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Utah's Wasatch Hiking Trails

With so many beautiful trails in our backyards, how do you decide which one to head up? Here are some of my favorites, chosen either for the view or solitude at the top, the scenery along the way, or because of the simply joy of bagging a peak.

Mill Creek Canyon

  • Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake Overlook
    Several switchbacks make the grade pretty gentle as you climb up through the forest to an opening. The view of the Salt Lake valley below is astounding on a clear day.
  • Dog Lake
    There are actually several lakes named Dog Lake in Utah. There are even two in the Wasatch. But the Dog Lake of this article is the one where actual dogs are allowed to visit.
  • Mill Creek Canyon - End of the Road
    This trail meets up with several others (you can get to Dog Lake or Desolation Lake, or even hike over the pass and down into Wasatch and Summit County from here) and so the distance is variable. The day I took these pictures, we walked up to the pass and looked down on one of the ski resorts in Park City.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

  • Brighton - Lake Mary and Dog Lake
    This is a nice easy trail up to two nice lakes. Moose are frequently seen along the trail.
  • Brighton - Lake Solitude
    The hike up to Lake Solitude is an easy stroll on a forested trail. Sounds like most of the trails around here. You just can't go wrong. This trail crosses some of the Solitude ski runs, and it is fun to see these runs without any snow and picture how it will look in a few months.
  • Brighton - Snake Creek Pass
    A moderate hike with stunning views of Heber Valley.
  • Brighton Silver Lake
    Great for kids and wheelchairs with access to fishing, too. This hike follows a boardwalked path around beautiful Silver Lake edged by mountains.
  • Brighton - Twin Lakes Pass
    There are (at least) two ways to get to Twin Lakes: from the Brighton parking lot, or from the boardwalked trail at Solitude Nordic Center (Silver Lake). I usually end up doing a loop when I hike here, going up to the pass and back down the other way.
  • Cardiff Fork Mine
    This is a moderate hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon up to the remains of the old, abandoned, Cardiff mine. There is private property all around, so please stay on the trail.
  • Desolation Lake
    There are a number of trailheads one can take to get to Desolation Lake, the most popular is Mill D from Big Cottonwood Canyon. After about 3 1/2 miles of hiking, and cresting the final peak, the lake comes into view. Stunning scenery awaits. Don't just hike up and leave, take a stroll all the way around.
  • Dog Lake
    This popular trail has a number of trailheads, each with pros and cons. If you start in Mill Creek Canyon, you'll have some canine company. To avoid the 4-legged hikers, take one of the Big Cottonwood Canyon entrances:
  • Doughnut Falls
    The falls is called "doughnut" because over the years, the pounding water has eroded a hole in the rock near the brink, and now the water splashes down through this hole. This hike is especially cool in the winter when there is ice sometimes covering the falls in a thin sheath. No matter what the season, be careful climbing around on the very slick rocks. There have been several fatalities.
  • Hidden Falls
    A short hike to a hidden waterfall.
  • Lake Blanche
    3 miles up a pretty strenuous trail lead the hiker to some beautiful lakes at the base of Sundial peak. My favorite view of this scene is in the fall with the colorful leaves reflected in the lake.
  • Mineral Fork
    About 6 miles round trip, this trail winds through some beautiful forested area and ends at an abandoned mine. Do not enter the mine, as it is closed and dangerous.
  • Silver Fork
    It is a pretty gradual trail with lots of switchbacks and some downright level areas. The whole way is forested and a lovely sight in the fall.

Little Cottonwood Canyon 2

  • Alta to the Mine
    A short hike above Alta with wonderful views.
  • Catherine's Pass
    The trail has some nice easy level spots and some spots that are just the opposite. It all evens out to be a nice moderate trail with some astounding views.
  • Cecret Lake / Albion Basin
    This trail is by far the most popular wildflower hike in the Wasatch. And it deserves that reputation. Take this hike in late July / early August and you will be treated to an explosion of color. Because it is so popular, get there early to get a parking spot.
  • Red Pine Trail to SLC Overlook
    If you're not up to hiking all the way to the lake, you can still see some great scenery and stop at the overlook.
  • Red Pine Lake
    Spectacular views, camping and even fishing are the reward for the hiker who finishes this 7 mile round trip.
  • Snowbird
    You can ride the tram up and hike down, or hike or ride both ways. Whatever you decide, at the top you will be treated to 360 degree views from one of Utah's highest spots. Along the way, in the summer, you will be treated to nature's grand display of wildflowers.
  • White Pine Lake
    This is one of the longer trails on my list, but that characteristic adds to this hike's appeal. There is a great sense of accomplishment at the top, and you won't have much company while having a snack at the lake. Look on the peaks above and you may see some mountain goats.
For a more comprehensive list of hikes and their statistics, see the Wasatch Mountain Club Trail Ratings page.

Backroads of Utah
by Theresa A. Husarik

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