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Mount Superior and Monte Cristo

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Mount Superior is a large peak between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. It is intense and requires scrambling, but offers incredible views!

It is just northwest of Snowbird and south of Kessler Peak. It is an exposed peak without many trees and lots of shale. Monte Cristo is the peak directly west, that looks down on Sundial Peak and Lake Blanche. Once you are already at Superior, it isn’t that much farther to go to Monte Cristo.

The main trail to get to either peak is along the Cardiff Pass Trail which begins at Alta. The trail actually begins across from the Alta Lodge and next to the Shallow Shaft Restaurant. It follows the road for a few minutes and then an old mining road. Eventually it has a well-established trail and it gains elevation quickly. There are lots of wildflowers along this section.

This is an exposed trail, so there is very little shade. It quickly gains elevation in a northwest direction until you can see into both canyons.

The Cardiff Pass hike has a few scrambles, but it’s nothing compared to Mount Superior, which has several steep parts and even with a downloaded map and keeping a keen eye, it is easy to lose the trail. If you look carefully at this photo of Mount Superior from the end of the Cardiff Pass Trail, you can see two paths. One goes along the left partially down the ridge. We regretted taking this path as it seems to abruptly end and you are left to climb up the face of the mountain. The trail on the ridge line is still intense, but it is clearer to follow.

Mount Superior has some incredible views, but there is some serious scrambling and steep sections. This is not something to attempt unless you feel confident scrambling over rocks.

If you lose your way, which I’m afraid is almost inevitable, head back towards the ridge line and you’ll probably run back into the trail. This mountain is covered in shale. It is beautiful to look at closely, but could be terrifying if it slips out from under you. Watch your step carefully.

When you finally reach the summit there are impressive views on all sides.

This bottom picture is looking west at Monte Cristo with views of the valley beyond. For an experienced trail runner it probably only takes an extra 15 minutes to get to Monte Cristo from Superior, but it took us closer to 25 minutes to reach the top. It doesn’t have a clear trail a lot of the way and you have to climb over rocks, but it is much less sketchy than it is to get to Superior. If you look down towards Big Cottonwood Canyon, that little lake is Lake Blanche.

Unless you are training for the WURL (Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup (climbing all the peaks in a loop in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons), it seems unlikely that you would want to continue along the ridgeline to Dromedary and Twin Peaks, but if you are a very experienced climber and a glutton for punishment, you might try it. These two peaks alone are not for the faint of heart. Here are a few more of the pathway you have to take.

Carefully make your way back the way you came. Climbing up is almost always easier that climbing down, so be careful. The good news is that this trail is significantly easier to follow down than it is up, so that is helpful.

Stats: Distance – 5.3 miles
Approximate hiking time – 2-5 hours
Elevation gain – 2477 feet
Difficulty – Difficult (quite challenging)
Trail – well-defined trail of dirt and rocks and then lots of scrambling
Bathrooms – At Alta
Seasons to hike – June-September (backcountry skiers do this in the winter)
Permits needed – None
Pets allowed – No

If you want other peaks to climb, you can hike Mount Timpanogos from Timpooneke or from Aspen Grove. Other options are Sunset Peak, Mount Tuscarora, Mount Wolverine, or Patsy Marley Peak. Lake Blanche isn’t a peak, but it’s a great workout to three beautiful lakes!


We have so much beauty in Utah to explore! I love hiking and photography and can help you find your next favorite hike! All photos were taken by me!

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