Dogs in Alta

The Town of Alta and Little Cottonwood Canyon are extremely important “protected watershed areas” supplying high quality and high quantity drinking water to the thirsty Salt Lake Valley and thus dogs are not allowed in these locations. However, the temptation to bring your beloved dog to frolic, exercise, and explore in beautiful Little Cottonwood Canyon and the Town of Alta is understandable. The following are the Town’s answers to frequently asked questions regarding dogs. If more information is needed, please contact us.

Why can’t I bring my dog to Alta, Snowbird, or anywhere else in Little Cottonwood Canyon?

Little Cottonwood Canyon is a critical protected watershed area, providing the Salt Lake Valley with 15% of its drinking water. Sixty percent of the Salt Lake Valley’s drinking water supply comes from four Wasatch Front watersheds – Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, City Creek, and Parleys Canyons.

Because dog waste contains bacteria and parasites that can make drinking water unsafe, local laws prohibit allowing dogs in the watershed. Citations are issued by the Town of Alta and other local law enforcement for violations of these laws.

How do dogs affect drinking water?

Feces from dogs and other domesticated animals are washed into streams and tributaries of the watershed. These streams and tributaries feed directly to your drinking water tap. In fact, it can take less than 24 hours for water you see in a stream high in the watershed to be treated and reach your drinking water faucet in the Salt Lake Valley.

Pet waste carries bacteria and parasites that can contaminate drinking water. There are several types of bacteria and parasites found in pet waste that can make people very ill if ingested. The cleaner the water is when it reaches the treatment facilities, the less potential there is for these organisms to be carried through to the drinking water.

In addition to contaminating drinking water, pet waste can also affect the overall water quality in streams and lakes as it decays, compromising wildlife habitat and ecological health.

I do see some dogs in the Little Cottonwood Canyon watershed, why are they allowed?

Two ski areas, Alta and Snowbird, are situated in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Specially trained avalanche rescue dogs are permitted in the ski areas to assist with snow safety operations. Per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service dogs are also permitted. Finally, the Town of Alta has a licensing process that permits a very limited number of dogs within the Town limits. These limited permits are obtained by a number of Town residents, home owners, and local business employees. The licensees must comply with additional requirements and restrictions on their pet.

Can I bring my dog to Alta if I leave him in the car?

For the health and safety of your pet, it is never a good idea to leave him unattended in your vehicle. Per the Town of Alta’s ordinance, it is “unlawful to bring a dog within the boundaries of the Town, whether in a motor vehicle or otherwise…”

Where can I find more watershed information?

The Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities has a wealth of information specifically addressing the watershed areas in the Wasatch Front, including regulations regarding dogs in these watersheds.

Are the regulations governing the public’s use of watershed areas in Alta, Little Cottonwood Canyon unique?

Many localities nationwide have strict regulations governing ways in which the public may use watershed areas. These regulations range from not allowing public use at all to limiting the public’s use in various ways, and commonly restrict dogs, livestock, and other domesticated animals within watersheds. The watershed regulations in Alta and Little Cottonwood Canyon are not unique, and are intended to protect the public’s health and access to clean drinking water.

The Wasatch Front watershed areas, including Alta and Little Cottonwood Canyon, are some of the most heavily used recreation areas within the nation. The watershed areas are a recreational haven for the growing Salt Lake Valley population, as well as for millions of tourists to the state. Much of the watershed is located within public lands managed by the US Forest Service. The US Forest Service has overlaid more protective land use policies to protect watershed in its current Forest Management Plan.

Specially trained avalanche rescue dogs are permitted to assist with snow safety operations.