Mill D is a gorgeous wooded canyon on the south-facing side of Big Cottonwood Canyon—home of Solitude and Brighton Ski Resorts. With its close proximity to Salt Lake City, Mill D is a favorite of hikers and mountain bikers, and it sees lots of traffic during the warmer months. During the winter months, however, most backcountry enthusiasts seek steeper, more exposed terrain, leaving Mill D relatively quiet.
It’s easy to find. Just take Wasatch Boulevard toward the valley’s four major ski resorts and follow the signs to Brighton and Solitude. You’ll head 9.2 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon, where you’ll see the Mill D parking lot on your left.
What Makes It Great
The Mill D North Fork Trail climbs steeply from the parking lot, and the first half-mile or so is pretty strenuous. You’ll have a couple of pretty nice views of the canyon that offer a quick distraction to catch your breath. Once the trail moves away from the road, it starts to mellow out. The next mile and a half are pretty relaxed with a few short, steep shots thrown in just to keep it interesting. As the trail leaves the thick evergreens it opens up into a beautiful Aspen grove, and you’ll notice a few cabins across the canyon. This is a good time to keep an eye out for a family of moose that’s lived in the canyon for years. Don’t try to pet them.
At the two-mile mark you’ll hit a fork: .6 miles left to Dog Lake or 1.9 miles to Desolation Lake on the Desolation Lake Trail. The Dog Lake hike is short and steep; the Desolation Lake Trail is longer and more relaxed. Located near the top of the ridgeline, Desolation Lake is quite a bit prettier than Dog Lake, but either make a great spot for lunch.
Who is Going to Love It
Although either the North Fork Trail to Dog Lake or the Desolation Lake Trail snowshoe trek is relatively short, they each have challenging sections. Also, for folks who are used to living at or around sea level a workout at 6,000 feet or more can present unexpected challenges. While we wouldn’t rate the Mill D North Fork Trail an experts-only snowshoe, you don’t want to bring anyone who’s a complete stranger to a good cardio workout.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The Mill D North Fork Trailhead has a good-d parking lot, and there’s another large parking lot just on the other side of the road. Parking shouldn’t ever be a problem during the winter. No fees or permits are required. That said, you’ll be snowshoeing at your own risk, so be careful out there.