6.4 miles (plus 2.5 miles by bicycle)
time: 4 1/4 hours
1,370 ft. gain, 2,030 ft. loss
Catherine Pass Trailhead
(start): 9,400 ft.
Catherine Pass: 10,220
Lake Mary: 9,520
Twin Peaks Pass Trailhead:
Easy to follow, but numerous jeep roads and ski runs in
the area create some confusion.
Summer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail
are usually covered with snow until late June. For current
conditions call the Salt Lake Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache
National Forest, at (801) 943-1794.
Alta ski area, above Salt Lake City in Little Cottonwood
hike is located between the ends of Big and Little Cottonwood
Canyons, in the midst of the Brighton and Alta ski areas.
It is a very pretty area, with many alpine lakes and green
meadows, but unfortunately the presence of so much commercial
activity has inevitably degraded the areas hiking
potential. Especially around Brighton, at the end of Big
Cottonwood Canyon, the mountains have been extensively
bulldozed to fill the ever growing need for more ski runs
and their associated service roads.
Grizzly Gulch, the return
leg of this hike, is an open museum of the mining activity
in Utah at the turn of this century. There are dozens
of abandoned mines in the steep canyon, along with old
boilers and pipes, and other relics of days gone by. Like
most history lessons, this one also contains a message
for the present. Looking at the heaps of mine tailings
that now fill Grizzly Gulch, one cant help but wonder
what the once pristine canyon was like before mans
arrival, and how many other beautiful areas are being
destroyed, even now, by unregulated mining activity.
Catherine Pass Trailhead the trail immediately starts
up a series of switchbacks. It continues to climb for
about 820 feet, finally reaching the summit of Catherine
Pass after a distance of 1.0 mile. Catherine Pass, with
Catherine Lake immediately below it, is the most impressive
viewpoint on this hike. The trail forks here, with the
main trail dropping down to Catherine Lake on the left.
If you enjoy panoramic views, however, you might want
to turn right and climb to the top of Sunset Peak before
continuing. Sunset Peak is the highest point on the ridge
above Catherine Lake. The trail to the summit is 0.6 mile
long (1.2 miles round trip), and involves an additional
climb of 430 feet.
After passing Catherine
Lake the next point of interest is Lake Martha, a small
but very pretty lake at the base of the cliffs below Mount
Tuscarora. Finally, only a few minutes beyond Lake Martha
is Lake Mary. Lake Mary, actually a reservoir, is quite
large (about 1,500 by 800 feet) and deep. It is also very
scenic when full. But since it is used as part of Salt
Lake City's water supply its size varies considerably,
and when the water level is low its shores have an ugly
barren look. After the trail passes Lake Mary Dam it starts
descending towards Brighton. Watch carefully here for
another trail that leads off to the left, just below the
dam, and climbs back up to the north side of the lake.
This trail, called the Granite Lakes Trail, goes to Twin
You should follow the Granite
Lakes Trail for 1.1 miles until it arrives at Twin Lakes
Reservoir, crossing under the Millicent Ski Lift along
the way. When you reach Twin Lakes Dam you must once again
walk below and around the dam to the north side of the
lake, where you will find the trail that goes to Twin
Lakes Pass. For a short distance below the dam you will
be on the a jeep road that was built from Brighton to
service the dam.
Once you are on the north
side of the Twin Lakes Reservoir start following a trail
that climbs in a westerly direction, roughly parallel
with the lake shore. Follow this trail until it intersects
a ski run, then continue climbing on the ski run for another
0.2 mile or so, until you see the trail departing again
on the left. When this trail leaves the ski run it climbs
steeply for a few hundred feet to the top of the ridge,
from where you can see the Twin Lakes Reservoir again
far below. From there the trail traverses across the top
of the Wolverine Cirque to Twin Lakes Pass, about 0.4
To get from Twin Lakes Pass
to Alta, where your shuttle car is parked, you must descend
on the trail through Grizzly Gulch. This part of the trail
is actually an old wagon road that was originally built
by miners working the canyon at the turn of the century.
It is very rocky and, in places, very steep. Judging from
the remnants of all the mine shafts that scar the canyon
bottom, there must have been a thriving community here.
Grizzly Gulch may soon become the sight of still more
construction activity; it is now the location of another
proposed ski lift from Alta to the top of the Wolverine
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.