Hiking to the Albion Basin and Cecret Lake up at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of my favorite s. It's absolutely stunning, especially in July when the wildflowers are exploding around every rock and turn of the trail.
The sky is an intoxicating shade of blue and the mountains are gorgeous. What makes it even more of a treat is that it's really only open for about two months each year. The summer road that takes you to the trailhead opens when the snow has melted enough to make it safe (usually in early to mid July) and it closes after Labor Day.
This trail is also great for families as it's less than a mile from the trailhead to the lake. Most of the trail is wide and not at all steep. My three year old easily walked most of the way along with many other kids in our Hike it Baby group.
The trail gets a little more challenging just before you get to Cecret Lake. It turns into rocky switchbacks that have been carved into the side of the mountain. If you hadn't noticed the elevation before, you might start feeling it here.
The lake tops out at 9,875 feet above sea level. I prefer to wear my 3 year old in a carrier when I hike this section for a little peace of mind. Thankfully, the lake is literally right at the top of the switchbacks. It's an immediate reward after the hard part of the hike.
Remember that this is a watershed canyon, so no swimming or wading into the lake. No dogs too.
Once you get to the lake, the panoramic views of the Albion Basin are breathtaking.
Walk counter-clockwise around to the other side of the lake and you should see a fantastic reflection in the water (maybe not on a windy day).
The lake is home to a lot of salamanders and you may be able to see a few in the water.
There are also lots of ground squirrels and chipmunks, and twice I've seen a moose along the trail.
Parking at the Cecret Lake Trailhead is the tricky part. Remember when I said it was one of my favorite hikes and the road is only open for about two months out of the year? Well, it's also a favorite of lots and lots of other hikers. The parking lot at the trailhead is really small, it can fit maybe 25 to 30 cars, and it fills up really quickly. If you want to find parking, I'd recommend hiking early in the morning on a weekday. Once it's full, you're out of luck and you have to turn around or hope you can get lucky and arrive just as a car is leaving. There is no parking allowed on the side of the road. You can still hike if you want to, but you'll have to hike from the Lodge in Alta and it adds about a mile and a half to your hike, each way. Thankfully, the wildflowers are beautiful down there too. We've done the long hike once, and it was a little less than 5.5 miles round trip. I'm pretty sure we meandered a little bit, but it was longer than we expected.
Because of the popularity of this trail, the town of Alta runs a free shuttle to and from the trailhead on weekends and holidays only. The last shuttle leaves at 5:30pm
The wildflowers are in bloom right now, so if can sneak away from your daily grind, do it!
Thanks to Alexandra Wong for guest posting. Seriously, we can't get over the views!
Yay Alex! We had an awesome time on this hike, feel free to come join us anytime! Hike it Baby has 5 branches all over Utah! We support families getting outside, everyone is invited and we never leave a hiker behind!
Thanks for the great article. My daughter Joey Kendrick Johnson and her son are with the Utah Valley "Hike it Baby" Group and they have a great time with their little ones.