Catherines Pass is one of the better known and more iconic hikes in Northern Utah. This is due to the spectacular array of wildflowers one can see here in the late spring and summer. Stunning views down canyon show off Lone Peak, Mount Superior, and Sugarloaf mountains. Every few weeks during the summer an entirely new palette of colors explode on the mountain, each flower springing up at different times throughout the season. This is a great place to see wildlife as well: you can watch moose saunter, marmots scurry, and hummingbirds buzz overhead.
The trail begins across from the parking lot heading east with Devil's Castle to the south. You'll notice the ski lifts towering overhead, as this area is the Alta Ski Resort in the winter. The trail begins as a steady, moderately challenging climb and levels out at some flower-covered hillsides. After meandering through some light, open pine forests and quartzite cliffs you'll begin to gain the elevation that allows you to see more of Albion Basin below. After the last big hill you'll reach an upper meadow with the 10,795-foot Mount Wolverine to your north and a beautiful cirque and valley below it. Take a moment to search for some moose in this clearing before reaching the pass a short distance ahead.
Once atop the pass you'll have a wide open view in all directions. The trio of lakes that sits to your northeast is Catherine, Martha, and Mary. If you hike down to them you will be entering the Big Cottonwood Canyon and leaving the Little Cottonwood Canyon, where you began. These lakes can also be approached from the Brighton Ski Resort. You can also connect to the Great Western Trail or choose to summit Wolverine and Tuscarora Peaks from this pass, though most hikers turn around here to complete the 3-mile there-and-back trip.
The hike has a few steep sections, but overall it is not too challenging. Keep in mind you are close to 10,000 feet in elevation and acclimating could be a challenge. It can be a little crowded at times, but don't let that stop you from giving it a chance. Please note that the hike is not accessible by car until after July 1 each year. You can hike up from the gate, but it adds almost 2 miles each way.