Lake Blanche |

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Hiking Lake Blanche - Big Cottonwood Canyon Hiking Lake Blanche
Big Cottonwood Canyon

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Moderate Hike
MAPS: MOUNT AIRE, UT; DROMEDARY PEAK, UT

Sat

78 | 52

Sun

77 | 55

Mon

71 | 50

Tue

75 | 49

Wed

78 | 53

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SEASON: Summer, Fall
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: Filterable much of the hike.

Sat

78 | 52

Sun

77 | 55

Mon

71 | 50

Tue

75 | 49

Wed

78 | 53

View Full Weather Details

One of the more popular hikes in Big Cottonwood Canyon, this is, in my mind, very deservedly popular. The hike is about 3 miles one way to Lake Blanche, but a thigh busting 2700' of gain along the way. The reward? Just before you reach Lake Blanche, the trail climbs above tree line to an idyllic alpine setting with towering peaks, glacier-carved rock outcroppings, and stunning views in all directions. Given the gain and distance, this ranks as a moderate hike. Bring a lunch, as I think a big part of the charm is spending some time taking in the views and visiting the other nearby lakes.

Because of the elevation, this hike is often snowed in until late spring or early summer and can have snow by mid-fall. High summer is the time to visit for wildflowers, while early to mid fall can bring a stunning foliage display that any respectable leaf peeper would enjoy.

Historical Note: How did Lake Blanche, Lake Florence and Lake Lillian get their names? It is said they are the names of prostitutes from the mining towns back in the early mining history of the area. Maybe true, maybe not, but it makes a great story!

Getting There

Note: The trailhead parking area is fairly small and fills up early on busy summer weekends and even weekdays. Carpooling highly recommended, and be prepared to park along the main Big Cottonwood Road and walk a short distance if you get a late start.

Big Cottonwood Canyon is on the east side of the Salt Lake City Valley. Get there by taking I-215 to the east, taking exit 6 off the interstate and heading east.

Follow 6200 South which becomes Wasatch Blvd for 1.8 miles to the stop light and signs for Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Turn left at the light and reset your odometer.

Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon. At 4.7 miles, just at the start of the S-Curve, the trailhead is on the right side of the road. If the trailhead is full, another small parking area is just up the road on the right as well.


Route

From the trailhead, follow the wide and paved trail along the stream. In a few minutes, the Lake Blanche trail leaves on the right and is well signed. From the luxurious paved trail, the Lake Blanche trail becomes a steep, rugged, and rock strewn affair! Charge up the hill!

The trail meanders along the creek for some time, then begins a series of steep switchbacks as it makes the final climb up the headwall to the lakes. The main peak closest in view is Sundial Peak. Once at the lake, O'Sullivan Peak looms to the southwest

The lakes have been improved with dams for use by the miners. From Lake Blanche, follow the well-used trail west past Lake Florence and to Lake Lillian.

Return the same way.

Mineral Fork Pass
It is possible to reach Mineral Fork from Lake Blanche on an old forest service trail. Making a loop down Mineral Fork is a long but rewarding day. See the Mineral Fork description for information on descending Mineral Fork. NOTE: GETTING DOWN INTO MINERAL FORK BASIN FROM THE PASS MAY BE COVERED WITH STEEP SNOW INTO MID-SUMMER. IF HIKING THE LOOP, LATE SUMMER OR FALL IS RECOMMENDED.

To reach Mineral Fork pass from Lake Blanche, follow social trails to the east side of the lake. There are many trails here, find one that ascends the vegetation-covered slope between two rock-covered areas. This trail, as of 2019, was indistinct in spots, but easy to find with a little hunting around.

This old trail climbs steeply above the quartzite layer before the angle eases a bit and it traverses east then southeast along the slope, gradually angling up toward the ridgeline. The views in the upper basin of the rugged ridgeline and cirque are incredible, with snowfields and waterfalls in the summer.

The trail rounds a corner with a small pond and old mine ruins below. Stay on the trail, as it goes around the corner, then makes a final 200-foot ascent to Mineral Fork Pass. The last section is a bit steep and loose, but not technical.


Maps

Route - Lake Mary / 6.27 miles / Elevation Range 6,211 - 8,917 ft.
Route - Mineral Fork Pass / 9.04 miles / Elevation Range 6,211 - 10,443 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

12T 438841mE 4498292mN

N40° 37' 60" W111° 43' 24"

Jct - Right

12T 439141mE 4498226mN

N40° 37' 57" W111° 43' 11"

Bench and Stream Crossing

12T 439293mE 4498143mN

N40° 37' 55" W111° 43' 04"

Twin Peak Wilderness

12T 439348mE 4498130mN

N40° 37' 54" W111° 43' 02"

Dam and Lake Blanche

12T 441503mE 4495323mN

N40° 36' 24" W111° 41' 29"

Mineral Fork Pass

12T 442961mE 4494548mN

N40° 35' 59" W111° 40' 27"

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