A Strenuous But Rewarding Hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon
- Length: 6.4 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 2600 ft
- Highest Elevation: 8,920 ft
- Trailhead: At the "S" Curve, also known as "Mill B South Fork", about 4 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon.
This is a hike not for the average recreational hiker. As you can see by the statistics above, there is a
significant elevation gain over 3.2 miles up. But the lake itself, nestled against Sundial Peak is one
of the most spectacularly scenic mountain lakes in the Wasatch (although I would be hard-pressed to actually
name one as the best ). Any season would be recommended and each would offer a unique sight--from flower-strewn
or snow-covered hillsides and meadows to trees adorned with golden and red leaves.
The trailhead includes a small paved parking lot and rest room. There is also overflow parking on the shoulder
of the road (be sure to pull off the road completely so as not to impede traffic in an already dangerous area),
as well as another parking lot a few feet further down the road. This parking area services not only the Lake
Blanche trail, but also a picnic area, Hidden Falls and Broads Fork trails.
The first quarter mile or so is paved, and used to be drivable. It parallels the very picturesque stream
and there is a picnic area in what used to be the parking lot. Once you leave the road (the trail is very
well marked), the uphill begins and is relentless. It is moderate in places and downright strenuous in others.
But the walk through the trees is beautiful and smells of fresh forest, pine needles and vegetation. The trail
parallels the stream for about half the distance, then veers to the east side of the canyon.
As you continue to climb, you can begin to see the ridge that marks the last hurdle. The last stretch is
very steep and involves some scree (loose gravelly rocks). There is a section where the trail appears to
climb straight up a scree slope, but keep to the right and you will see the dirt path begin again.
The persistent hiker will be rewarded with a fine sight indeed. Sundial Peak (elevation 10,320 ft.) loomes
above the lake and is reflected in its waters. Also visible is and Dromedary Peak (elevation 11,170 ft.)
about a mile to the southwest. The three lakes sit in a high alpine basin that was dug out by a glacier
during the last ice age. Look for long deep ledges in the polished red rock that are visible signs of the
ancient glacier. This area is part of Utah's 11,300-acre Twin Peaks Wilderness Area.
If you wander around the lake and to the west, you will come upon a dam and
two smaller lakes (Lillian and Florence). Continuing around the lake will reveal a couple of small
waterfalls (depending on the season and the amount of water from snow run-off).
For more pictures from this hike, check out the
Lake Blanche Photo Gallery.