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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cecret Lake - Albion Basin

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Cecret Lake - Albion Basin, Utah
Fact-- Cecret Lake (sometimes spelled Secret)  is not a secret.  And it is never spelled the same way.  Cecret Lake is a mecca of families with screaming children, and just about every other group you can think of.  Because the hike is short, it attracts a lot of people.  Did I mention screaming children? 
Oh, Utah and the screaming children....

Despite the fact that Cecret Lake turns into a zoo after 9am, it is still worth a visit.  If you don't like the crowds then there are still options here for you if you are okay with a longer hike and some elevation.  You can pass the lake and continue onto Sugarloaf Peak, where you will likely have the trail to yourself.  But one thing at a time, let's talk first about the hike to Cecret Lake. 
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
View of Cecret Lake 
Cecret Lake has come up a few times in casual hiking conversations with friends.  Albion Basin in the summer with its famous wildflowers was always a destination high on my list and all of the pictures I have seen made me swoon.  But of course, we have the unique Salt Lake City problem of not allowing our dogs in many of our canyons (protected watersheds), Little Cottonwood (home to Alta and Snowbird) included.  This was another hike I always wanted to do, but never wanted to leave my dog behind.  Olive back in Connecticut, Katie in Utah = trip to Albion Basin. 

Easy beautiful hike.  Through fields of wildflowers with amazing views.  Once you reach the lake, the lake itself is a little lackluster compared to the rest of the hike.  Parking is a big issue and you have to get here early to secure a spot (I was at the parking lot by 7:40).  The road leading to the trailhead is a dirt road but any vehicle can make it as long as you go slow enough.  The mobs here really turned me off, and I am glad I started the hike early.  The hike gets better after you pass the lake and you can see a great view down from above the lake.  Moose frequent the area so be aware. 

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
View of "The Castle"
The main access is via the Cecret Lake Parking/Trailhead and Albion Basin Campground. To get here, you will drive all the way up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta Ski Resort.  After reaching Alta, you will drive to the end of the lot and check in at the security booth . A guard will give you a map (free entrance too!) and will let you know how many cars have been up and if there is a  chance of parking (a woman I saw later on the trail said 190 cars had been up before 9am).  

You will follow the dirt road "summer road" past Catherines Pass and Sunnyside Parking Trailhead, another few minutes to the last parking option, Cecret Lake Parking/Trailhead.  There is a bathroom here as well as the campground (there is a fee to even use the tables as a day use area, be warned).  You can park in Sunnyside/Catherines Pass and walk to Cecret Lake parking if it is full.  As a third resort, if there is no parking at these trailheads, you can also access the lake from the Albion Base Area where you checked in with the guard before the dirt road.  To access the lake from here you will park at Albion Base Area, following "Upper Albion Meadows" on the 1.5 mile trail leading to the Cecret Lake Trailhead (making the lake an approx. 2 mile hike one way).  

Dogs are not allowed on this hike as it is a protected watershed. This is the main reason it took me so long to finally complete this hike. With Olive back in Connecticut, I could go on this hike guilt free.

Park in designated parking lots ONLY.  Do not park along road sides, there are rangers out there constantly patrolling the area. 

0.75 miles one way from the Cecret Lake Parking/Trailhead with a gain of 420'. 
You can access the lake via the Upper Albion Meadows Trail (1.5 miles one way 1,100 feet) that will connect with the Cecret Lake Interpretive Trail (.75 miles 420').  

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Trail signs at the start of the hike
Follow the Cecret Lake Interpretive Trail from the Albion Meadows Trail or directly from the Cecret Lake Parking/Trailhead area.  The trail will pass through meadows before slowly climbing up a rocky section where you will finally get a glance of the lake.  There are interpretive signs all along the trail educating hikers about wildlife, geology, weather, and plant species.  You can follow the trail around the edge of the lake, or continue on to Sugarloaf Peak from here. 

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Ski Lifts for Alta overhead
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Ski Lifts for Alta 
The trail crosses several small streams with large boulders making for easy crossing.  I loved all of the clearings, and some amazing views down the valley.  On my way out on the trail around 7:40 am, there were only a few people making their way to the lake.  I chatted with a gentleman with a big camera, and we talked about the beauty of Albion Basin, the wildflowers, and the Utah ski season.  He told me about his favorite hike in the area, to "The Castle" and like any Alta Hiking Newbie, I asked if the castle was an actual castle (no, it sa rock formation). 

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Taking in the Alta Views
I could have spent the day just taking in the pops of color from all the different wild flowers.  When I eventually reached the lake, there were just a few small groups having snacks and soaking up the sunshine.  A nice group told me about the endangered salamanders living in the lake, and we all discussed moose survival techniques. 

moose at Cecret Lake Albion Basin
A bull moose walking around the lake 
As I sat down to have some water, I had my eavesdropping ears on and heard someone recite the scariest five letter work that started with an M, well scary to the "hiking alone Katie".  I inquired about said moose and a nice man pointed out a bull moose munching by the trees adjacent to the lake.   I analyzed my options (jump in the lake? play dead? run for me life?) and I decided to calm down and go around.   I planned my route to do a nice WIDE swing around Mr. Moose.  As I climbed the ridge above the lake, I watched Mr. Moose leave his nice spot in the shade and wander over to the lake, uncomfortable close to the people.  I reminded myself this was a very popular hike and he was very used to people.  Eventually he mosied on off the trail, and I continued my way to Sugarloaf Peak, hoping I would not come across Mr. Moose on my way back down. 
Trail through wildflowers
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Wildflowers in July
The hike to Sugarloaf Peak was my favorite part.  The views of Alta and Snowbird, and my favorite mountain Timp at the ridge was unforgettable.  Tune back in FRIDAY to read all about another awesome Utah peak and relatively easy 11,000' summit, Sugarloaf Peak. 

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Wildflowers in the field with a view of the mountains
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Posing on the trail
Cecret Lake
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
View of the lake 

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
View of the lake
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
The trail heading out to Sugarloaf Peak
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Trail around the bend leading to Sugarloaf Peak

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