Sundial Peak and Lake Blanche


Lake Blanche lies in the upper section of Mill B South Fork. This area has been popular with hikers since the late 1800s and is an excellent day hike or an attractive overnight primitive camping option.

The trail to Lake Blanche begins near the restroom on the east side of the trailhead. The walkway starts out paved and after 0.25 mile takes off to the right on a trail of dirt and boulders. A sign marker indicates the trail intersection.

Soon after entering the trail, it forks (0.3 mile). Take the left fork and stay on the main trail over the bridge in front of a memorial bench. From here the trail crosses to the north side of the creek and begins its climb up into the canyon. At 0.5 mile the trail enters the Twin Peaks Wilderness area of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. A stream accompanies the trail for this first section as you steadily climb east into the canyon. The trail is well defined and easy to follow.

At 3.0 miles the trail changes from its eastern route and begins to switchback up the south-facing mountain to reach the upper cirque. When the trail runs into a quartzite boulder slide, make a small, sharp U-turn and continues off the slide boulders to the east, where the trail continues. Within a few hundred feet other large quartzite formations become visible. Make your way across these interesting, glacially carved rocks to stay on the trail. Quartzite is prominent the rest of the way to Lake Blanche. Notice the striations on the quartzite that are still visible from the glacial carving that took place during the canyon’s creation.

You cannot see Lake Blanche until you’re right upon it. An old dam wall shows past lake boundaries. Follow the wall to crest the rock and look down upon the lake. Head west to the broken dam you can see on the other side of Lake Blanche, from which vantage point you can see Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. The old dams were built in the 1930s to contain much larger lakes. Lake Blanche’s western dam broke in 1983. Footpaths are visible around all three lakes.

Sundial Peak is the majestic mountain that overlooks Lake Blanche from the east. It is as much an attraction as Lake Blanche itself.

If you are staying overnight, remember there are no campfires allowed. All backcountry camping must be at least 200 feet away from trails, lakes, or streams. There is a limit of 10 campers per group.

Miles and Directions

0.0       Start at Mill B South trailhead.

0.25     Exit the paved path onto a dirt trail.

0.3       Come to your first fork; head left on the main trail, crossing the bridge.

0.5       Enter Twin Peaks Wilderness Area.

3.0       The trail starts switchbacking up the south-facing mountain to climb to the cirque.

3.1       Come to the quartzite boulder slide.

3.5       Arrive at Lake Blanche. Return the way you came.

7.0       Arrive back at the trailhead.

Overview: Lake Blanche is popular so consider doing this overnight backpack on a weekday rather than a weekend. The hike provides a climb through shaded forest, up canyon meadows, and over glacially cut quartzite to three lakes at the top of the canyon: Lake Blanche and her sister lakes, Lillian and Florence, to the west. This hike can also be completed as a day hike.

Start: East side of the Mill B South trailhead

Distance: 7.0 miles out and back

Hiking time: About 4.5 hours

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation gain: 2,720 feet

Trail surface: Sidewalk, packed-dirt path, rock, boulders, and talus

Best season: Late spring through early fall; avalanche hazard during winter months

Other trail users: None

Canine compatibility: Dogs prohibited

Land status: Twin Peaks Wilderness Area of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Nearest town: Midvale

Fees and permits: No fees or permits required

Maps: USGS Mount Aire

Trail contactsPublic Lands Information Center, Recreational Equipment Inc., 3285 East 3200 South, Salt Lake City 84109; (801) 466-6411. Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Special considerations: Due to the wilderness area and watershed status, no campfires, dogs, horses, or bicycles are allowed. All backcountry camping must be at least 200 feet away from trails, lakes, or streams. There is a limit of 10 campers per group.

Finding the trailhead: In Salt Lake City take I-215 south to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn east off the exit and continue along 6200 South as it changes to Wasatch Boulevard for 1.7 miles to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon (UT 190). Turn left (east) at the signal and head 4.2 miles up the canyon to the Mill B South trailhead. The trailhead sits just before the S curves in the road on the right (south) side of the road. If the good-size parking lot is filled, hikers park out along the canyon road.

Trailhead GPS: 40.633233, -111.723667

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