Hike Kessler Peak in Utah's Big Cottonwood Canyon

Donut Falls Trailhead, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Running, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    5.3 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2800 Feet

Easy Parking

Kessler Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon of Utah provides breathtaking views of the central Wasatch, Salt Lake Valley, and all the way to the Uintas.

Kessler Peak is a 10,403-foot peak located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. From the top, you can see all the way to the Uintas to the East, The tram at Snowbird to the south, and the Salt Lake Valley to the west. To the north is Mount Raymond and Gobblers Knob. 

Kessler Peak is the terminus and highest point of the north ridge from Mount Superior.

There is nothing technically challenging about this trail, but it is steep. If you have trekking poles, I'd suggest you take them. They'll help keep your footing on the descent. The Kessler Peak trail stays cooler since it's mostly on the north side of the mountain.

Round trip the hike is approximately 5.5 miles and 2,800 of vertical. Depending on your level of fitness it could take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours for the hike. There are no signs for Kessler Peak trail, but it's easy to find.

Kessler Peak shares the Donut Falls Trailhead, which is very popular and has vault toilets. If the parking lot fills up, you'll have to park at the auxiliary parking lot on the Big Cottonwood road. Parking at Big Cottonwood road will add an extra mile or so to your hike, but there is little elevation gain. 

From the Donut Falls Trailhead, follow the road past the gate, and continue up the path until you hit a fork at approximately .4 miles. Stay to the right and keep heading up. 

After another 2/10th's of a mile (.6 total) you'll come to the Kessler Peak trail located on the right side of the road (west). There is no sign, but it's a steep rocky climb. From here the climb will be a steady ascent to the north-east ridge. From here you'll get some glimpses of Kessler Slabs, the northeast side of Kessler, and of Cardiff Fork, and Cardiff Pass in the distance.

Just after the 2-mile mark, you'll head across an avalanche path called God's Lawnmower, which is an excellent backcountry ski run in the winter. 

A little less than a mile later you will come to the remains of an old miners cabin and their mine. The mine is unblocked, and you can go about 100 feet into it - maybe further if you are daring.

You're almost to the saddle, which has the remains of another miner's cabin, and a mine shaft that goes straight down. Don't fall in.

From the saddle, follow the path to the right. There are a series of false summits. Just stay on the trail, and you'll reach the summit. 

At the top of Kessler Peak, enjoy the views of Hidden Peak and the Snowbird tram to the south, Twin Peaks to the West, Mount Raymond to the North, and Clayton Peak at Brighton Resort to the East. 

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I love steep hikes, and I love them even more when they're not super crowded. Hiking in Big or Little Cottonwood can be crowded sometimes, but Kessler is not a super popular peak so I didn't see anyone when I did it. It was steep but beautiful. I went in early June, and there was still quite a lot snow so make sure to check conditions before going!

7 months ago
7 months ago

Chris Engelsman Admin

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

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