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Friday, October 23, 2015

Red Pine Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon

I have to admit I was surprised how beautiful this trail was.  Yes yes, I am in Utah, every trail is so different, and so dang beautiful than what I am used to.  I get it.  But this trail was just really fun, a great workout, and an escape from the city limits.  What I loved most about this hike, that it wasn't necessarily a destination hike.  It wasn't hiking this ugly trail to a pretty lake to return to said ugly trail.  (That's kind of how I feel about the popular Lake Blanche hike... gorgeous lake, kind of sucky trail). 

The entire trail to Red Pine Lake was absolutely beautiful from the second we left the parking lot, to the moment we reached the lake.  The views looking down the canyon with the fall colors and the winding road below were so beautiful.  Maybe my favorite part of the hike.  And then you pass streams, and bridges, rocky trails to beautiful Alpine Lakes.  And again, I proved that hiking past the lake, is always the best decision.  While the guys had a blast climbing over larger than life boulders, I prefer a steady even dirt trail, without the fear of splitting my face open.  

The first mile of the trail is relatively flat, with a small and steady climb on a wide dirt trail.  Once you reach the split in the trail, where Red Pine Lake and White Pine Lake separate, you start to climb and boy will you feel the burn.  We climbed about 2,569 feet over the course of the 4.32 miles to the Upper Lake.  In retrospect that's not that bad, but some of the steep sections left me huffing and puffing, I am not too proud to admit.  

The bulk of the climb felt like it was between miles 2-3.5, with some steep sections towards the end.  As I mentioned, the trail is a nice wide dirt trail for a while, before changing to a rocky trail, and eventually large boulders past the lower lake.  Be careful on the rocky sections aproaching the lake, and be VERY careful when picking your way across the large boulders to reach the upper lake.  Warning:  There is no designated trail to the upper lake.  Take the hiker made trail that wraps around the lake to the left.  

You may see some cairns along the way but you really just have to pick your way across that boulder field and keep shooting for left to reach that upper left.  While the upper lake was about the same size as the lower lake, it wasn't terribly exciting.  BUT!  The view from the upper lake, looking down at the lower lake with the peaks in the background, surrounded by the alpine is worth all the boulders you have to climb over. Million dollar view friends.  

Again, another gorgeous Sunday high altitude alpine lake. with great company.  We hiked this trail with our two friends Amanda and Braden we met earlier in the summer during a hike hosted by our Dog Hiking Group and friend Alicia over at Girl On A Trail.  It's not always easy to find a group of people who are willing to hike 9 miles on their Sunday, so I am so thankful to have met these two and other great members in the group. 

An empty trail, with only a few hikers, maybe due to the chance of showers that we encountered at the last mile of our hike.  Put this one on your list! 

Trailhead:  White Pine Trailhead Little Cottonwood Canyon. Drive 4.6 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon and park at the White Pine Trailhead parking lot.  The trail head is just before Snowbird and there are restrooms at the trail head.  This is also the trail for White Pine Lake.  The trails will separate after a mile or so.   Distance:  7.3 out and back to the lower lake.  8.6 out and back to the upper lake.   Kids:  Maybe to the lower lake.  However, it is a long trail with steep sections and large boulders past the lower lake.    Dogs: No :( This is a protected watershed dogs are not allowed anywhere in Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

White Pine Lake Trail 

Split to Red Pine Lake (trail on the right) White Pine Lake  (Trail on the left) 

Trail to Red Pine Lake 
Trail to Red Pine Lake 
Water on the Red Pine Lake Trail 
Fall on the Red Pine Lake Trail 

 Red Pine Lake Trail 

Rocky section of the  Red Pine Lake Trail 
Climbing a steep section of the trail

Lower Red Pine Lake 
Lower  Red Pine Lake
Taking the trail to the left of the lake up to the Upper Lake. 

Red Pine Lake
View looking down of Lower Red Pine Lake

Upper Red Pine Lake

Boulders coming down from Upper Red Pine Lake

Boulders coming down from Upper Red Pine Lake

Boulders coming down from Upper Red Pine Lake-  See the tiny humans!?
Sunday Red Pine Lake group!

Red Pine Lake 

Red Pine Lake 

Heading back down the Red Pine Lake Trail 

Catching some rain on the last mile of the trail. 


  1. Thanks katie! I love the pictures, this is one of my favorite hikes. I first hiked it as a hs senior and got to the lake to watch the sunrise as my friends and I sat on the dam. The most beautiful sight in the world! Those boulders are a beast, especially if you continue up to phiferhorn. Thanks again for sharing:). Jason

    1. I bet that is a gorgeous sunrise!

      How was the hike to phiferhorn, I half considered it but I heard it was a hard long hike :)

    2. It is hard because of the continuous bolder hopping almost the hole way up. Once you reach the ridge above upper red pine it does get easier for a bit, but then turns steep again towards the end. It is a great hike though, I highly recommend it:).

    3. Will add it to the list. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I found this trail earlier this summer and it looks like you saw a completely different trail! It's good to see there is a little color left on the trees. If you loved it now, you would love the wildflowers and greenery during the summer months even more :)

    1. I really missed all the wildflower hikes this summer! I will have to try it again next summer. Thanks for reading and thanks for the tip!


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