Located high in the mountains above Salt Lake City, Lake Blanche sits in a picturesque basin filled with alpine lakes and surrounded by towering rocky peaks. At just over 3 miles one-way, this hike isn’t overly long, but it is quite strenuous as it climbs a staggering 2,700 up the steep, rugged trail.
This hike is suitable for most healthy adults but extra time may be needed for those unaccustomed to difficult hikes. This trail is not recommended for children.
The hike to Lake Blanche begins at the Mill B South Trailhead (40.633238,-111.723462) in Big Cottonwood Canyon. From the mouth of the canyon, drive approximately 4.3 miles and turn right at the signed junction for Mill B South. The trailhead is located at the bottom of the prominent ‘S’ curve in the canyon.
Additional parking is available near the turnoff to the trailhead. Restrooms are available at the main trailhead parking area.
From the trailhead, follow the paved path up the canyon for approximately a quarter mile to the signed junction for Lake Blanche on the right (40.63268,-111.719657). From here the trail is steep and rocky as it climbs quickly up Mill B South Fork towards Lake Blanche.
After a short distance, the trail crosses a bridge over the creek and enters the Twin Peaks Wilderness. From here the trail follows the east side of the creek as it cuts through dense vegetation. Eventually the trail starts to climb away from the river, and the vegetation thins as the surroundings transform into a high-altitude ecosystem. A large waterfall can be seen in the distance. This waterfall is the outlet of the Lake Blanche and the surrounding lakes.
Soon the view of the waterfall is lost as the trail enters a tall grove of aspens and continues to climb steeply up the east side of the canyon. Beyond the aspen grove, the trail offers great views of Sundial and Dromedary Peaks as it makes the final ascent to Lake Blanche.
The final approach to the lake follows a path through slabs of heavily glaciated rock. It is easy to see the striations and imagine a huge glacier scraping across the landscape, sculpting it into what you see today. In one section there is a large gallery of modern petroglyphs scratched into the rock, some dating back to the early 1900s.
An interesting aspect of Lake Blanche is the tall dam walls that stand on the north and west sides. Early settlers built these dams in the 1900s to support the growing water needs of the Salt Lake Valley. The wall on the west shore has since been breached, and Lake Blanche is no longer used for water storage, but the walls remain.
Two more lakes lie west of Lake Blanche: Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. All together, these three lakes are often referred to as “The Sister Lakes.” It is well worth a walk to the other lakes while you are in the area. Just follow the well-defined social trail west from Lake Blanche.
For backpackers or those who brought a headlamp for the hike out, Lake Blanche is a particularly beautiful place to be in the evening. The late afternoon light hits Sundial Peak just right, giving the entire area a warm glow. If you walk up the small hill just north of the lake, you can see all the way out to the Great Salt Lake and watch the sun disappear over the horizon.
Distance from the trailhead to Lake Blanche is approximately 6.2 miles.
Rules and Regulations
- Lake Blanche is in a protected watershed area.
- No pets or horses.
- No fires.
- No camping within 200 feet of water sources.
- The Lake Blanche trail is very strenuous and has some very steep sections.
- This trail can be very hot during the late spring and summer, so pack plenty of water.
- Some may benefit from the use of trekking poles or a walking stick.