Dog Lake
via Big Water Trail

excerpted from our book

Salt Lake City's Incredible Hiking and Biking Trails
pages 58-61

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Dog Lake, Utah Dog Lake, Utah

Dog Lake      As the name suggests, Dog Lake is a favorite destination for dog owners, so be prepared to see other hikers with their dogs along this trail. The small lake lies near the top of the ridge separating Mill Creek Canyon from Big Cottonwood Canyon, and there are good trails to Dog Lake from both sides of the ridge. Big Cottonwood Creek, however, is a source of culinary water for people living along the Wasatch Front, so dogs are not allowed in that canyon. Mill Creek Canyon does not have any similar restrictions against dogs, although they must be leashed on even numbered days. You may also see some bicycles on the Dog Lake trail, but they are allowed on the Mill Creek trails only on even numbered days. The loop hike described here can be walked in either direction, but the western side of the loop that departs from the lower Big Water Trailhead is less steep and better maintained. The uphill portion of the Dog Lake hike will be more enjoyable if you walk the Big Water Trail first and return on the Little Water Trail.
      Few of Utah’s trails are as pleasant as the Big Water Trail. It is heavily shaded by an old growth stand of sometimes enormous Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir, and the grade is moderate, gaining an average of only 450 per mile walked. The hard-packed surface of the path is often covered with a thick, soft carpet of pine needles, and there are few rocks or fallen logs to impede your progress. The lake at the end of the hike is not particularly notable, but the walk itself is delightful.
      0.4 mile up the trail you will come to a junction where the Great Western Trail branches off to the left as it heads down to the Upper Big Water parking area. For the next mile the Big Water Trail and the Great Western Trail share the same path; then after a half hour you will arrive at another junction where the Great Western Trail again departs on the left. This second junction marks the half-way point to Dog Lake.
      After another half hour the Big Water Trail arrives at a 4-way junction where you must bear right for Dog Lake. From there the trail continues its upward trend for another 200 yards to another trail junction on the north side of a grassy open area that is the highest point on this hike. Again, bear right onto this last segment of trail, past a less well used trail going to the Mount Olympus Wilderness Area, and on down another hundred yards to the northern shore of Dog Lake.
      Dog Lake is only 100 yards across, but it is partially surrounded by quaking aspen trees which lend a degree of elegance to its diminutive size. You can almost always count on seeing a few dogs at the lake chasing balls that the owners throw into the water. If tranquility is your thing you are probably on the wrong hike, but it is also a lot of fun to watch the dogs playing in the water. There is a 0.2-mile trail around the lake, and a nice picnic spot on Dog Lake’s eastern shore-a good spot to stop for lunch.
      When you are ready to leave Dog Lake retrace your steps back 250 yards to the start of the Little Water Trail, and turn right to begin your descent along the eastern side of the Dog Lake loop. After 15 minutes the trail again doubles back to meet the Big Water Trail at the 4-way junction encountered previously. Turn right to stay on the Little Water Trail.
      0.5 mile from the 4-way junction the trail again crosses the Great Western Trail. Shortly afterward it drops into the bottom of Little Water Gulch and follows Little Water Creek for the next half-mile to Mill Creek. When you reach Mill Creek you will pass another junction where the Red Pine Road Trail departs across a small bridge on the right. Bear left here, along the southern shore of Mill Creek for another 0.4 mile to the upper Big Water parking lot at the end of the Mill Creek Road.
      The lower Big Water parking area, where the hike began, is just a hundred yards back down the road from the upper parking area. You will find a short connecting trail between the two trailheads paralleling the south side of the road.

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