A Strenuous Hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon
- Length: 9 miles round trip to the lake
- Elevation Gain: 2540 ft
- Highest Elevation: 10,120 at the last pass, 9980 at the lake
- Trailhead:White Pine Lake. about 5.5 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon
This hike is about 4.5 miles one way, with roughly the same elevation gain per mile as other hikes, but the part that makes it strenuous is that you will be going up
above 10,000 feet where the air is noticably thinner.
Head into Little Cottonwood Canyon. After about 5 ½ miles (a little more than a mile after the
Tanner's Flat parking area), look for a sign for the White Pine Lake trailhead.
Red Pine Lake, White Pine Lake and
Maybird Lake are all reached from
There is a rest room (as far as I know it is open year round, as I have never seen it locked), and a
You Are Here trail sign and map. This area is considered wilderness which means no dogs, swimming or
large groups are allowed. (See more information about Wilderness area restrictions
The trail is actually an old mining road which hasn't been used in many moons. In some places you would
never know it was ever a road, and others, like the last leg, it could be driven on today.
The trails starts out by crossing Little Cottonwood Creek on a wooden foot bridge, and heads up through
the forested hillsides. After about a mile, you come to a junction that is well marked and signed. Take the
far left fork to White Pine lake (if you cross the creek you are on the wrong trail). Here you begin the
switchbacks and the long climb to the lake. The slope is sometimes gentle and sometimes quite steep.
From about 1/3 of the way in, you can see the last leg up so from that point you have an idea of how far
you have to go. The last upward section is exposed, no trees or shade, just a lot of boulders and small
scree. But it is an easy grade and a wide trail (remember, it used to be a road).
Just before the exposed last leg, on the last forested part of the trail you will experience about 1/2
mile of a rather steep grade. This is where the high altitude started to affect me. I have never been sensitive
to altitude before (I used to run up to this lake), and I curse getting old. Grr. But I pushed on.
After criss-crossing this last rocky slope, you come to a pass where you can see down to the lake at
120 ft below. It is a nice view of the lake, so it would be OK to stop here and rest then head back
down if you didn't want to start your return trip with a steep uphill climb (what is this uphill stuff?
I already did that??). But I had to go down to the lake. (I've come this far, I can't stop now).
You can't really walk all the way around the lake because of the steep rock-covered slopes bordering
the edges (I'm sure some die-hards will try), but there are nice views from around the sides that are
easy to navigate. Looking behind you you get an awe-inspiring view of one side of the bowl in which
the lake sits.
White Pine Lake is about 300 feet wide and 600 feet long and is a great place to stop and breath in the
pure air. Find a rock and have a snack while you rest and enjoy the scenery.
Note: The pictures from this hike were actually taken on two separate days. My first attempt in late
September was unsuccessful due to a brewing storm, and a temperature much colder than we were prepared for.
Two weeks later, the color was gone from the trees, and ice was forming, and there was even a dusting of
snow on the peaks.
For more pictures from this hike, check out the
White Pine Lake Photo Gallery.