Donut Falls is an easy-to-moderate hike and one of the most popular hikes in the Salt Lake area. Located up Big Cottonwood Canyon, the trail is named after the unique waterfall feature where Big Cottonwood Creek gushes through a donut-shaped hole in the mountainside. The trailhead is near the Jordan Pines picnic area and is well marked.
What Makes It Great
To get to the Donut Falls trailhead, head up Big Cottonwood Canyon about 9 miles to get to the signed Mill D Trailhead. Parking is limited at the Donut Falls trailhead, so you may have to park at the Mill D parking area, especially during peak times of the season. If you drive or hike up to the trailhead for Donut Falls, head up the paved, gated Mill D South Fork Road past the Jordan Pines picnic area. You’ll pass summer homes. After about 0.75 miles, the Mill D South Fork Road becomes a dirt road. After another 200 yards, you’ll find the small Donut Falls trailhead parking area. The trail begins by the information kiosk. There are bathrooms at the beginning of the trail.
Once you get closer to the falls, be very careful—some of the short descents down toward the falls can be a little slippery from other hikers getting water onto the rocks. Make sure you have shoes on that you don’t mind getting a little wet. The water is extremely cold no matter what time of year it is. If you want to hike right up to the falls, this will require a bit of scrambling and climbing. Use extreme caution around the boulders—they've been known to come loose after extreme weather and spring runoff.
Spend some time in the area where the waterfall comes through the hole. It’s easy to get really great shots of this extremely unique waterfall. During the winter, the waterfall is mixed with icicles through the hole, and makes for a different landscape than from the summer time.
Since this is a watershed area, you’ll have to leave the dog at home. The trail is up to 3.5 miles roundtrip depending on where you start your hike. If you start from the Mill D parking area, it’ll be 3.5 miles. If you start at the Donut Falls parking area, it’ll be about 1.5 miles roundtrip.
On the way back to Salt Lake City, don’t forget to swing by the Porcupine for some fantastic post-hike grub and a tasty local beer.
Who is Going to Love It
The hike is suitable for all ages and experience levels. There are several places along the hike that you can stop to rest if you need to. You can usually hear the waterfall about halfway into the hike. One of the best times of the day to do this hike is early in the morning. This should help you avoid the crowds.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The trailhead for Donut Falls is at the Spruces Campground. To get to the Spruces Campground from I-215, take the 6200 South exit and travel a mile east to Wasatch Boulevard. Take Wasatch Boulevard a mile south to the junction with Big Cottonwood Canyon/Highway 190. Make a left at the junction and travel up Big Cottonwood Canyon 9.7 miles to the campground. Parking is free and plentiful and the campground is open 24 hours a day.