Intermountain Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Because of its proximity to a major metropolitan area and easy access, Silver Lake is an ideal place for families to spend an afternoon hiking, fishing, and enjoying the wonderful diversity of plant communities and wildflowers. Photo by Larry Stritch.
Silver Lake Loop Trail, Big Cottonwood Canyon
Forest: Wasatch-Cache National Forest
District: Salt Lake City Ranger District
Description: Silver Lake is located at the head of Big Cottonwood Canyon at 8,760 ft. This popular, family-friendly destination is a beautiful place to hike during the hot summer months of July and August when the mountain wildflowers burst into bloom. The trail around the lake and its associated wetlands is about a mile long, most of it along a wheelchair accessible boardwalk. There are picnic tables, interpretive signs, and fishing access points along the route. For the adventurous hiker, several other trail junctions intersect with the Silver Lake Loop trail including the Twin Lakes Trail, Lake Solitude Trail, and the Brighton Lakes Trail. At the Silver Lake Visitor’s Center you can pick up a trails map and an excellent wildflower guide of the area offered for sale by the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation.
Viewing Information: Flanked by exquisite mountain summits, the Silver Lake Loop trail can feel deceptively short for the casual hiker. However, for the observant or budding naturalist, this simple one-mile trail can be a daylong adventure. The variety of plant and animal communities and species biodiversity surrounding this small lake is impressive indeed. There are aquatic wetlands and sedge meadows, emergent seeps, willow thickets, conifer forests and aspen groves, and over 100 species (see Silver Lake Plant Checklist PDF, 1.2 MB) of plants! Insects, birds, moose, and other wildlife are abundant.
The wildflower displays begins in mid-July and continues beyond late August. Some of the early bloomers include shooting stars (Dodecatheon alpinum), white bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata), elephantheads (Pedicularis groenlandica), not to mention an array of willows, sedges, and rushes (yes, they do have flowers!). Lovely pink geraniums (Geranium viscosissimum), blue penstemons (Penstemon spp.), columbines (both yellow and Colorado columbine) soon follow. Yellow and blue composites (asters, showy goldeneye, Senecio spp.) and pink fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) continue to bloom well into the summer months. Hiking the Silver Lake trail will enchant you whether you spend an hour or a day.
Safety First: Everyone in your party should carry a liter of water. Insect repellent is a good idea, also, as mosquitoes can be troublesome at certain times of the year. Please be careful of the moose that live in the area. Do not approach moose you may encounter near the trails - they are wild and unpredictable! For your own safety avoid these animals. Please do not pick the wildflowers. Picking wildflowers prevents them from blooming the following year. Leave them for others to enjoy!
Directions: On the east side of Salt Lake City, take I-215 to the 6200 South off-ramp (Exit 6). Drive south following the road signs to the Brighton and Solitude ski resorts. Follow the signs to Big Cottonwood Canyon Road (7000 South Wasatch Blvd.) and continue driving 14.2 miles up the canyon to the Silver Lake Visitor’s Center. The Silver Lake loop trail follows the boarded walkway around Silver Lake.
Ownership and Management: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Salt Lake City Ranger District.
Closest Town: Salt Lake City, Utah.
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