Category Archives: hikes

brrrrr….

It doesn’t snow often in Southern Utah, and when it does it’s usually a dusting. On Saturday we got nailed with an arctic storm that dumped a lot of white fluffy flakes. It pretty much shut down the city since there are no snow plows or salt trucks to keep the roads clear. It caused a lot of hassles, but on Sunday the day was sunny and clear, and the snow was really amazing!

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not so desolate

A pretty big system moved through late last week and dumped a lot of fresh snow in the upper elevations. A high pressure immediately following the storm brought sunny skies and balmy temperatures. So, what better way to spend a Sunday than in the mountains?

Col, MPK, Shawn, Brandon and I headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon to snowshoe up the Mill D trail to Desolation Lake. Avalanche risks were extremely high in all the canyons over the weekend, but Mill D is a pretty safe trail and isn’t directly under any steep slopes. We expected the trail to be packed, as it’s one of the few without the avalanche risk, but were pleasantly surprised to be some of the only people heading out.

I didn’t take the GPS, so I have no idea the distance, and I didn’t really even pay attention to time, so I have no idea how long we were out. I’d say we spent about 3.5 hours round trip, although we went up at a very leisurely pace (we did get hand clapping once from MPK for apparently going off task and taking too long of a break). The trail starts out as a gradual climb, then levels out for a while in a nice ravine before reaching the trail fork. Heading left leads to Dog Lake, while right climbs to Desolation Lake. According to MPK either choice is about the same distance and intensity, but he lies a lot about distance and intensity, so I’m not sure that’s true. We took the right fork and make a moderately steady climb that culminates in a beautiful, flat meadow that I’m sure gets some nice wildflowers in the late summer.

We found a nice spot and made some snow-bowl chairs to relax for a snack. MPK was generous and shared the beer he brought with him, so we had quite the nice relaxation station going on.

One thing most of us forgot about was the reflection of the sun on the snow. While foreheads and scalps remained unscathed, a few of us ended up with bad sunburns on our chins and necks. It’s easy to forget the dangerous combination of a sunny day on snow can have some nasty effects!

After our break, we headed back down the mountain. We made really good time and passed a lot more people heading up the trail. It definitely pays off to get into the canyons early on the weekends to beat the crowds! We had a great beer and food fest at Porcupine Pub & Grille where I enjoyed their “world famous” chicken noodle soup.

Later, I realized we didn’t actually make it as far as the lake. I had never been, and MPK had only been once, and with all the snow covering everything it was hard to tell if we were on the lake. Turns out we were still about five minutes away from it. Oh well…at least there was beer.

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.

working out the kinks

I haven’t really done much hiking this summer or fall. For some reason the motivation just hasn’t been there. And, between all my work travel and starting school again, it will probably get worse. But, I’m doing my best to get in a hike each week, and I am now finally catching up on posting pictures and reports.

What better way to incent yourself to burn a few hundred calories with a hike than the promise of beer at the end of it. Pairing a moderate hike with an afternoon at the Snowbird Oktoberfest was the perfect approach. So, Col, MPK, his friend Grant and I all headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon to hike to Hidden Peak and celebrate with tasty beer.

I chose the Peruvian Gulch hike, as on paper it seemed like a nice, mellow trek to get me back into the swing of things. It was actually more intense than I thought it would be…a bit steep in parts, but always on well marked and well worn trail. Well, except for the part where we turned off into a meadow and ended up out of bounds in the restoration area. Shhhhh.

We started up the trail at a brisk pace, enjoying the afternoon sunshine and warm temps and taking in the start of the fall color season. As the trail got steeper, I got slower, which is usually the case. Huffing and puffing, I made sure to take a lot of photo breaks as an excuse to catch my breath. All the while we could hear MPK’s internal “OFF TASK” monologue. Someday he’ll learn it’s never fast to hike with me.

The colors were just starting to turn. The contrast against the still green trees, meadows and all the wildflowers was really stunning. As I’ll post in a later entry, the colors just got more intense over the next couple weeks.

The plan was to take the Peruvian Gulch trail all the way up to Hidden Peak, then ride the Snowbird Aerial Tram down to enjoy the Oktoberfest hoopla. Nearing the top, we decided to walk through the tunnel connecting Peruvian Gulch to Mineral Basin, as I’d never had the chance to check it out. The tunnel was open and lit and very cold inside. It’s crazy to think it’s carved through the mountain. During ski season a moving sidewalk of sorts is available to shuttle skiers between the two sides. From the Mineral Basin side, we headed up the back of the mountain to the tram station at Hidden Peak.

I’m not a fan of heights. I’m even less a fan of riding in containers hanging from cables thousands of feet above sheer drop offs and valleys. I’d ridden the tram once before, and knew I didn’t like it. But, with the promise of beer and good food at the bottom, I got on board and closed my eyes for the entire ride down.

We spent the next couple hours drinking beer, enjoying good food and laughing at the fun music. In a haze, I also hit an ATM that only dispenses $50 bills and went on a shopping spree at the Kuhl truck. So much for restraint. We headed back to the cars just as the skies opened and the rain started falling. As we were leaving, a double rainbow appeared above the canyon, celebrating MPK’s people and their entry into the Salt Lake Valley. It was moving.

Here is the photoset for this hike: Hidden Peak hike – October 2011

Hike information:

Directions – Park in Area 4 of the Snowbird Resort. Cross the service road bridge and take the dirt service road heading west toward the Aerial Tram station. The Peruvian Gulch Trail starts from the road and its start is well marked.

bite me, utah

We’re heading into late July, so I thought it would be nice to head up to the Albion Basin at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon to check out the wildflowers. No such luck. It may be mid summer on the calendar, but in Utah’s high country, it might as well still be winter.

Normally, the service road is open all the way up to the campground by this time of year. But, it’s still closed, as is the campground. We parked at the base lot and hiked up the service road to the Cecret Lake trailhead. We expected blankets of wildflowers on the hike, but there were only a handful of barely sprouted blooms peeking up. It will easily be two to three weeks before anything is blooming up there.

The trail to Cecret Lake was completely snow covered. We started to tackle it, but then decided the steep parts would be iced over still. Without even YakTrax, we figured it was best to nix that part of the hike. So, we slogged through mud and snow and did a circle of the Basin, returning to the service road.

We actually passed one dude coming down the trail with his ski equipment, and there were visible ski marks down the still snow covered faces of some of the peaks.

We’ll head back next month to see if we can catch some of the wildflower show. Cecret Lake is normally a mellow hike with some great views. Anyone looking for an easy hike should check it out. It’s obviously ADA accessible, too, since we caught this on the way down.