Western Traveler

Lake Blanche, Utah

Western cities “have it all” in my opinion. They combine beautiful scenery with great entertainment possibilities. One of my favorites is Salt Lake City. Not only does this major metropolitan area have outstanding architectural offerings, it has great tourist attractions such as: the EnergySolutions Arena, Temple Square, The Gateway (downtown shopping district), the Clark Planetarium, etc. It’s nearby to world-class ski slopes (Alta, Park City and Snowbird), but to me, the greatest draw is the Wasatch Mountains.

These amazing geologic formations present countless recreational opportunities to those who will seek them out. You can hike, rock climb, snowshoe, backpack, fish, mountain bike, camp and much more.

After considerable discussion with my friend Jeff, it was decided that we would tackle the Lake Blanche trail, located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, part of the 11,600 acre, Twin Peaks Wilderness Area. The trailhead is at Mill B South Fork. The hike is 2.75 miles each way, with a very noticeable grade giving you an altitude gain of 2,720 feet. Basically, you’re hiking at a 10% grade uphill for the entire distance, with good trails mixed in with some rock scrambling and boulder hopping (not actually hopping, but climbing over).

Along the way you’ll travel through an aspen forest, mixed in with conifers and numerous other plant varieties. If you’re lucky (and we were) you may spot some mountain goats on the high ledges above the trail.  Early in the hike you’ll have some beautiful stream crossings, and in our case that mixed in with vibrant Fall colors.

Lake Blanche 4

Lake Blanche 6

While climbing, you’ll encounter a number of huge boulders, called “erratics” strewn along the trail. These are made of granite from the Mineral Fork Tillite which were transported from high ridges on the eastern side of the canyon by glaciers and deposited where they are seen today.

Lake Blanche 5

The geologist in you will revel at the one-billion year old Precambrian rocks along the way. The major formation is called The Big Cottonwood. It’s comprised of rust-colored quartzite mixed in with shale. Once you get to the top, you’ll marvel at the massive quartzite slabs, a testament to the power of ice to carve and polish the hard stone.

When you reach the lake (8,900 feet above sea level), make sure to reward yourself and take time to enjoy the scenery. On the day we were there, the skies turned cloudy with snow flurries accentuating the experience. With the backdrop of Sundial Peak (10,320 feet above sea level) it’s impossible to be anything short of overwhelmed.

If you decide to do this hike, you’ll need the USGS, 7.5-Mount Aire & Dromedary Peak quads. Be advised, most folks who have taken this hike (me included) consider it strenuous. You’ll need to plan 4-5 hours for your time up and down. Make sure to take a camera with you on this one, lots to photograph.

Last modified on: September 9th 2014.
© Western-Traveler.Org • All rights reserved • 2004 - 2015