5 Popular Alpine Lake Hikes near Salt Lake City
When Salt Lake City summer temperatures hit 90 degrees why not head to the mountains and cool down on the shores of these beautiful alpine lakes. We’re sharing of our 5 favorite lake hikes near Salt Lake City for you to check out this summer. All of these lake trailheads are within 30-45 minutes of downtown and offer a chance to experience the beautiful Wasatch range. Don’t forget alpine wildflowers above Salt Lake City are in bloom from Mid-July through Mid-August.
A couple of things to keep in mind before you head out. First, no swimming is allowed at any of these lakes. These Salt Lake City alpine lakes feed our watershed, and for that reason there are strict rules against swimming. Second, no dogs are allowed on any of these trails for the same reason. Please be respectful, follow the rules, and practice Leave No Trace. Finally, these are all very popular and parking lots can get packed on the weekends. Don’t fret. As you get further from the trailhead, crowds typically thin out. For the most solitude on these lake hikes, go mid-week or early morning on Sunday when a lot of Salt Lake folks are at church.
Also moose are common on the trails. If you see one, don’t approach it. Keep calm, back away, and if it shows signs of aggression, try to put a boulder or tree in between you.
Red Pine Lake
Distance: 6.8 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate hike with an elevation gain of almost 2,000 feet
Finding the trailhead: From Salt Lake City drive I-215 to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn off the ramp towards Little Cottonwood Canyon (following signs to the ski resorts). Once you pass Big Cottonwood Canyon, the road becomes Wasatch Boulevard. Continue straight up Little Cottonwood Canyon towards Alta/Snowbird until you reach the park-and-ride lot. From here the Red/White Pine trailhead is 5.6 miles up canyon, just past Tanner’s Campground. The Red/White Pine trailhead is a large, busy trailhead with restrooms and room for quite a few cars. If the lot is full, cars can be parked along the road.
Red Pine Lake Trail Description
The hike to Red Pine Lake and the Pfeifferhorn begins at the White Pine Lake Trailhead and starts by moving gently up through a grove of aspen trees. Once you cross the first footbridge, you’ll come to a fork. Go left and start hiking up. About one mile in you reach a stream and a fork in the trail. The lower jeep trail goes up to White Pine Lake. Instead you want to follow the single track trail that heads up behind the trail sign. About 400 feet after taking this junction, you will reach a bridge that crosses the stream. Beyond this the trail is very easy to follow and continues rising up above the canyon and the Salt Lake Valley all the way to Red Pine Lake.
Once you are at Red Pine Lake, you can decide to continue upwards to Upper Red Pine Lake. To find Upper Red Pine Lake you’ll need to hike the stream that flows into Lower Red Pine Lake. There is not a maintained trail between the two but you’ll see a hiker-made trail that connects the two.
Interested in checking out even more? From the lower lake it is about a 1.5 mile climb to the top of the Pfeifferhorn, a popular 11,326 foot summit and Salt Lake City’s 3rd highest peak. For the full trail description and tips for overnight backpacking at Red Pine Lake, see my detailed Red Pine Lake Trail guide.
White Pine Lake
Distance: 9 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate hike with an elevation gain of 2,350 feet
Finding the trailhead: The White Pine Lake Trailhead starts from the same place as the Red Pine Lake Trail described above. From Salt Lake City drive I-215 to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn off the ramp towards Little Cottonwood Canyon (follow signs to the ski resorts). Once you pass Big Cottonwood Canyon, the road becomes Wasatch Boulevard. Continue straight up Little Cottonwood Canyon towards Alta until you reach the park-and-ride lot. From here the White Pine trailhead is 5.6 miles up canyon, just past Tanner’s Campground. White Pine trailhead is a large, busy trailhead with restrooms and room quite a few cars. If the lot is full, cars can be parked along the road.
White Pine Lake Trail Description
You’ll start out on the same trail as Red Pine Lake. After crossing the first footbridge over Little Cottonwood Creek the trail forks. Go left here and climb up towards White Pine Canyon. After a mile when you come to the next junction, you’ll come to a stream. Do not cross that stream. Instead head up to the left and continue on the old four-wheel drive jeep road (which is no longer open to cars). This will climb up and is very easy to follow. Stay on this until you reach White Pine Lake, and enjoy the awesome views along the way.
Distance: 6.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate hike with an elevation gain of 2,700
Finding the Trailhead: From Salt Lake City drive on I-215 to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn off the ramp and follow 6200 South towards the ski resorts. When you get to the 7-11 at Fort Union Blvd, turn left up towards Brighton Ski Area. At 4.7 miles, you’ll reach a sharp S curve in the road with the parking lot on the right.
Lake Blanche Trail Description
Don’t miss this absolutely incredible alpine lake that sits under Sundial Peak. We love this hike due to it’s shaded start amidst mighty oak and aspen trees. The trail also offers incredible views of the Salt Lake Valley as you get higher up. The trail is easy to follow, except for one section where you cross a very short boulder field. When you get here look for cairns if you can’t find the trail. Once you are at Lake Blanche, If you’re up for exploring more you can also access Florence and Lillian lakes on short, spur trails that lead to the right along the dam.
Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy hike with 300 feet elevation gain
Finding the Trailhead: From Salt Lake City drive I-215 to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn off the ramp towards Little Cottonwood Canyon (following signs to the ski resorts). Once you pass Big Cottonwood Canyon, the road becomes Wasatch Boulevard. Continue straight towards Alta/Snowbird until you reach the park-and-ride lot. From here, continue driving all the way up Little Cottonwood Canyon until you reach Alta Ski Resort. Keep going past the Albion Basin Parking lot up the summer road. Park on the left side of the road just before the entrance to the Albion Basin campground. From the park-and-ride, it’s a total of 11 miles to the parking lot.
Cecret Lake Trail Description
Arguably a right of passage for all Salt Lake City residents, this Alta Ski Area hike is an easy way to kill an afternoon in the Wasatch Mountains. The trail to Cecret Lake is known for incredible wildflowers and the occasional moose sighting (I saw 3 last summer!). From the lake you can also climb to the top of Sugarloaf Peak for an incredible sunset vista. Or alternatively for a longer hike, you can also start at the Albion Meadows Trail at the lower parking lot.
Insider Tip: During the summer & fall the Town of Alta offers a great FREE shuttle to this trailhead since parking can be difficult. The shuttle goes from the lower Albion parking lot at the bottom of the summer road into the Basin during summer months from 9:30am – 5:30pm. This shuttle is in operation through Labor Day.
Lake Mary, Martha & Catherine
5.4 miles roundtrip
Easy to moderate hike with 1,173 foot elevation gain.
Finding the Trailhead: From Salt Lake City drive south on I-215 to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn left off the ramp and follow 6200 South past Big Cottonwood Canyon, where the road becomes Wasatch Boulevard. Make a left onto Fort Union Blvd. (follow Brighton Ski area signs). This will take you up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton Ski Resort. You can’t miss it, it’s at the very top. Follow the loop to the large parking lot. The Trailhead is located at the far South side of the parking lot, right behind the Mt. Majestic Lodge.The trail begins right next to and travels up behind the ticket office at Brighton Resort.
Lake Mary Trail Description
Why hike to one lake when you could hike to three? Lake Mary is first, then Martha which is the smallest, and finally Lake Catherine which is almost completely surrounded by mountain peaks–definitely worth going to the end. The further you go, the more solitude you’ll have, but if you don’t have time, even the quick hike to Lake Mary makes for a great afternoon. And if three lakes aren’t enough for you, just to the south of Lake Catherine is Sunset Peak which you can access by a 0.6 mile trail that gains 708 feet. I went up there for sunset last summer, and the views were incredible.
Want to camp in the Wasatch?
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is where all these lakes are located, and camping is allowed. All backcountry camps must be set up at least 200 feet from the trail, the lake, and all other water sources. Campfires are not allowed in these canyons due to watershed and safety rules. Additionally, the trailhead to Cecret Lake is in Albion Basin Campground which offers excellent summer campsites.
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