Mount Superior and Monte Cristo are most commonly climbed via the Cardiff Pass
route, which begins at the Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Although this approach from Lake Blanche on the Big Cottonwood side is longer and involves more elevation gain, it is a generally more scenic route, passing the beautiful Lake Blanche basin followed by a hike through a seldom visited hanging canyon. The route also approaches from north facing slopes, and therefore is not directly exposed to the sun unlike the Cardiff Pass route.
The trailhead begins at the S-Curve in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Take the 6200 South exit (exit #6) off I-215 and follow highway 190 south-east approximately 2 miles to the intersection with Big Cottonwood Canyon road (State Highway 190).
Turn left (east) at the intersection and drive 4.5 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon road. Look for the trailhead parking area on the right side of the road, just across a small bridge over the stream. This parking area also serves the Broad's Fork trailhead, which leaves the parking area on the far west end.
The Lake Blanche trail begins near the restrooms on the east end of the parking area.
One-Way Hiking Distance: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,932 ft.
Avg. Gain per Mile: 986 ft.
Trailhead Elevation: 6,200 ft.
Summit Elevation: 11,132 ft. (Monte Cristo), 11,050 (Mount Superior)
The trailhead leaves the east end of the parking lot and follows a paved path for approximately 1/4 mile. Just before the paved path crosses over the stream a trail leaves on the right heading south, climbing for approximately 200 yards to a footbridge.
Cross the bridge and follow the trail as it makes a switchback before heading south again, entering the Twin Peaks Wilderness area soon after.
The trail to the lake sees heavy usage, therefore it is well maintained and easy to follow.
The trail climbs steadily for 2.75 miles to arrive at a stone wall above the south-east end of Lake Blanche.
Drop below the stone wall on the left and follow the trail a short distance around the east shore of the lake.
An unmaintained use-trail leaves on the left, heading east through a grove of aspen trees before ascending the grassy slopes forming the north side of the Lake Blanche east drainage. This trail may be difficult to locate; if you encounter difficulty the best plan is to head generally eastward, but contour high onto the slopes. Aim for the grassy slopes above the upper cliff bands visible on the left side of this photo
The overgrown trail continues traversing east up the steep slopes for approximately 0.75 mile before leveling off as it makes a gradual turn south, then crosses over a short section of small talus blocks.
The trail ends at the talus blocks, so routefinding will be required from this point onward.
Drop 50 feet down the slopes to the remains of an old mining structure, then head south-east following the drainage of a small creek until it enters a large boulder field.
Mount Superior will now be visible as a somewhat unimpressive high point on the left side of the ridge above the boulderfield. Monte Cristo will be partially hidden about 0.25 miles along the ridge extending west from Superior.
Boulder hop across the boulder field, which may contain patches of snow well into August.
Aim for the saddle on the ridge extending from the north of Mount Superior. This saddle is Cardiac Pass
, probably so named because of the resemblance to the blip of a heart monitor.
Upon reaching the saddle follow the ridge south to the summit of Mount Superior. The ridge contains some 3rd class scrambling with exposure, but presents no significant difficulties.
From the summit of Superior the summit of Monte Cristo can be seen approximately 0.25 miles to the west. The ridge between the two summits may appear imposing, but is actually an easy traverse.
No special gear is required. For spring hikes an ice axe may be helpful if ascending the steep headwall between Mount Superior and Monte Cristo.