Explore Hellgate Spring and capture a unique photograph of our dynamic universe with Utah’s Wasatch Mountains as the perfect foreground.

From the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, follow the road approximately 7 miles until you reach the area between the Snowbird and Alta ski resorts. Looking north, several mountain peaks are visible, including both Mount Superior and Hellgate Spring.

The mountain face of Hellgate Spring (GPS coordinates in decimal degrees 40.5886200 latitude, -111.6494200 longitude) comprises a dramatic 500 million year old outcrop of layered rock types, dominated by limestone, sandstone, and shale, giving the mountain a unique stripy appearance. Not only is the mountain face dramatic, its position facing northward with the star Polaris (commonly known as the Pole Star or North Star) located above it’s peak, provides a perfect place for photographing star trails.

From the base of Hellgate Spring, set up your shot and camera settings: for star trails 30 frames (or more) of 10-20 seconds each, will give defined movement as the stars move from east to west. A DSLR camera and a lens with a wide aperture between f/1.4-f/2.8 with fully manual settings works best for astrophotography; allowing the user to fully control the light sensitivity (ISO) of the camera, in addition to the shutter speed and aperture of the lens (exposure value).

For the photos featured in this article a Canon 5D mark iii with a Rokinon 24 mm lens was used to take 60 individual photographs using the following settings and stacked using Photoshop:

  • ISO 640
  • Shutter speed: 10 seconds
  • Aperture: f/1.4
  • Other settings of note: Evaluative metering, automatic white balance

Pack List

  • Camera (and remote)
  • Tripod
  • Head lamp with red light setting
  • Extra layers
  • Water
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Activities Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Groups
Romantic
Scenic

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

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Hike and Climb the S. Ridge of Mt. Superior

Approach: Start by parking on the side of the road just above the Snowbird Cliff Lodge.

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Photograph Little Cottonwood Creek at Snowbird

Little Cottonwood Creek flows right through Snowbird Ski Resort and there are a few beautiful locations to go shoot the river at.

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