OverviewLittle Water Peak is located near the upper east end of the ridge dividing Mill Creek Creek Canyon on the north from Big Cottonwood Canyon on the south. The peak is easily accessible from either of these canyons. The peak lies a short distance to the east of Dog Lake, a popular summer hiking and mountain biking destination.
During the summer hiking season Little Water Peak makes for an easy non-technical hike which can be completed in a couple of hours or less, an ideal summit destination for casual hikers. In the winter the peak and surrounding area is a very popular destination for backcountry skiiers, and also makes an excellent objective for winter snowshoeing, particularly when avalanche danger might make attempts at larger nearby peaks ill-advised.
The peak is a close neighbor of Reynolds Peak, which lies approximately 1.25 miles to the southwest, on the opposite side of Dog Lake. The summit offers excellent views of all the summits comprising the Big Cottonwood Canyon ridge to the south, and of the Brighton and Solitude ski areas.
Getting ThereThere are several trailheads and routes which may be used for a climb of Little Water Peak. The most common approach from Mill Creek Canyon is the Big Water Trail, while from the south Big Cottonwood Canyon includes the two common appoaches of Mill D North Fork and Butler Fork. Directions for these trailheads are as follows:
Mill Creek Canyon:
Big Water Trailhead
From I-215 on the east side of Salt Lake valley, take either the 3300 or 3900 South exit, and proceed east to Wasatch Boulevard. Follow Wasatch Boulevard to 3800 South, and look for signs to Mill Creek Canyon. Proceed 9.6 miles up Mill Creek Canyon to a parking area at the end of the road, and the Big Water Trailhead.
Big Cottonwood Canyon:
Mill D North Fork Trailhead
From the 6200 South exit off I-215, head east and south on State Highway 190 for ±2 miles to the intersection with Big Cottonwood Canyon road. Turn left at the intersection and drive approximately 9.6 miles east to the Mill D North Fork Trailhead.
Butler Fork Trailhead
From the 6200 South exit off I-215, head east and south on State Highway 190 for ±2 miles to the intersection with Big Cottonwood Canyon road. Turn left at the intersection and drive approximately 8 miles east to the Butler Fork Trailhead and parking area, located on the left side of the road.
Route DescriptionsBig Water Trail
This trail begins from the upper parking area at the end of the Mill Creek Canyon road. The trail is easy to follow and very popular, particularly in the summer when the trail is open to mountain bikes on even-numbered calendar days (plan your hike for an odd-numbered day to avoid sharing the trail with mountain bikers). The trail makes a number of switchbacks as it climbs generally southward. The trail reaches a junction where it converges with the Big Cottonwood Canyon Butler Fork Trail a short distance before arriving at Dog Lake.
One-Way Hiking Distance: 2.25 milesMill D North Fork
Elevation Gain: 2,005 ft.
Average Gain per Mile: 891 ft.
Trailhead Elevation: 7,600 ft.
Summit Elevation: 9,605 ft.
This is the shorter of the two common approaches from Big Cottonwood Canyon. The trail is easy to follow and very popular, both as a summer hiking trail and winter ski and snowshoe trail. From the trailhead the trail climbs gradually northeast for approximately 1.5 miles to a trail junction. The right fork continues east to Lake desolation; take the left fork which continues another 0.6 miles northwest to Dog Lake.
One-Way Hiking Distance: 2.9 milesButler Fork
Elevation Gain: 2,365 ft.
Average Gain per Mile: 816 ft.
Trailhead Elevation: 7,240 ft.
Summit Elevation: 9,605 ft.
This route is slightly longer Big Cottonwood Canyon approach to Little Water Peak. The trail climbs north for approximately 0.4 miles to a trail junction, with the left heading west into Mill A basin. Take the right fork which continues north before making a gradual bend to the east as it continues up Butler Fork. The trail reaches a junction where it converges with the Mill Creek Canyon Big Water Trail a short distance before arriving at Dog Lake.
One-Way Hiking Distance: 3.1 milesAll of the above three routes converge at Dog Lake (el. 8,740 ft.), with the summit of Little Water Peak approximately 0.7 miles to the east. Ascend the forested ridge beginning near the east shore of the lake. The ridge reaches a false summit at ±9,400 ft., then continues east as it climbs more gradually for another 0.3 miles until arriving at the large and level summit of Little Water Peak.
Elevation Gain: 2,485 ft.
Average Gain per Mile: 802 ft.
Trailhead Elevation: 7,120 ft.
Summit Elevation: 9,605 ft.
Red TapeMill Creek Canyon is a fee area. A toll booth is located approximately 1.5 miles up the canyon, and collects a fee of $3.00 per vehicle as you exit the canyon. Annual passes may also be purchased for $40.00.
Prior to June 1 each year, a locked gate on Millcreek Canyon road prevents driving the final 3.9 miles to the trailhead. After June 1 the gate remains open until the first significant snowfall of the season.
There are currently no fees required for approaches from Big Cottonwood Canyon.
When To ClimbLittle Water Peak can be ascended year round. Dry hiking can usually be found on the mountain by early to late May, depending on the snowpack, but snow may linger considerably longer on north facing approaches from Butler Fork and Mill Creek Canyon.
Winter months allow for good backcountry skiing and snowshoeing on the mountain. There are several potential avalanche slide paths on the mountain and its various approaches; carefully assess snow conditions before any winter attempts.