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Donut Falls

Central Wasatch Mountains, Utah

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Donut Falls

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  • View of Kessler Peak (10,403') from the Donut Falls Trail.- Donut Falls
  • Bumblebee on thickstem asters (Eurybia integrifolia).- Donut Falls
  • Goldenrod.- Donut Falls
  • Footbridge over a stream, Kessler Peak (10,403') in the background.  - Donut Falls
  • Aspens along the trail to Donut Falls.  - Donut Falls
  • View of Reed and Benson Ridge looking east from the Donut Falls Trail.  - Donut Falls
  • The trail follows the stream from this point.  - Donut Falls
  • Donut Falls as first seen from the trail along the stream.  - Donut Falls
  • A sign warns hikers of the dangers of climbing up to the falls.  - Donut Falls
  • Donut Falls. The easiest route up to the donut climbs over the rocks to the right of the water.  - Donut Falls
  • Hikers duck into the grotto under Donut Falls. - Donut Falls
  • Donut Falls from inside the grotto.- Donut Falls
  • - Donut Falls
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Easy hike to a unique waterfall.
Cons: 
Crowds.
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Region:
Central Wasatch Mountains, UT
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
337.00 ft (102.72 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.50 mi (2.41 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,493.00 ft (2,283.87 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Donut Falls is a short hike with a big payoff. Just under three-quarters of a mile of easy hiking brings you to a unique waterfall that plunges through a hole in the rock and into a small cave. The trail passes through spruce forest, aspen, and open meadows before entering a narrow, rocky drainage below the falls. The stream and drainage the route follows are known as Mill D South Fork. The alphabetical naming system for the side canyons in Big Cottonwood Canyon originated in the 1850s, when sawmills were built at the mouths of each drainage. While property issues and liability fears threatened access to this area for some time, Salt Lake City purchased the falls and surrounding land in 2007 as a protected watershed. 

From the Mill D South Fork Trailhead the trail winds generally south into a forest of spruce and fir with occasional aspen stands. Note the trail to Spruces Campground, which forks off to the left (east) near the trailhead. At 0.4 miles the trail crosses a footbridge over the stream and then joins an old mining road. The route continues to the left, passing through an open meadow and a grove of mature quaking aspens. When the road forks about 0.1 mile from the bridge, stay left and follow the trail into the rocky drainage. Continue upstream a short distance for your first view of the falls. 

In spite of the recently-placed “danger of falling” sign, you’ll be drawn to climb up the jumbled boulders below the falls to get a better view of the water crashing through the donut. Depending on the season and water flow, this may be treacherous and require getting wet, so evaluate the conditions and be especially careful bringing young children or inexperienced hikers up to the falls. The safest route climbs over the large boulders on the west side of the stream, staying to the right of the lower falls. Once you’ve reached the top you can see Donut Falls plunging through a hole in the rock. Below the donut the rushing water has formed an open grotto about 10 feet by 20 feet. Ducking inside the grotto may allow the adventurous to view the falls from behind while remaining mostly dry, depending on the season and water flow.

For those who are tempted to climb up above the falls, be aware that slick rock and loose gravel make this more dangerous than it may appear, especially when the rock is wet. Hikers have been seriously injured and killed here when a slip leads to a fall into the water and through the falls. 

On the hike out, note the views of Kessler Peak to the west and Reed and Benson Ridge to the east. Donut Falls is worth a visit at any time of the year, but bear in mind that Cardiff Road is closed in winter and early spring, and hikers will have to park at the parking area at Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. This adds some easy walking along the road and makes the route about 3 miles round-trip. Snowshoes are rarely necessary here because of the high traffic, but they may be useful if the area has seen a recent heavy snowfall.  

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Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

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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