Red Pine Lake Trail

excerpted from our book

Salt Lake City's Incredible Hiking and Biking Trails
pages 107-110

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Red Pine Lake Red Pine Lake

Red Pine Lake      Located in the heart of Utah’s Lone Peak Wilderness Area, Red Pine Lake definitely ranks among the prettiest of the Wasatch Mountains’ high alpine lakes. It is a popular day or overnight hike and you are bound to meet many other trekkers along the way. But if you are looking for more solitude there are also several possible side trips off the main trail that receive far fewer visitors.
      From the parking area the Red Pine Lake trail winds down a short distance to Little Cottonwood Creek, which it crosses on a wooden foot bridge, and then proceeds over a gentle upward grade along the east side of White Pine Canyon. The first part of the trail is actually an old jeep road that was once used by miners to access their claims in upper White Pine Canyon. The mining activity long ago proved uneconomical, however, and today few signs of this piece of White Pine Canyon's history are evident. Vehicles are no longer allowed on the trail.
      About a mile from the parking lot the path breaks out of the aspen trees to meet the shore of White Pine Fork, and at this point the Red Pine Lake trail leaves the old jeep road behind and branches off to the right. Another hundred yards will bring you to a primitive foot bridge where the trail crosses White Pine Fork and continues in a westerly direction. The elevation at this point is about 8,040 feet, or 460 feet higher than the trailhead parking lot.
      Half a mile after leaving the junction the Red Pine Lake trail rounds the ridge separating Red Pine Canyon from White Pine Canyon and again bends to the south. At one point the terrain drops off precipitously on the right, opening up a panorama of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Tiny cars can be seen meandering up from the canyon mouth on a gray thread of asphalt two thousand feet below, but after a few hundred feet the Red Pine Lake trail ducks back again into the trees and the brief contact with civilization is lost. The grade then becomes somewhat steeper as the path climbs higher into Red Pine Canyon.
      Finally, at an elevation of 9,030 feet and a distance of 2.5 miles from the trailhead, the trail reaches the creek in the bottom Red Pine Canyon. At this point there is another junction in the trail, with the path to Maybird Lakes crossing Red Pine Creek on the right. Red Pine Lake hikers should continue straight ahead on the east side of the creek, but not before pausing to appreciate the beauty of this spot. The forest now has turned from aspen to conifer, and there is an abundance of wildflowers along the grassy river bank-perfect for a short break.
      Large patches of snow often lie across the last mile of the trail, sometimes until late July. This section of the canyon is well shaded on all sides, and the snow seems to last forever. The Red Pine Lake trail also gets noticeably steeper near the top of the canyon. Finally, at an elevation of 9,600 feet, the trail abruptly levels off, and another five minutes of easy walking will bring you to the lake.
      The setting of Red Pine Lake is exquisite. The rugged crest that separates Little Cottonwood and American Fork Canyons, as well as the Wasatch and Uinta National Forests, lies just beyond the lake. White Baldy Peak (11,321 ft.) juts out prominently a mile to the southeast, and to the north, across Little Cottonwood Canyon, Dromedary Peak (11,107 ft.) and Superior Peak (11,132 ft.) are clearly visible. The lake itself is about 600 feet across, with a smaller bay protruding on the south end where the forest comes right to the water’s edge.

Upper Red Pine Lake
      Upper Red Pine Lake is situated 0.4 mile above the southeast side of the lower lake. There is no developed trail to Upper Red Pine Lake and very little vegetation exists around the lake, but the setting is spectacularly wild and rugged. The upper lake, which is about the same size as its lower twin, lies directly beneath the dramatic White Baldy summit ridge. The best way to get there is along a primitive hiker-made trail that begins near the small stream connecting the upper lake to the southeast side of the lower lake. The route involves some tiring scrambling over an extensive boulder field with 400 feet of elevation gain, but it is not technically difficult.

Maybird Lakes
      As mentioned earlier, the trail to the Maybird Lakes leaves the Red Pine Lake Trail about 2.5 miles from the highway, or about 0.7 mile down from Red Pine Lake. The Maybird Lakes Trail branches to the west, crossing Red Pine Fork on a narrow wooden bridge just after the Red Pine Lake Trail first meets the creek. It then follows a fairly level route for about 0.5 mile in a westerly direction before turning south again for the assent through Maybird Gulch to the three tiny Maybird Lakes.
      The first lake is about 1.1 miles from the Red Pine trail junction at an elevation of 9,660 feet, and the second and third lakes are situated a quarter of a mile further up the gulch. The lakes are all small, only 100 to 150 feet across, and the trees surrounding them are stunted. The gulch is filled with the breakdown of the nearby cliffs, and there is not enough soil to support a more luxuriant forest. But the lack of vegetation does afford a fine view of Pfeifferhorn Peak, a popular summit that cannot be seen from Red Pine Lake.

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