tables, barbeque grills, fire pits, drinking water, modern restrooms, and garbage service are provided. Firewood and ice are available. Pets are not permitted in Big Cottonwood Canyon because it is a watershed.
Reservations, fees: Reservations are accepted at 877/444-6777 or online at and must be made a minimum of three days in advance. Single sites are $18, double sites are $36, triple sites are $54, group sites are $120, and extra vehicles and day use are $6. Open late-May through mid-October, weather permitting.
From Salt Lake City, take I-15 south to I-215 south. Take Exit 6 (6200 S) for Wasatch Boulevard off I-215. Follow Wasatch Boulevard to the Big Cottonwood Canyon Road Rte. 190 (7200 S) and turn left at the mouth of the Canyon. Follow the winding road 10.1 miles up the canyon to Spruces Campground on the right side of the road.
GPS Coordinates:
N 40 38.546' W 111 38.244'

Salt Lake Ranger District, 801/466-6411.


  1. Fees have changed twice since 2009. Single sites are $22; doubles, $44; triples, $66; groups vary from $95 for the small day use sites to $210 for the large day use. Check for updated information.

  2. We are from Colorado and are attending a wedding at the end of August at Solitude Mountain Resort (1200 Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd.) How far away is this campground? Sounds wonderful!