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Lake Blanche

Basics
Location:
In Big Cottonwood Canyon southeast of downtown Salt Lake City
Length:
6 mile roundtrip
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Time:
3 to 3-1/2 hours
Elevation Change:
2720 feet
Season:
June to October

Description

Lake Blanche is one of the most popular hikes in the Salt Lake City area, not only because the walk is relatively short and the trailhead easy to get to, but because of the scenic beauty and the geologic attractions within the Lake Blanche Basin. Blanche and its two sister lakes, Florence and Lillian, sit in a high alpine basin that was dug out by a glacier during the last ice age. Long straight scratch marks and deep polished grooves, etched out by the glacier, are still clearly visible on the stone surrounding the lakes. Picturesque Sundial Peak (10,320 ft.), which the Wasatch Mountain Club uses as its emblem, rises abruptly from the south shore of Lake Blanche, and Dromedary Peak (11,170 ft.) is only a mile to the southwest. Blanche, its two sister lakes, Dromedary Peak, and the Sundial are all part of Utah's 11,300-acre Twin Peaks Wilderness Area.

Books

Hiking Utah features seventy-five of the finest trails Utah’s remarkable backcountry has to offer-from day hikes to overnight adventures. This comprehensive guide will provide all the information you need to get the most out of hiking this geologic wonderland.

Details

Location:
In Big Cottonwood Canyon southeast of downtown Salt Lake City
Length:
6 mile roundtrip
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Time:
3 to 3-1/2 hours
Elevation Change:
2720
Season:
June to October
Additional Details:
From the trailhead the path begins climbing immediately, and continues to climb at a fairly steady grade of about a thousand feet per mile all the way to the lake. The trail crosses Mill B South Fork once, after 0.3 mile, and then stays on the east side of the canyon for the rest of the hike. About half way to the lake the trail leaves the stream and veers to the east in order to avoid some cliffs at the head of the canyon. Also at about this time you will leave the quaking aspen and enter into a conifer forest.

As you climb towards the lake you will see frequent evidence of winter and spring avalanches, and in at least one area a rock slide has obliterated the trail. When you reach this part of the path just proceed across the slide area and look for the trail continuing on the other side. Such gaps in the track are never very long, but they do serve to warn hikers of the potential dangers of hiking the Wasatch in the early spring.

When you are near the top you will begin to see the Sundial rising behind the pass at the head of the canyon. The trail gets steeper here, but you can take heart in the fact that you are almost at the end. Lake Blanche is just on the other side of the pass. As you approach the lake be sure to look for the long scratches in the polished red rock, scraped out by the glacier that carved Lake Blanche Basin about one million years ago.

Most hikers don''t bother to visit Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. The two smaller lakes can''t actually be seen from Lake Blanche, but they are only a short walk away and shouldn''t be missed. Walk to the old dam at the west end of Blanche and you will be able to look down on Florence and Lillian, about 120 feet lower and 200 yards away. The view of the Sundial isn''t quite as spectacular from Florence and Lillian, but if you enjoy solitude either one is a much more peaceful place to eat your lunch than Blanche. Also you are more likely to see deer and other wildlife there.

Map + Directions

Basic Directions
From Downtown Salt Lake City, head south on I-15 about 8 miles to the I-215 Belt Route. Take I-215 East about 5 miles to 6200 South (Exit 6). Bear to the right off the exit ramp onto 6200 South and head east. (It'll turn south after a bit and and merge with Wasatch Boulevard, but just stay on the main road.) Follow it about 2 miles to the light at Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. (On the southwest corner of the intersection is a 7-Eleven gas station and mini-mart.) Take a left and head up canyon. The trailhead is 4.4 miles past the canyon entrance at the Mill B South Fork Picnic Ground. (Note: Along the trip from downtown you'll see large signs to the Solitude and Brighton ski resorts. These resorts are at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, so if you follow those signs, you'll get to Big Cottonwood Canyon just fine.)

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