Maybird Lakes Little Cottonwood Canyon

Overview: Maybird Lakes (there are three) sit at the top of Maybird Gulch at the base of the Pfeifferhorn, which towers 11,326 feet above. The trail takes you to the middle lake, where you can enjoy the surrounding effects of a steep gulch and a high-mountain lake.

Start: White Pine trailhead

Distance: 7.8 miles out and back

Hiking time: About 3 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 2,000 feet

Trail surface: Dirt path with rocks and roots, bridge

Best season: Summer and fall; snow in these upper elevations until mid-June

Other trail users: None

Canine compatibility: Dogs prohibited

Land status: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; watershed

Nearest town: Sandy

Fees and premits: No fees or permits required

Maps: USGS Dromedary Peak

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

Finding the trailhead: From Salt Lake City drive south on I-215 to 6200 South (exit 6). Turn left off the ramp and follow 6200 South past Big Cottonwood Canyon, where the road becomes Wasatch Boulevard. Little Cottonwood Canyon is located 4 miles past the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Continue straight until you reach the park-and-ride lot at the base of the canyon. From here the White Pine trailhead is 5.6 miles upcanyon, just past Tanner’s Campground. White Pine trailhead is a large, busy trailhead with restrooms and room for forty-plus cars. If the lot is full, cars can be parked along the road.

Trailhead GPS: N40 34.530', W111 40.843'

The Hike

This trail is one of three trails (White Pine and Red Pine Trails are the other two) that start at this same trailhead.

The trail begins on the south side of the parking area next to the restrooms and follows a small paved path down to the bridge and official White Pine trailhead. The trail crosses the bridge over Little Cottonwood Creek and then cuts west and south as it makes its way into the steep side canyons that dump into Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The trail is easy to follow, and the first 1.0 mile is a pleasant alpine jaunt up White Pine Canyon to the White Pine/Red Pine junction, where the trails to White Pine and Red Pine Lakes diverge. Maybird Gulch is an offshoot from the Red Pine Lake Trail, so from the junction follow the trail that winds behind the kiosk trail sign and heads into Red Pine Canyon. A couple hundred feet up the trail you hit the Red Pine bridge and cross the stream. The trail into Red Pine Canyon begins heading west over roots, wooden bridges, and a rock-strewn trail before it begins the consistent climb into Red Pine Canyon. At 1.4 miles you enter the Lone Pine Wilderness Area, where the aspen and evergreens shade and cool. At 1.5 miles the view down Little Cottonwood Canyon opens into the Salt Lake Valley below.

The most difficult aspect of this trail is the consistent climb up Red Pine Canyon to the lakes at the top. At 2.7 miles and an elevation of 8,950 feet the Maybird Gulch Bridge exits the Red Pine trail. Cross this bridge and follow the singletrack trail as it heads west. Once the trail climbs out of Red Pine Canyon, the hike becomes a level, pleasant stroll through the trees as you head into Maybird Gulch. As you travel west you can see across Little Cottonwood Canyon to the steep cliff walls that make up the other side of the canyon.

At 3.3 miles (0.6 mile from the bridge), the trail winds into Maybird Gulch and begins to climb up boulders and roots. As the trail crests the top of the hill, big chunks of granite that define the upper canyon take over the landscape. The trail makes a small dip into the trees below. Maybird’s middle lake sits 1.2 miles from the Maybird bridge, or 3.9 miles from the White Pine trailhead.

A nice grove next to the lake provides logs and rocks to rest on. There is no wading or swimming in these watershed lakes, but you can enjoy the dramatic scenery before returning the way you came.