Jul 25, 2022 - Things to Do

Three great Salt Lake wildflower hikes — with parking

Flowers bloom on a mountain slope.

Paintbrush and penstemon bloom on the slope leading to Reynolds Peak above Dog Lake, between Millcreek and Big Cottonwood canyons. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios.

Late July is wildflower season in the Wasatch Mountains — but you might not find a parking spot at the most popular trailheads for petal-peeping.

  • My last wildflower visit to Alta's famous Albion Basin involved a 45-minute wait on a Tuesday morning while rangers metered traffic at the resort base to avoid a dangerous parking overload.

Our thought bubble: Summer transit — or the lack of it — in the Salt Lake canyons deserves a lot more attention.

  • I can't be the only one who fantasizes about a Zion-esque summer shuttle for Millcreek and the Cottonwoods.

Until we have access solutions, here are three good wildflower hikes with more robust parking.

1. Reynolds Peak
A paintbrush flower blooms on a mountain slope.
Paintbrush flowers bloom on the slope to Reynolds Peak. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios.

This peak above Dog Lake doesn't get a ton of traffic, even though the lake is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the county.

  • The good news is that you can approach Dog Lake from the Big Cottonwood side, which has a big parking lot at Mill D.

Details: After the 2-mile hike from Mill D to Dog Lake, the path to the peak rises another half mile to the southwest.

  • The hike is about 5 miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of about 2,200 feet.
  • I've seen carpets of lupine and geraniums just above the lake, leading to an explosion of red paintbrush and blue penstemon flowers near the summit.
2. Brighton Lakes
A child walks through a meadow of wildflowers near a cliff.
Erin's daughter hikes by a field of false hellebore flowers near Brighton's Dog Lake. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

These trails are also wildly popular, but the resort parking lot can absorb a big crowd.

Details: You can piece together legs of this 7-mile loop in various permutations, but the best wildflower viewing generally is on the trail from the resort up to Lakes Mary, Martha and Catherine.

  • Just the 1-mile hike to Brighton's Dog Lake (different from the one mentioned above) can provide a great display.
3. White Pine Lake
Elephant's head flower.
Elephant's head blooms near the trail to White Pine Lake. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

This Little Cottonwood hike is consistently busy, but the long stretch of nearby street parking gives you a much better chance of scoring a spot than at Albion Basin.

  • The wildflower display here is among the best, with creekside elephant's head and bog orchid flowers giving way to carpets of geranium and paintbrush.

Details: The hike to the spectacular alpine lake is 10 miles round trip, but you don't have to go that far to see flowers.


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