Sundial Peak might be the most iconic part of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and a thick coat of snow makes an unforgettable transformation to this familiar peak. In winter, looming above ice-covered Lake Blanche, the peak dramatically sits in front of the jagged cliffs behind it. The hike can be difficult, especially if the snow is not packed down, but the reward is well worth it. There can still be a lot of people here on the weekend, but if you are lucky enough to catch a weekday, you can get the place almost to yourself. This is definitely one of the more scenic winter hikes in the Wasatch and is recommended not only for the finale but for the scenic route as well.
A meandering semi-frozen creek runs alongside most the trail until the route begins to climb above it. Many small waterfalls can be found along the way just off trail. Further up the aspen groves get much thicker, and the canyon leads to a large bowl with Dromedary and Sundial Peaks popping out. The pitch in the last fifth of the trail increases in what is already a pretty steep hike, but don't get discouraged...the destination is just over the saddle. As you head up this final stretch the views down canyon really open up, and you can see all the way down to Salt Lake Valley at this point.
There are definitely many backcountry touring routes to be had in this area. Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe are four steep runs in a row on the northeast-facing western ridge that separates this canyon from Broads Fork. Further up the trail on the same side of the canyon are Sidewinder and Athey's Line. These are accessed from Broads Fork, which is convenient because they both run out to the same parking lot. These all look like steep and hairy runs.
The parking lot is closed during winter, so you will need to park along the road. There are some areas where avalanches could be a problem for hikers, so only consider this hike when the conditions indicate a low danger day as rated by the Utah Avalanche Center. Moose are pretty much always on this trail; even if you don't spot one, you'll likely see their tracks and droppings everywhere. It is a tight canyon, and they can be aggressive, so be aware.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.