Willow Heights is a beautiful hike through a serene aspen forest that leads to a small, picturesque lake nestled high in the Wasatch Mountains. The trail is only 0.75 miles one-way; however, it gains 600 feet over that short distance. Most hikers may want to continue on the loop trail around the lake, which adds 0.7 miles to the hike. This trail is family-friendly and suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
The Willow Heights trailhead is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon (40.630342, -111.604623):
- Take Exit 6 on I-215 for 6200 S/Wasatch Blvd.
- Drive south on Wasatch Blvd. for 1.7 miles.
- Turn left onto Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.
- Continue up the canyon 11.6 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.
There is no signage or off-street parking, so it's easy to miss the trailhead without a GPS. Just past the end of an area with homes and businesses, the road bends to the left. The trailhead is located right around this bend. Look for a 35-mph speed limit sign facing toward down-canyon traffic, which is located at the trail entrance. A stone monument designating the Willow Heights conservation area marks the start of the trail.
From the trailhead, begin hiking north through an aspen forest. The 600-foot climb is mostly gradual with a few steep spots as you make your way up the slope toward Willow Lake. After about a quarter mile, a few breaks in the trees offer nice views of the surrounding mountains and Solitude Ski Resort to the south.
Soon the trail enters a particularly dense portion of the aspen forest where the trees are so thick that visibility is limited to less than 200-feet in any direction. Continue hiking as the trail leaves the forest and arrives in a large, grassy meadow. Turn left at the junction (40.636122, -111.597354), and continue about 100 yards to the shoreline of Willow Lake.
Continue hiking on the trail as it circles Willow Lake in a clockwise direction. The trail on the north side of the lake follows right alongside the open shoreline, offering fantastic views. On a calm day, the aspen grove on the east side of the lake forms a beautiful reflection in the still water. Wildlife sightings are common here, so pay careful attention as you hike. Be sure to keep a safe distance from any animals you might see.
The trail continues beyond the inlet at the northeast end of the lake before crossing it and turning south. Pay close attention through this part of the hike. The trail can be faint and overgrown, making it more difficult to follow. Eventually the trail arrives back at the junction where you first arrived near the south shore of Willow Lake. Return the way you came on the main trail.
Round trip hiking distance to the junction near Willow Lake is 1.5 miles. Hiking the loop around the lake adds on 0.7 miles to the hike for a total of 2.2 miles round trip.
Rules and Regulations
- No dogs allowed.
- No swimming or wading.
- No camping within 200 feet of trails and water sources.
- No littering.
- No motorized vehicles.
- No campfires.
Willow Heights is in a restricted watershed area. Follow all posted rules to help preserve and protect our drinking water supply.