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I love to hike and photograph nature; however, I sit behind a computer most of the year.  Because of this, I'm overweight and out of shape. Still, I look forward to the few weekends that I can get out of the valley and enjoy the mountains.

There are thousands of trails in Utah to hike and explore in all ranges of difficulty.  Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is part of the Wasatch Mountain Range, is my favorite place to hike. There are dozens of different trails spanning all levels of difficulty. The easiest trail in this canyon is the boardwalk around Silver Lake, but there are also trails for extreme hikers and mountain climbers.

My personal favorites in Big Cottonwood Canyon include:

  • Lake Blanche - a 3 mile hike (one way) that takes you to Sundial Peak, Lake Blanche, and 2 other lakes. There are several waterfalls and some nice slick rock to rest on near the lake. Plan on 3-6 hours to make the round trip depending on how fit you are, and if you're not accustomed to hiking a lot, you'll be sore the next day. Still, it's arguably the most beautiful hike in the canyon.
  • Twin Lakes - There are two ways to hike to Twin Lakes.  Both originate from Silver Lake, which is a cozy little lake near Brighton Ski Resort.  Walk around to the back side of Silver Lake and you'll find this trail head. The first and more direct way to Twin Lakes is more popular with first timers. I think it's about 1 - 1.5 miles to the lake this way. The other, more secluded way, is to hike to Lake Solitude and then up to Twin Lakes.  This way is longer in distance, but easier overall.  One huge benefit is that the trail's ground is softer until you get to Lake Solitude.  This keeps your feet from getting as sore.  Watch out for frolfers though!  Part of the trail takes you through Solitude's Ski area, who maintains a Frisbee golf course. There is also the occasional mountain biker because part of the trail is shared with "Kruser", a bike trail.  Twin Lakes is a great destination.  The lake is pretty big and there's great fishing opportunities.  My brother caught a 5 pound trout this year.
  • Desolation Lake - a 3 mile hike (one way) that is easier to do than Lake Blanche.  There are a couple of sections with moderate to high elevation gain, but it's not crazy. The lake is worth the effort. Keep on the lookout for mountain bikers.
  • Dog Lake and Reynolds Peak - The trail to Dog Lake is about 1 1/2 miles (one way).  Once you get to the sign that takes you to either Dog Lake or Desolation Lake, the trail gets a lot steeper. Many beginners get to this point and give up.  Don't. You can make it. The lake itself isn't all that impressive and sometimes there's quite a crowd; however, there's something to be said for reaching your destination. If you get to this lake and still have energy to burn, there's a trail that takes you up to Reynolds Peak.  The trail head is fairly hidden so you have to look for it, which is on the far side of the lake (from the Cottonwood side).  Look for a log that is pointing up the hill. This is a nice relaxing trail because very few people travel on it. It is pretty steep for a while, but the peak is worth it.
  • Cardiff Mine - For history buffs, this is a fun hike because there are a lot of old mine ruins. The trail head is shared by Donut Falls so don't try this one on popular weekends because the parking lot will be full. Also, the local police actually patrols this area and will give you a ticket if you park in front of the giant "No Parking Sign". We found out about this one the hard way. Go figure. (There wasn't anywhere else to park). The trail itself is more of a dirt road; two people can walk side by side easily.
  • Donut Falls - this is an interesting hike because the falls actually goes through a rock. If you're looking to get away from the crowds, this isn't the right hike for you. Plan on dozens of families with small children doing this hike.
  • Lake Mary - This hike starts in Brighton's parking lot.  It takes you up a dirt road for a while, then eventually goes into a smaller trail.  The hike is one of the easier ones and is about a mile (one way). Once there, you can keep going and eventually reach Lake Catherine, Catherine Pass, and Sunset Peak.  I haven't been all the way to Sunset peak, but it's definitely on my to-do list.  The farthest I've gone is Catherine Pass.

I like to build up to some of the tougher hikes so that I can gauge my endurance level. I'll start with Dog Lake or Lake Mary, then work my way up to Desolation Lake and then Lake Blanche.  For me, Lake Blanche is a great accomplishment - especially if I can walk the next day.

Next summer, my goal is to hike all the way to Sunset Peak and Sundial Peak.


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