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 Utah Travel Center ActivitiesHiking • Dog Lake

Mill D North Fork Trail to Dog Lake

Distance: 5.2 miles (plus 0.8 mile by bicycle)

Walking time: 3 3/4 hours

Elevations: 1,680 ft. gain, 1,540 ft. loss
     • Butler Fork Trailhead (start): 7,120 ft.
     • Dog Lake: 8,740 ft.
     • Mill D Trailhead: 7,260 ft.

Trail: Popular, well maintained trail

Season: 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.

Vicinity: Big Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City

     The prettiest part of the Dog Lake loop is probably the first two miles of the hike, along Butler Fork. Butler Fork meanders northward through a narrow canyon filled with dense groves of quaking aspen, eventually emerging into a more open forest of Engelmann spruce and Douglas fir along the ridge above Mill Creek Canyon. Although Dog Lake itself lies outside the Wilderness boundary, Butler Fork is part of the Mount Olympus Wilderness Area. It is not uncommon to see moose along this part of the trail. Look for their hoof tracks along the path-similar to deer tracks, but two to three times larger.
     The Lake itself is located in a shallow, heavily forested basin just south of the ridge that separates Mill Creek Canyon from Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is aptly named, since it is very popular among hikers who like to bring their dogs with them. Although Big Cottonwood Canyon is an important water catchment area for Salt Lake City, Dog Lake has no surface outlet; hence there are no rules against dogs.

     About 0.5 mile from the Butler Fork Trailhead you will encounter a fork in the trail, with the better used left fork leading to Mill A Basin. Take the right fork for Dog Lake. The trail climbs steadily for another 1.8 miles, finally coming to another fork about 1,680 feet above the trailhead at the top of the ridge. Again, bear right along the crest of the ridge. As you near Dog Lake, about 0.5 mile further east along the ridge, you may be confused by a number of trails that branch off to the north and south. Pay attention to the map, and remember that Dog Lake is just a short way below the ridge on the south side. If you start climbing abruptly to the south you are probably headed for Renolds Peak. If you start descending abruptly to the north you are probably headed down into Mill Creek Canyon. Look for Dog Lake just a few hundred feet after the trail begins descending to the south.
     From the southeast corner of Dog Lake a well used mountain bike trail descends for 0.6 mile to another trail junction. Here you will see a sign directing you to either Desolation Lake (left) or Mill D Trailhead (right). Take the right fork to the Mill D Trailhead. You will see a lot more hikers on this side of the loop than you saw along Butler Fork. There are also some summer homes along the east side of Mill D North Fork, and you may catch glimpses of another trail below you that follows the east side of the creek. You will arrive at Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Mill D Trailhead about 2.4 miles after leaving Dog lake.

Content provided by David Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book Utah's Favorite Hiking Trails.

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