burst of color

Last weekend was mostly beautiful in northern Utah, so we decided to hike to Red Pine Lake in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Of course, I picked the day that ended up being more overcast than not, so all my photos turned up a little washed out. The day before was sunny with brilliant blue skies. Oh well.

I’ve done this hike once before, a few years ago with MPK. I think we went in July and ran into quite a bit of snow at the upper elevations. I was excited to see the lake not covered in ice on this hike. The Red Pine Lake trail winds up the southern side of LCC and offers some amazing vista points looking out over the canyon to the Salt Lake Valley below. The bottom portion of the trail is mostly pine trees and didn’t have much color, but as the trail climbed the fall colors really exploded.

The trail is easy to access from a paved parking area with pit toilet and is actually labeled as the White Pine Lake trailhead in the beginning. The Red Pine Lake trail splits from this one a mile up. The first mile of the trail covers what was originally an old mining road, so it’s wide and fairly gradual in its ascent. At the junction, the White Pine Lake trail heads to the left, while the Red Pine Lake trail starts to head up the steeper part of the canyon.

As the trail got steeper and climbed, we got some great views of the canyon below us. The wet winter and spring and the mild summer resulted in some amazing fall colors; the entire valley was blanketed in bright reds, oranges and yellows.

At one point, the trail makes a sharp turn and steep climb, and as we got to the top we saw this:

WTF doesn’t even cover it. The rest of the hike was basically in snow and ice, and added about an hour to our total hike time, as we had to navigate some pretty treacherous spots.

We reached the lake, and while it wasn’t covered in snow and ice, it was surrounded by it. It sits in a bowl and as a result, the wind picked up and made it a lot colder than the lower portion of the trail. We hung out for a little bit, enjoying the solitude of the lake. Only one other group was actually at the lake when we arrived, and they left shortly before we did. While the trail was pretty active below, I think the snow and ice forced a lot of hikers to turn around before reaching the lake.

The cold finally won, and we headed back down the trail. We finished up the hike with food and good beer at Porcupine Grill. As usual, a great way to end an afternoon in the canyons.

Here is the photoset for this hike: Red Pine Lake hike – October 2011

Hike information:

  • Red Pine Lake trail
  • Distance – 3.5 miles one-way
  • Elevation gain – 2,000 feet
  • Hike time – 3-5 hours round trip, depending on speed and experience
  • Difficulty – Moderate without snow, Difficult with snow

Directions – Access the White Pine Lake trailhead about 5 miles from the bottom of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The parking area will be on the right, and it’s a sharp turn into the lot on a curve in the road. So, slow down around the 4.75 mile mark and keep an eye out. From the parking area, head down the paved path to the dirt trail starting next to Little Cottonwood Creek. Cross the Creek using the footbridge and follow the wide trail. At the junction (approximately 1 mile up) follow the sign for the Red Pine Lake trailhead. The rest of the trail is well marked; however when there is snow it’s easy to get lost. A GPS is recommended.


5 responses to “burst of color

  1. Those photos are stunning. The fall colors were breathtaking. I live in PA and the leaves are just starting to change.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I have a feeling the elevation above 7500 feet probably means our colors will change a little earlier than yours. Hopefully yours are just as intense!

  2. Gorgeous. It makes me sad that some people (a lot, I’m sure) in this country will never take the time to see beauty like that in person.

    It made me shiver to look at Col standing in the snow in a t-shirt.

  3. Jane Moneypenny

    So so jealous! I miss fall in the midwest a lot; fall in Texas isn’t even close. We’re at 60-80 degree weather (which is brilliant soothing after a 115 summers), but just doesn’t have that bite that autumn should.

    Eeek…elevation… my Achilles heel.

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