View from Sugarloaf

Hiking Alta: A ridgeline picnic above Cecret Lake

View from Sugarloaf

Our lunchtime view

I didn’t realize that ski resorts offer a variety of outdoor recreation during the summer months. As the temperatures soared well over 100 degrees in the Salt Lake Valley, I had already started seeking out higher and higher trails to escape the heat. My hike to White Pine Lake is a good example.

When a new friend invited me to hike at Alta Ski Area, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d heard there was a pretty lake up there, but I’ll confess, I expected a touristy experience. When we arrived and parked in the huge resort parking lot, I still had reservations. We headed off down a wide trail and began winding our way up the mountain from an elevation of roughly 8,600 feet. The views soon became breathtaking with young grass and wildflowers. The area above Alta beginning around 9,500 feet is called the Albion Basin, known for its wildflowers, geology and wildlife. It was also breathtaking because at that elevation, hiking uphill, I couldn’t catch my breath. I became the world’s worst conversationalist and suspected I may not be invited on any future hikes…

Soon we were above Cecret Lake, sometimes spelled Secret Lake, on our way to the ridge. The hike at this point was directly up a ski slope where some snow remained. Winding back and forth across the slope we arrived at the top of the Sugarloaf Lift located at 10,500 feet on a ridge between Sugarloaf Peak and Mount Baldy. The views were stunning in every direction. A cool breeze blew up the slopes made me want to stay up there until the valley temperatures fell below 100 degrees.

avalanche control area sign

I couldn’t help but be amused by the avalanche control area sign as I looked out over the grassy slopes.

We picked a spot near the lift to lay out our decadent lunch of cherries, peaches, truffle goat cheese, guacamole, French bread, and dark chocolate. Where are the photos? I was too busy eating and I hadn’t given the obligatory “you’re eating with a blogger” warning yet.

Having stuffed ourselves full of yummy goodness, it was time to continue our hike back down the slope toward Cecret Lake sitting at 9,220 feet. Descending from above the lake, I was more intrigued by the geology along the trail route than anything else. Large boulders and red rock surround the lake. More curious were the veins of rock full of inclusions which caused me to stop and stare at the odd compilation of different bits bound together in a wide stripe running vertically down the slope.

Cecret Lake from above

Cecret Lake from above.

Wildflowers near Cecret Lake

My favorite photo!

Growing out of the various rock formations were delicate wildflowers. The contrast between the red rock and flowers was art in nature. I was in full outdoor-nerd mode. At the lake, we hung out counting salamanders and chatting about life. Isn’t that what picturesque alpine lakes are for? I think so.

Panorama of Cecret Lake

A great place to hang out. Tip: Most hikers stop on the other side, hike around for some quiet.

Wrapping up our hike, I realized all of my preconceptions about hiking at a ski resort were wrong. It was perfect and beautiful. Perhaps not as private as I would like, with the exception of the ridge which few people are willing to make the steep hike to visit.

Today I visited Snowbird Ski Resort, which is located next to Alta, and spotted a wide assortment of trails and summer activities I’d like to check out. Undoubtedly, I’ll head that way soon for the pretty views, wildflowers and cooler temps.

If you go:


Prepare: Pack and dress as you would for any other hike. Just because it says “resort” in the name, doesn’t mean there aren’t remote areas where you could get in trouble.

Getting there: Here is a link to their directions page and map – DIRECTIONS

Wildflowers: Late July and early August provide are the best times to see wildflowers, but there were a lot during my early July hike. Precipitation determines the best time.

Picnic: Carry the weight, the Cecret Lake or one of the ridges are ideal for dining al fresco.


Have you hiked at a ski resort in summer? What about other activities?

Comments 15

  1. Hi Erika!

    Loved reading your post and looking at the pics. I’ve never been to Utah. I live in Charleston, SC. I’m planning a solo trip to do some hiking/photography. How far is this excursion from Salt Lake City? I’ll probably only have a week at best when I travel…probably later in the fall. Any tips on when to go, other trails, etc? Any help would be appreciated! Happy Hikes! Brian

      1. Erika-

        Many thanks for the link and quick response. It sounds like some hikes outside of Salt Lake (30-45 minutes) would be best when I visit because of the light pollution in the city. I enjoy taking night-sky photography. (even though I’m a complete novice!) What you provided will be a great start.

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