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Cardiff Fork Trail

Central Wasatch Mountains, Utah

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Cardiff Fork Trail

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  • The eastern walls of the canyon are known as the Reed and Benson Ridge after a local mining company.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • The fall is a great time to enjoy Cardiff.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • The fall is a great time to enjoy Cardiff.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • The famous rock seperator, built in the 1920s by the Cardiff Mining Company.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Plenty of moose in this area.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Aspen glow in the autumn along the Cardiff Fork Trail.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Aspen glow in the autumn along the Cardiff Fork Trail.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Red-tailed hawk soaring over the Cardiff Fork Trail.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Looking up toward Mount Superior (11,132 ft) and Monte Cristo.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Getting this view of these mountains is rare compared to the side seen from Alta.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Hiking the Cardiff Fork Trail into the high country.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Views from the Cardiff Fork Trail.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Checking out the local mines.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Views from the Cardiff Fork Trail.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • The view from the top looking north.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • The foundation of a one-time hotel.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • One of the former mines.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Views from the Cardiff Fork Trail.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Heading back out toward Donut Falls and Big Cottonwood Road.- Cardiff Fork Trail
  • Even the drive out is beautiful.- Cardiff Fork Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Historical and geological features. Great fall colors. Lots of options.
Cons: 
No dogs. Occasional rattlesnakes. Private Property.
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Region:
Central Wasatch Mountains, UT
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,018.00 ft (615.09 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Biking
Total Distance: 
6.30 mi (10.14 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,815.00 ft (2,382.01 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

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.

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(20 within a 30 mile radius)

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(170 within a 30 mile radius)

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