BRIGHTON — It’s late May, and before too long, the snow will be gone, opening up the Big Cottonwood Canyon and Brighton Ski area to some fantastic hiking.
If you’re looking for a first good high-altitude hike to let your little test their legs, or want to take your child in a stroller, Silver Lake is a sure thing.
Ringed by a boardwalk, Silver Lake has almost no elevation change at all. The hiking is easy for all ages, and perfect for people pushing strollers, or people in wheelchairs.
Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s boring. The drive itself is a thing of beauty. Brighton, where Silver Lake sits, is at the end of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and as you gain elevation, look for stunning scenery of the ragged Wasatch. Odds are pretty good you’ll get some good wildlife sightings too (moose are a common theme up here, so drive carefully).
The lake itself is gorgeous, ringed by aspen and tall pines. You get good views in any direction, and it will be pretty hard to get a bad picture up there.
The trail sets off from the Solitude Nordic Center / Information Center. During on-ski seasons, it’s staffed by US Forest workers. Inside is a pretty interesting museum featuring some of the wildlife and history of the area. Take a few minutes to look around (it’s really just one big room, so you won’t waste a whole lot of daylight by checking it out) and grab some maps and brochures of the area. The visitor center also has restrooms (real restrooms, with flushing toilets) and water fountains, so it’s a good spot to make sure your kids have one last chance to hit the potty before taking to the trail.
After that, head right out the center and take the boardwalk around the lake. There are plenty of spots to stop and take a rest – again, making it a great hike for little ones.
You really don’t need to worry about navigation on this hike. It is almost impossible to get lost on the Silver Lake Trail. Instead, just relax and enjoy the walk.
Silver Lake is fishable, and if you’ve got a state fishing license, go to town. Or if your kids would rather play in the woods and on rocks, you’ve got plenty of opportunities for that, too. There’s a large picnic rock about midway that our girls love to climb, and is a natural spot for lunch. Just beware of the chipmunks looking to steal your food.
We were there last fall – before things closed up for the season. The aspen were changing brilliant colors and the views were spectacular. But there’s really no bad time to go — although spring during runoff will be rather muddy. The altitude is such you don’t really need to worry about heat. Do take sunscreen though.
One thing – this is up in the Salt Lake watershed, so dogs aren’t allowed.
Getting there: From Wasatch Boulevard and Fort Union, head east up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. It’s about 15 miles of twists and turns until the paved parking lot at the Silver Lake Information Center. Bicyclists, moose, and stopped cars are all common, so pay some attention. Hitting a moose would ruin your day and possibly upset the moose.
When the road is open (warm months), we take 152 back east over Guardsman Pass. This gives you more scenic views as you drop down into Park City, not a bad spot to stop in the off season for some ice cream or dinner.
(If you are up for more rigorous hiking trails, spurs will take you to Lake Solitude or Twin Lakes – more on those in future posts).