Big Cottonwood Canyon Trails are Colorful and Ideal

Rene Cizio

Hiking in the Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City pays off with wildflower fields and lake views. 

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I ventured into the Big Cottonwood Canyon on the search for trails and there were many to be had. Cars lined the roadway with hikers on similar missions.

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Rene Cizio

Because the drive up the mountains is so colorful and lively, I went all the way to the top before stopping. There, I found a small flea market, a large parking lot at the Brighton ski resort and several trail options. 

I settled on the Lake Mary Trail. It’s is a 2.6 heavily trafficked out and back trail with an 850-foot elevation gain. 

I’d rather go 10 miles on a flat terrain versus two miles on a steep incline, but the best views always seem to be up high. And this one doesn’t disappoint, so climbing we will go.

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Rene Cizio

Because it was a holiday, there were many other hikers on the trail and I seldom went more than 100 feet without seeing another person. 

The trail goes through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and passes several colorful wildflowers patches. Along the way, I saw various varieties of daisies, Columbine flowers, Lupine, and others I couldn’t identify. There were yellows, whites, pinks, purples and orange flowers peppering the trail the entire way. 

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Rene Cizio

The flowers and pine-filled woods were a good excuse to stop every few hundred feet and take a break from the steep incline. With an elevation gain of 850 feet over just two miles, it’s not difficult, but it does get the heart pumping. 

You’ll see a sign pointing you ahead or to the left to the Dog Lake trailhead about halfway up. I took the Dog Lake trail the extra half mile on the way down, but in my estimation, it was a buggy pond not worth the steps. 

On the way to Lake Mary, however, the sights got more interesting. 

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Lake MaryRene Cizio

You cross over a wooden footbridge that covers a small stream, which falls over the right side of the trail in a small waterfall. The view there, too, is spectacular with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in the distance. 

The trail isn’t well marked, and near the top, I depended on other hikers to find the way. There is one area where the bushes overgrown the area along a small waterfall that you must cross. It’s not clear right off that this is the trail you should follow. Trail navigation at this point would be helpful.

Lucky for me, there were enough hikers that, after a moment, I saw others going that way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have suspected it to be the path. However, there aren’t any other alternatives, so I likely would have ventured that way a little bit.

Just past the bushes, you come to the small waterfall that you also must cross. It’s a bit slippery, so I advise some caution.

You’ll go through a rocky incline, and finally, to the right, you’ll see the picturesque little lake, where you can take your well-deserved break before heading back down. 

Except for the near consistent steep trail, it’s otherwise relatively easy and very beautiful.

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Digital nomad, solo road tripping through the USA in my van. I write about travel, adventure, culture, and self-improvement. Pictures on Instagram @renecizio

Chicago, IL
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