The long and storied history of mining in Utah is still on display while hiking the Cardiff Fork Trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Mine shafts, a large rock sorter, various pieces of rusted equipment, and massive piles of tailings pockmark the canyon as you head up the trail toward Mount Superior at the apex. The silver mining began in 1906 and continued into the 1950s, and it was the largest and most lucrative operation in the district. The equipment has decayed slowly and adds a unique visual twist on the otherwise natural landscape.
The geology of this area is also quite dynamic and fascinating. The vertical cliffs of Reed and Benson Ridge to the east are an example. Looking down can be pretty rewarding here as well, and you can find some great veins of unusually quartz-heavy granites at the far end of the trail. The western slope allows hikers to explore the spines and saddles between Cardiff and other nearby canyons in Big Cottonwood such as Carbonate Pass. Kessler Peak is also commonly accessed from Cardiff. The scenery at the end of the trail is well worth the journey, and the peaks and bowls looking southward toward Mount Superior and Monte Cristo are some of the prettiest in Big Cottonwood.
The trail begins by heading southwest and then due south from the Donut Falls parking lot up the old rocky mining roads and past a private property gate. The owners are kind enough to allow the public to hike here assuming we continue to respect all the rules. Allow for a half day to complete the hike and prepare for the higher altitudes with quality food and water rations. The trails are really old mining roads that crisscross and zigzag over the whole area. The canyon walls keep you in a relatively confined area, so the valley lends itself to being explored freely with a low risk of getting lost.