6.6 miles (plus 1.6 miles by bicycle)
time: 5 hours
2,500 ft. gain, 2,220 ft. loss
Mill D Trailhead
(start): 7,260 ft.
Desolation Lake Overlook:
Beartrap Fork Trailhead:
Most of the trail is well maintained and easy to follow,
but some parts of the Beartrap Fork section can be confusing.
Summer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail
are usually covered with snow until early June. For current
conditions call the Salt Lake Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache
National Forest, at (801) 943-1794.
Big Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City
Lake is a popular destination for mountain bikers, so
you are bound to see a few of them on this hike. But dont
expect all of them to be riding-there is a 2,000-foot
elevation gain from the trailhead to the lake, and riding
a bike uphill is much harder than walking.
The lake itself is located
at the bottom of what, at first glance, looks like an
old volcanic crater. The 550-foot-deep crater is actually
a large bowl that was scooped out at the head of Mill
D North Fork Canyon by a glacier during the last ice age.
The view from the crater rim can be quite spectacular,
especially in early September when the aspen trees on
the northwest side of the lake are displaying their fall
colors. On weekends one can often see fifteen or twenty
mountain bikers parked on the trail above the lake, pausing
to enjoy the view before their long downhill ride back
to Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Mill D Trailhead the trail winds up through the aspens
along the north side of Mill D North Fork for 1.8 miles
to the intersection with Desolation Trail. If you want
to see Dog Lake before continuing on, bear left here for
0.6 mile. Otherwise, turn right for Desolation Lake. Up
to this point the hike has been an almost unbroken uphill
climb. There is still more uphill walking to come, but
for the last 1.9 miles before Desolation Lake there is
also a fair amount of level ground. It is a beautiful
walk, through occasional meadows with fine views of the
surrounding peaks. Finally, with almost no warning, the
trail runs into the lake.
To reach the rim above Desolation
Lake, bikers normally take the better used trail that
goes up the northern side of the crater. But if you want
to connect with Beartrap Fork, as I suggest, you should
bear right and go up the lesser used path that climbs
the craters southern flank. Once you have negotiated
the 550-foot climb to the top, follow the south rim trail
around in an easterly direction until it meets the trail
coming from the north. At the point where the trails meet,
above the southeastern side of the lake, you will see
Beartrap Fork Canyon directly below you to the south.
This is the route that will take you back to the highway
in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Unfortunately, the first
few hundred feet of the Beartrap Fork Trail are so vague
you probably wont believe you are on a trail at
all. But dont worry, the track soon becomes evident.
As you descend from the top of the ridge into Beartrap
Fork you will first see an occasional cairn. Then you
will see faint trample marks in the grass, and by the
time you reach the trees, 100 yards from the rim, you
will be on a proper hiking trail. Initially the trail
tends to follow the right side of the creek bed, which
is on the left side of the canyon.
There are few switchbacks
on the Beartrap Fork Trail, and for the first mile the
path is quite steep. But soon the canyon floor levels
out in a dense grove of quaking aspen, where you will
begin to appreciate the beauty of the little used route.
Finally, about 0.5 mile from the highway, the trail turns
into a jeep road. Some confusion may occur as you near
the end, because the jeep road is intersected by other
primitive roads. Just remember to always take the road
that heads downhill, and you should intersect the highway
exactly at the point where you parked your shuttle.
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.