Lake Mary- Grizzly Gulch

excerpts from the book
Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails
by David Day

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Distance: 6.4 miles (plus 2.5 miles by bicycle)

Walking time: 4 1/4 hours

Elevations: 1,370 ft. gain, 2,030 ft. loss
     Catherine Pass Trailhead (start): 9,400 ft.
     Catherine Pass: 10,220 ft.
     Lake Mary: 9,520 ft.
     Twin Peaks Pass Trailhead: 8,740 ft.

Trail: Easy to follow, but numerous jeep roads and ski runs in the area create some confusion.

Season: Summer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are usually covered with snow until late June. For current conditions call the Salt Lake Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, at (801) 943-1794.

Vicinity: Alta ski area, above Salt Lake City in Little Cottonwood Canyon

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     This hike is located between the ends of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, in the midst of the Brighton and Alta ski areas. It is a very pretty area, with many alpine lakes and green meadows, but unfortunately the presence of so much commercial activity has inevitably degraded the area’s hiking potential. Especially around Brighton, at the end of Big Cottonwood Canyon, the mountains have been extensively bulldozed to fill the ever growing need for more ski runs and their associated service roads.
     Grizzly Gulch, the return leg of this hike, is an open museum of the mining activity in Utah at the turn of this century. There are dozens of abandoned mines in the steep canyon, along with old boilers and pipes, and other relics of days gone by. Like most history lessons, this one also contains a message for the present. Looking at the heaps of mine tailings that now fill Grizzly Gulch, one can’t help but wonder what the once pristine canyon was like before man’s arrival, and how many other beautiful areas are being destroyed, even now, by unregulated mining activity.

     From Catherine Pass Trailhead the trail immediately starts up a series of switchbacks. It continues to climb for about 820 feet, finally reaching the summit of Catherine Pass after a distance of 1.0 mile. Catherine Pass, with Catherine Lake immediately below it, is the most impressive viewpoint on this hike. The trail forks here, with the main trail dropping down to Catherine Lake on the left. If you enjoy panoramic views, however, you might want to turn right and climb to the top of Sunset Peak before continuing. Sunset Peak is the highest point on the ridge above Catherine Lake. The trail to the summit is 0.6 mile long (1.2 miles round trip), and involves an additional climb of 430 feet.
     After passing Catherine Lake the next point of interest is Lake Martha, a small but very pretty lake at the base of the cliffs below Mount Tuscarora. Finally, only a few minutes beyond Lake Martha is Lake Mary. Lake Mary, actually a reservoir, is quite large (about 1,500 by 800 feet) and deep. It is also very scenic when full. But since it is used as part of Salt Lake City's water supply its size varies considerably, and when the water level is low its shores have an ugly barren look. After the trail passes Lake Mary Dam it starts descending towards Brighton. Watch carefully here for another trail that leads off to the left, just below the dam, and climbs back up to the north side of the lake. This trail, called the Granite Lakes Trail, goes to Twin Lakes Reservoir.
     You should follow the Granite Lakes Trail for 1.1 miles until it arrives at Twin Lakes Reservoir, crossing under the Millicent Ski Lift along the way. When you reach Twin Lakes Dam you must once again walk below and around the dam to the north side of the lake, where you will find the trail that goes to Twin Lakes Pass. For a short distance below the dam you will be on the a jeep road that was built from Brighton to service the dam.
     Once you are on the north side of the Twin Lakes Reservoir start following a trail that climbs in a westerly direction, roughly parallel with the lake shore. Follow this trail until it intersects a ski run, then continue climbing on the ski run for another 0.2 mile or so, until you see the trail departing again on the left. When this trail leaves the ski run it climbs steeply for a few hundred feet to the top of the ridge, from where you can see the Twin Lakes Reservoir again far below. From there the trail traverses across the top of the Wolverine Cirque to Twin Lakes Pass, about 0.4 mile away.
     To get from Twin Lakes Pass to Alta, where your shuttle car is parked, you must descend on the trail through Grizzly Gulch. This part of the trail is actually an old wagon road that was originally built by miners working the canyon at the turn of the century. It is very rocky and, in places, very steep. Judging from the remnants of all the mine shafts that scar the canyon bottom, there must have been a thriving community here. Grizzly Gulch may soon become the sight of still more construction activity; it is now the location of another proposed ski lift from Alta to the top of the Wolverine Cirque.


The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

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If you are interested in a supplemental map of the Lake Mary-Grizzly Gulch area, we recommend:
Wasatch Front/Strawberry Valley (Trails Illustrated, map #709)

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