Red Pine Lake

My favorite thing about hiking Utah’s Cottonwood canyons in spring and fall is that you can experience multiple seasons in one afternoon: It’s often sunny, warm and lush at the trailhead; brisk with golden aspen toward the middle; grey and frosty – occasionally with wind, hail and snow – at the summit. Red Pine Lake is no different. It’s a roughly seven-mile trail in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, about a half-hour southeast of downtown Salt Lake City.

Red Pine Lake – Oct. 2, 2016

My second-favorite part of hiking in the area this time of year is the wildlife. Near the stream not too far from the trailhead at about 6:30 on a Sunday evening, four moose were munching on twigs and leaves a few dozen feet from the trail. I’ve never seen so many at once and I was not brave enough to stop for a picture. Also, I was ready for dinner, too.

Red Pine is a steep and steady 2,000-foot climb that tested my legs and my stamina. But it’s worth it. Even though the lake is somewhat dry and more barren now than in springtime, it still is serene.

One fellow 33-year-old hiker wasn’t as lucky that afternoon, according to news reports. When he and friends scrambled above the lake, he accidentally dislodged a boulder he was attempting to climb. The giant rock pinned his legs. His friends called for help and an emergency crew rushed him to the hospital, where he was recovering earlier this week. Even though they are close to the city, the Cottonwoods can be just as wild and unforgiving as more remote wilderness.

The details:

Trail: 6.9 miles total, out and back.

Getting there: From downtown Salt Lake City, take I-80 East and 215 South to Little Cottonwood Canyon. The trailhead is on the right side of the road, roughly four miles up the canyon. If you hit Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, you’ve gone too far.

Extras: I’d recommend bringing lots of water and snacks for this one – and stay on the cleared trail.

More details on alltrails: 

Trekking down from Red Pine Lake