Donut Falls is a popular trail for up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It’s fairly easy, partially shaded and the kids get to play in the water. The downside is that if you go on a holiday or weekend the crowds will also be there. Most of the times I have gone early in the day on a weekday so we only see a handful of other hikers. During the winter you have to walk from the road at the North Fork Mill D lot, but during the summer and fall you can drive to the closer parking lot. Here is a view of the area in the fall.
The majority of this trail is mostly of a flat walk. There are some roots and rocks along the trail though, so watch your step.
There are several places where the trail could be unclear, but they have marked all of those places with signs. The one place that could be confusing is after the bridge. There is a sign that says to head left, but on your return trip keep an eye out or you could miss it. When crossing the bridge you can get a pretty look at the river farther downstream from Donut Falls.
It seems like every time I hike this I end up with a butterfly photo and there are chipmunks and other small wildlife.
The trail gets a tiny bit challenging right at the end. This photo is my five year old coming back up the rocks after visiting the falls, but these rocks need to be scaled. My son had no trouble doing either way independently, but it was a bit tricky when I used to have a child-carrier on my back.
It is easiest if you have shoes that can get wet so that you can just walk in the river at this point. You can jump around from rock to rock though possibly, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. The water is freezing, but it isn’t deep and you will probably get wet eventually anyway.
The waterfalls are pretty from a distance and the kids love to play in the water. You can’t really see the Donut part of the falls unless you climb up. It is slippery and there have been fatalities, so please be careful. I wouldn’t let my kids try it. If you do chose to climb it, know that you will get wet and that the safest way is mostly up the middle. This lower left image is a zoomed in closeup of the above image. At the top you can see the falls, but as you get close you can see that it is falling into a little cavern. You just duck under and then the cavern is pretty big to get your photos. The water is only up to your ankles, but it is super cold, so be prepared.
Below you can see a long exposure shot of the falls entering the cave and then a regular photo from inside.
Here is a photo with long exposure in the little cave looking up at the hole in the “donut”.
This is actually an amazing winter hike with snowshoes or to hike with micro-spikes. Everything is so beautiful and peaceful covered in snow. You have to begin at the North Fork Mill D Parking lot right next to the main canyon road, so it does make it longer, but it’s lovely.
Stats: Distance – 1.5 miles round trip from parking lot above Jordan Pines Campground (3.5 from North Fork Mill D lot)
Approximate hiking time – 1-3 hours
Elevation gain – 280-531 feet
Difficulty – Easy (moderate at the end)
Trail – well maintained trail of dirt and rocks, walk in stream, bouldering to get close
Bathrooms – At Trailhead
Seasons to hike – Year Round
Permits needed – None
Pets allowed – No