Five reasons to hike Utah’s Lake Blanche Trail

Sundial Peak towering over scenic Lake Blanche

Sundial Peak towering over scenic Lake Blanche – Photo by George Osmun

At over 8,800 feet, my lungs were objecting to the continued uphill trek toward Lake Blanche in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Okay, I’ll tell it like it was – I was huffing and puffing like a 3-pack-a-day-smoker. I’d been working out, and did some extensive hiking at altitude over the summer, but none of that helped. Feeling a bit humbled, I stopped frequently to “look at the view.” All of the exertion was worthwhile, because from beginning to end, the hike was spectacular.

The Lake Blanche Trail begins at the Mill B South Fork Trailhead, not far outside of Salt Lake City, and winds steeply up a canyon toward the lake. Nestled in a glacial basin, with jagged Sundial Peak towering overhead, Lake Blanche looks like a painting. Trek a short distance further to visit two more lakes, Lillian and Florence. During our visit, much of the landscape had a light blanket of snow accented by red and tan rock.

Taking in the view, all the way to Great Salt Lake

Taking in the view, all the way to Great Salt Lake (and catching my breath). Photo by George Osmun

As one of the most popular hikes in the Salt Lake City area, there’s no shortage of info available on this trail, so I’ll skip the blow-by-blow directions. Just Google, “Lake Blanche UT” and a plethora of guides will pop up. Instead, I’ll tell five reasons why you should add this hike to your list:

  • It’s a good workout – This trail climbs over 2,700 feet in roughly 3 miles. Undoubtedly good exercise, especially if you maintain a brisk pace. If you just arrived from sea level, expect to feel the effects of the high altitude and cut yourself some slack. Although it’s relatively short, the trail is steep and exposed to the sun, so be sure to carry plenty of water and hydrate often.
  • Epic views – Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak aren’t the only picturesque views. On the way up and back, take in stunning vistas of the canyon, including distant views of Great Salt Lake. During our October hike, the leaves had mostly fallen so the views were unobstructed and breathtaking. Additionally, check out Mill B South Fork as the trail crosses the river via a footbridge early on. It’s also accessible via a few side trails, which allow hikers to venture over for a look and perhaps a cool drink.
  • Great lunch spots– I travel thousands of miles just to hike to a perfect lunch spot. Okay, there is more to it than that, but frequently my hikes revolve around an obsession for dining with a view. Nice lunch spots surround Lake Blanche. We selected a spot high on top of the red boulders overlooking the lake and settled in for a lunch of organic apples, smoked Gouda and crusty sourdough bread. Our unobstructed view included Sundial Peak beautifully reflected on the calm waters of Lake Blanche. Yup, it was worthy lunch spot.
    Lunch on the rocks

    Lunch on the rocks. Photo by George Osmun

  • Interesting geology – According to the Utah Geological Survey, “Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons contain some of the most dramatic glacial scenery in the Wasatch Range.” Even the rocks are gorgeous, dappled with bright green and grey lichen and textured with striations caused by the passage of ancient glaciers. Pale green succulents with petit red flowers grow between the cracks struggling for a place in the stony landscape.
    These tiny succulents fight for their place in the rocks at 8,900 feet.

    These tiny succulents fight for their place in the rocks at 8,900 feet.

    Boulders decorated with multicolored lichen and scratches from ancient glaciers.

    Boulders decorated with multicolored lichen and scratches from ancient glaciers.

  • Nice campsite options for backpacking – We took many photos, but both agreed that sunrise would be ideal for photography. Of course, that means returning for a night by the lake (trying to find the downside….). With a quick look around, we spotted several nice campsites ideal for an overnight backpacking jaunt.

If you go:

  1. Keep in mind that this trail may have snow cover October through June. We tromped through quite a bit of snow, and some ice, during our late October hike.
  2. Pack plenty of water.
  3. Do NOT forget your camera.
  4. Although short, this hike is strenuous. Evaluate your fitness before you go and perhaps allow extra time to take it slow.
  5. Take time to hike a little further to Lake Florence and Lake Lillian about 200 yards past Lake Blanche. They are smaller and cannot be seen from Blanche but are reportedly nice peaceful lunch spots. Unfortunately, we missed this opportunity, but will catch them next visit.
  6. For more information visit:
Here's your sign.

Here’s your sign.

Poles and another view.

Enjoy day hiking? Check out this how to hike post and graphic on Trail Sherpa. It’s too cool!

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Comments 2

  1. What amazing photos and a great hike. It looks like you picked a great weather day to hike! I hope to get out that way for some hiking soon, but it’s a looooong way from Florida. 🙂

    1. Thank you Casey! It is a loooong way! I’m headed back out there in two weeks… BTW, I noticed you subscribed via email but never clicked the emailed link to verify (maybe it went to junk mail). If you want to try again I’ll delete your previous attempt, then you can subscribe again. Let me know.

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