Big Cottonwood Canyon Astrophotography

Donut Falls Trailhead - Search Nearby - Added by Bryony Richards

Photograph the springtime Milky Way arcing over one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in the Wasatch Mountains

Located in the Wasatch Mountains, less 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, Big Cottonwood Canyon, provides some of the best rural dark-sky viewing of the Milky Way in the Wasatch.

The Donut Falls trail head/Mill D trail head, close to the ski resorts of Brighton and Solitude, additionally provides one of the easiest (and most accessible) areas to view the stars year-round. The position of the canyon in this area, with the open vista of the mountain valley to the east, additionally allows for superb viewing of the Milky Way and its galactic core.

For Milky Way photos, start by find a good spot in either the parking lot or early trail head and angle you camera towards the south (to photograph the galactic core). The Milky Way will arc from south to north over the mountains in the distance, allow you to capture both the stars and a beautiful mountain foreground!

For the single Milky Way images featured, a Canon 5D Mark III with a Rokinon 24 mm (f/1.4) lens was used, with the following settings:

  • ISO1600
  • Shutter speeds/exposure time: 20 seconds
  • Aperture: f/2.0 (stopped down from f/1.4)
  • Other settings of note: Evaluative metering, white balance of 3200

For the panoramic Milky Way image featured, 3 images were taken rotating the camera at a stationary mark and subsequently stitched together. For each frame of the panoramic image, a Canon 5D Mark III with a Rokinon 24 mm (f/1.4) lens was used with the same following settings:

  • ISO1000
  • Shutter speeds/exposure times: 20 seconds
  • Aperture: f/2.0 (stopped down from f/1.4)
  • Other settings of note: Evaluative metering, 3200 white balance
Activities

Photography

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
River
Romantic
Scenic

Nearby Lodging

From $300/night

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Community Photos

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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