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BY BRIAN BRINKERHOFF
Early July often means fireworks throughout the country, but Utah’s spectacular high elevation fireworks should just be beginning as you attend the 2011 OWAA Annual Conference at Snowbird Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Colors blanket the mountainsides from late June through August and are something to savor as you hike the lush green meadows. Vista views overlooking the landscape are unforgettable and serene hidden lakes will reward you if you schedule time along these alpine trails.
Little Cottonwood Canyon offers a variety of great hiking opportunities for conference visitors. Attending the OWAA Conference without sampling a few of these nearby wonders is like visiting a fine restaurant without tasting anything on the menu. Set aside at least a half day to breathe deep the cool morning air and fill your memories with all the brilliant colors your eyes can drink in.
￼Albion Basin hikes are in the neighborhood of 9,000-11,000 feet and catch many visitors by surprise. It is often more rewarding to seek shorter and easier hikes unless you are sure you can handle the bigger challenges. Two of my favorite easy routes in the area include the Albion Basin Trail and Cecret Lake.
ALBION BASIN WILDFLOWERS
Early miners originally came searching for silver and gold, but today’s most striking colors fill the hillsides as summer visitors seek the vivid array of colors filling the hillsides. Above average snow- pack in 2011 should result in vibrant early July viewing, unless cool weather delays snowmelt significantly.
Albion Meadows Trail is a gentle climb through some of the most vibrant colors and fragrances of the area. The trail begins at the large lot near the Albion Day Lodge and Ski Shop. Follow the trail southeast through the pines and open meadows until you have had your fill of colors. Many families bring a picnic lunch to enjoy some- where along the route. It is also a popular romantic stroll for couples.
CECRET LAKE TO HIDDEN PEAK
“Cecret Lake,” as originally spelled by resident miners, is also spelled “Secret Lake” on some maps and is approximately 450 feet higher than the trailhead in Albion Basin. The Sunnyside Chairlift Trailhead parking area is approximately 2 miles past the town of Alta on a gravel road, suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles.
Cecret Lake is a sparlking hidden treasure, tucked away until the end of your easy journey. Interpretive signs placed along the route help with wildflower identification. Bring insect repellant to combat mosquitoes that linger around the shoreline — especially during the morning and evening hours. Fish are not currently found in this water, although stocking is being considered. Look for salamanders in the area.
For a more aggressive adventure, experts may want to consider Cecret Lake as the first leg to the summit of Hidden Peak, by head- ing to Sugarloaf Pass, between Mount Baldy and Sugarloaf Peaks, and following the east ridge route to Baldy. The climb along this trail is approximately 1,600 vertical feet. The Mt. Baldy Trail then traverses to Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet. You can then catch a free tram ride down to Snowbird Resort (during operating hours).
Anglers willing to hike a few miles and climb several hundred feet can find a number of high elevation waters with fine fishing for small trout. You will want to be on the waters very early for best success. Flies and lures can be effective, although fish can be extremely wary and challenge your catching abilities.
Lakes just east of Albion Basin through Catherine Pass include Lake Mary (lake trout and brook trout), Lake Catherine (brook) and Twin Lakes (Bonneville cutthroat). Fishing pressure is relatively limited with general limits and regulations.
In Big Cottonwood Canyon, Lakes Blanche, Florence and Lillian all have brook trout. Silver Lake at the top of the Big Cottonwood Canyon highway offers some easy brook and rainbow trout fishing. A level boardwalk stroll is popular here.
Below Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon at the White Pine Trailhead, a hike to Red Pine Lake and White Pine Lake can also be worth a visit for those wanting to wet a line. Each hike will require some effort and most anglers plan an overnight camp to ensure prime fishing opportunities. Anglers can also be found in Little Cottonwood Creek throughout the canyon bottom after spring runoff subsides.
Mule deer frequent the entire area, but common wildlife also includes moose in the wetlands and mountain goats in the rocky crags. Other wildlife viewing opportunities include a myriad of insects, squirrels, salamanders, porcupines, songbirds, humming- birds and raptors.
TIPS AND REMINDERS
Start early. You will want to be on the trail before sunrise or in the early evening to beat the heat. Plan enough time to adjust to the altitude as you hike. Return before dark.
Stay hydrated. Summer months can be hot and dry. Many folks underestimate the amount of water they need. Bring extra.
Be Prepared. Be ready for brilliant sunshine and adverse weather conditions. Sunblock is a must to prevent a burn at this elevation. Pay attention to rapidly changing weather in the high country. Let others know where you are going and when you plan on returning. Consider technology that will allow you to connect with others in case of emergencies, such as the Spot Satellite Messenger.
Maps: USGS Brighton.
Jurisdiction: Wasatch National Forest.♦
— Brian Brinkerhoff is host of “Backcountry Utah,” Utah’s outdoor radio magazine on the Backcountry Radio Network. He co-authored “Best Easy Day Hikes Salt Lake City,” second edition. He is also host of Utah Outdoor Adventure Expo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.