Broads Fork Twin Peaks in Big Cottonwood Canyon via Robinson’s Variation is not for the weak nor beginner hiker. It’s a tough, long day. If you’ve done any research on this peak, you’ve seen several routes that will lead you to the top. My friend who lead us on this hike, had done it other the ways, but wanted to try this route out. I was up for anything! He had heard it was do-able, but steep. Robinson’s Variation was also appealing to us because it could be done as a loop hike – up Robinson’s, summit, then down the traditional Broad’s Fork route.
This peak is not for the average hiker. It gains almost 6,000 ft in about 3.5-4 miles! Most of the time I was on all fours climbing up or lowering myself down large boulders. It took us a full 12 hours with lots of rest and snack breaks, plus we enjoyed the view from Twin Peaks for about an hour. This is one of the few hikes I also got very bad elevation sickness – my body couldn’t keep up with the elevation gain in the short distance. By the time we reached the main ridgeline, I felt like I had to throw up every 20 ft, and had to stop and rest. Of course, nothing come out, but that feeling you get when you are sick and lightheaded wasn’t fun. Nobody else had this problem though, and they were all kind enough to wait for me and motivate me to reach the summit.
I really liked that we had done this in June, when there was still snow in the cirque. By the time we summited, we were halfway through our water. As we made our way down the cirque, melted snow offered us super cold water to drink, after filtering it. I highly recommend to bring a filter – a 3 liter Camelbak will go quick on a challenging hike like this. The snow field also shaved off some time for us, as we were able to “sled” down over a section of boulder fields. Be careful doing this though – it’s definitely not the safest, and you can easily get “snow burn” on your legs and butt like I did. Be sure to start early in the day (5-6am) to beat the heat.
Parking starts in the same parking lot as the Lake Blanche trailhead. Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon until you reach the “S” curve in the road, and park in the Mill B parking lot, or along the road. The trail starts in the SW corner of the lot. There is a restroom available.
Distance: 8.5 miles RT (loop)
Elevation Gain: 5,960 ft
Time: 10-14 hours
Dog friendly? No
Kid friendly? No
Start by following the well defined trail from the SW corner of the parking lot for Mill B where a small trail sign says Broad’s Fork. After a mile or so cross the bridge over these pretty cascades.
After an hour or so, you should reach this open meadow that offers beautiful views of the Twin Peaks valley/cirque. You should also be able to see the beaver ponds off to the left. From here, take the trail heading right (West), aiming for the open gully, aka Robinson’s Variation.
At this point the trail basically dies off, and you are left to find your own route. There’s not much route finding to do though, since your goal is to make it to the ridge, just to the left of the knob on the ridge. It’s extremely steep! I used my scrambling gloves for most of this hike to protect my hands since I was on all fours a lot of the time.
Taking a break, and taking in our view of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
The ridge is THAT way! On long days like this you gotta have some fun!
Climbing boulders just below the ridge. You can see that both me and Dave (below me) have our gloves on still.
When you are working your way up to the ridge via Robinson’s Variation, you want to aim to the south (left) of this knob. In town, you can clearly see this knob because it sticks out. If you happen to end up on the other side, that’s fine, you will just have created extra hiking and scrambling for yourself to get over or around it.
Rock surfing! At this point my lightheadedness kicked in and I’m pretty sure I was already loopy haha.
Working our way up to the summit. This shows how steep the angle of the last bit is.
Sunrise & Dromedary Peak are behind me.
Finally on the summit! I think it took us about 4-5 hours to reach Twin Peaks…and we were only halfway done! I found an American Flag near the top, which made for some fun photos.
Resting with an amazing view.
The rest of my group hiked over to the other “Twin” peak, while I stayed behind to rest from my elevation sickness.
At the top, all of the sudden I hear my name being called – not from our group. I turn around and some of my other friends decided to summit the same day! Their group hiked up the traditional Broad’s Fork route.
The hiking & peak bagging group is a small community!
Once you start descending on the south ridge, you will have two options for getting down this section.
1) Go down this large rock face. You can have a more experienced friend go down first, then lower you can lower your pack to them, or just climb down with it on if you feel comfortable.
2) Hike down the small ravine near this. This is also very steep and has loose rock. Then you can hike your way over to the main ridge again.
Both ways are STEEP and I was a little shaky and uncomfortable climbing down this wall. I was glad that my friends felt better about it than me and could help guide me down.
Continuing down along the ridge, you’ll want to start eyeing a spot that you can drop down through the boulder field.
Dave found a good drop off spot for us to start going down the boulder field. He knew there was snow, and felt it would be easier and faster, if we all slid down. He wanted to go really fast so he brought along a plastic shopping bag to sled down on.
I didn’t bring a bag to sled down on, so I just slid down in what I was wearing and man it was COLD! I was really scared when I started to slide but after my initial fight or flight mode, it was actually kind of fun. My legs and butt weren’t happy though – as I stood up at the end my backside was bright red from the cold and rough snow. It certainly shaved off time for us.
We found a fresh cold stream from the snow melt, and we were able to filter and refill our water supply. We still had a lot of boulder fields to cross, and it probably took us another 2 hours just to get through it all.
Finally past the boulder fields, we came upon another stream and took a break to take in our view of how far we had come, and splashed our faces with cold water.
We had completed our loop, and were back to the Beaver Ponds. Once you get back here, just follow the main Broad’s Fork trail back to your car.
Route looking South West.
Ignore the “Lisa Falls” parking that shows up from my previous post – it’s located in Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are no waterfalls on this trail.
A close up view of Robinson’s Variation route.
One more angle of our route.