The trailhead for Catherine Pass is located at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Drive about 10 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon Road and look for the Catherine Pass trailhead on the right. Parking is free and includes restrooms but no water. Hiking, trail running, and backcountry camping are allowed but dogs, horses, mountain bikes, and swimming are not. Cell phone service is spotty while on the trail. Drive a little further on Little Cottonwood Canyon Road to reach the trailhead for Cecret Lake (an easier but equally fun hike) and the Albion basin campground.
The hike to Catherine Pass is 1.5 miles. To reach Sunset Peak it is an additional mile for a total of 2.5 miles with elevation gain of 1,200 feet.
The map at the parking lot is outdated because it shows a direct path to Catherine Pass whereas the current trail includes several switchbacks. The trail is easy to manage because it is primarily smooth with a moderate slope. Its open landscape results in broad views throughout the hike.
Midway through the hike the trail levels off as it passes through a beautiful meadow.
The meadow includes wildflowers and animals. One of the wildflowers that was blooming on our hike was Indian Paintbrush.
In addition, we saw a Uinta ground squirrel only a few feet from the trail. These squirrels hibernate for more than eight months of the year so they are active on summer days.
At the pass, you can see Lake Catherine below and Sunset Peak to your right.
From Catherine Pass, it is an additional mile to the summit of Sunset Peak. If you have time and energy, I highly recommend extending your hike to include it. The hiking is a little more rigorous and probably not suitable for little kids but the views make the extra distance worth it. The first stretch includes sand, which we didn’t find difficult.
As we approached Sunset Peak, we came to a three-way intersection and chose the middle trail. I believe all three trails lead to the summit but I recommend either the middle or left trail because other hikers told us the right trail is longer.
The final stretch may be tough for little kids because it includes two moderately rocky outcrops, one of which can be seen below.
We reached the summit of Sunset Peak after 90 minutes of hiking. The view from the summit is a panorama that includes Lake Catherine, Lake Martha, and Lake Mary to the north along with peaks to the east, south, and west. You can’t see it in the subsequent picture but from the summit you can see Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon, another place I recommend hiking.
The follow video captures the 360 degree view from the summit.
In sum, the hike to Catherine Pass and Sunset Peak is fun, moderate in difficulty, quick, very scenic, and only a short drive from Salt Lake City. While in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I recommend hiking to Cecret Lake and along the Litte Cottonwood Trail.