One of the great advantages of being based in Salt Lake City is that we are much closer to extensive mountain hiking; the city itself lies at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. In Marfa we had the nearby Davis Mountains but much of it wasn’t open to the public and beyond that it was at least 2 hours to the next mountain range. So it feels like a treat to be so close to beautiful mountain trails.
Last week, before I started my new job, we decided to get out and do a hike in the Wasatch. Zach chose the Lake Blanche Trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I didn’t know anything about the trail. Zach told me we were hiking to a mountain lake – sounds amazing, right? Little did we know how grueling of a trek it would be.
The trail is 2.8 miles one way and gains 2,720 feet in elevation – wow. There is a paved path from the parking lot to the trail head where the trail splits off east into the canyon alongside a mountain stream – Mill B South Fork – which flows down the mountain into Big Cottonwood Creek. This portion of the hike, while steep at times, wasn’t bad. In fact, it gave me a false sense of accomplishment because it felt like we were making great gains. When we came to a clearing and could hear and see a giant waterfall in the distance, I thought we must have been close. How wrong I was.
In reality we were probably only halfway up. The trail moved away from the fork and began to switchback up the mountain at a much steeper incline. In fact, it felt like all we were doing was going up, up, up, up, up. It was physically exhausting- especially since I had forgotten my trekking poles – and mentally taxing. I kept hoping around every turn the lake would be visible but it never was. What made it even worse was that everyone coming the opposite direction looked so refreshed and relaxed!
Thankfully we finally made it! Before we could actually see the lake I knew we were there. Behind us, the views of the canyon were extraordinary. We could even glimpse the Great Salt Lake and the city. Just beyond the granite we reached Lake Blanche. Wow. What a picturesque sight. The lake rests against the backdrop of Sundial Peak creating an unbelievably gorgeous setting. We snapped a couple photos before sitting in the shade of some aspens to eat our lunch. Near the end of the trail, people passing by told us about a moose eating on the far side of the lake. We could see him fairly well from the north side of the lake as he munched on the surrounding greenery.
After our lunch, we walked around to the south side of the lake to a waterfall and then circled back around to try and find the other two lakes Zach had read about. Could we be so lucky as to see THREE mountain lakes?! We thought they might be just on the other side of an old 1930s dam. We were in luck! Both Lake Lillian and Lake Florence were just out of eyesight on the west side of Lake Blanche. It appeared that most people either didn’t know or didn’t care to venture over to the other two lakes. We had them both almost exclusively to ourselves.
Though the trail up is grueling, the payoff is exceptional. As we descended I knew why everyone looked so relaxed and refreshed – it’s because you truly feel that way! I was thankful we started the hike in the morning though because the sun was high and hot as we trekked down the mountain. This was definitely the first of many beautiful hikes in the Wasatch.