Silver, Solitude and Twin Lakes

excerpted from our book

Salt Lake City's Incredible Hiking and Biking Trails
pages 89-92

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Silver Lake Solitude, Twin Lakes Silver Lake Solitude, Twin Lakes

Silver Lake Solitude, Twin Lakes      In July of 1857 the silence of Silver Lake was broken by the arrival of 464 carriages and wagons carrying six brass bands, a howitzer, and 2,587 spectators. The occasion was a celebration to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Mormon pioneer’s arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young’s campsite was located just a few feet north of where the current Silver Lake Visitor Center is now located. For two days they sang and danced and held a variety of special events before finally departing for their homes in Salt Lake City and beyond.
      Today the Forest Service still considers Silver Lake to be a very special place. A 0.8-mile wheelchair accessible interpretive trail has been constructed around the perimeter of the lake, with colorful plaques placed at intervals along the way to educate hikers about the surrounding ecosystem. The Forest Service also maintains a small visitor center near the trailhead.
      For many hikers, the walk around Silver Lake is enough to satisfy their outdoor desires; however some will want more. At the far end of the lake you will pass a junction where another trail departs for two other nearby lakes: Lake Solitude and Twin Lakes Reservoir. A visit to either one or both of the other two lakes makes a nice extension to the Silver Lake Trail. Below I will describe a loop hike that meanders around Mount Evergreen, passing by all three lakes along the way.
      Begin by walking counter clockwise around Silver Lake from the visitor center. This part of the trail is a boardwalk, built to prevent damage to the wetlands on the south and east shores of the lake. Be sure to spend some time reading the plaques along this short section of the hike. The biodiversity of Silver Lake is amazing, and the informative signs will help you to identify some of the plants and animals you might see. There is a colony of beaver in the lake, and it is not uncommon to see moose in the shallow water. Late July and early August are particularly fine months for wildflowers, when the lakeshore is filled with a panoply of color.
      After just 0.3 mile you will come to a junction where the trail to Lake Solitude and Twin Lakes departs on the right. Turn here and continue for another 100 yards to the next junction where the Lake Solitude Trail turns to the right and the Twin Lakes Trail leaves on the left. This loop can be walked in either direction, but I suggest you bear right here and visit Lake Solitude first. You will be returning on the Twin Lakes Trail.
      The next 1.2 miles to Lake Solitude are through a dense, old-growth forest composed primarily of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir with a fair amount of quaking aspen. As you climb you will cross several ski trails and a chair lift that are all part of the Solitude Ski Resort. (You may also encounter a few mountain bikers on the ski trails during the summer.) After an elevation gain of 300 feet the trail finally comes to the east side of Lake Solitude.
      Lake Solitude was originally called Lizard Lake by the early pioneers. It was named after the lizard-like salamanders that were once abundant in many Wasatch lakes. These creatures, like several other amphibians, are seldom seen now-perhaps because of climate change or the introduction of other non-native species and diseases. The lake is little more than a pond, only a third the size of Silver Lake, but it is nevertheless quite pretty. The rubble above the west side of the lake is the tailings from an old mine, the Solitude Tunnel, that was long ago closed and filled in.
      The trail continues around to the mine tailings on the west side of the lake and there seems to end. But on the north side of the tailings you will find a jeep road that is used to service the ski lifts. Follow this service road as it climbs steeply in a northerly direction to cross under the Sunrise Ski Lift. It then turns south and eventually east again to leave the ski lift behind. 0.8 mile after leaving Lake Solitude the road crosses a ridge on the west side of Mount Evergreen for a clear view of the Twin Lakes Reservoir below. Turn left here, along another jeep road, and walk down the last 0.2 mile to the concrete dam on the east side of the reservoir.
      Twin Lakes is far bigger than the other two natural lakes on this hike, but being an active reservoir it is not as pretty as the others. Nevertheless, the Twin Lakes Basin provides fine views of Mount Millicent and Mount Wolverine to the south. Before 1915 the reservoir consisted of two distinctly separate lakes, but after the dam was built the lakes were joined.
      When you reach the Twin Lakes dam continue climbing down a very steep, rocky trail that descends on the north side of the dam’s outlet. (If you cross the stream you are on the wrong trail.) This primitive trail parallels one of the ski runs for 200 yards and then veers away to the north. A short time later the path becomes much less rocky and more distinct as it descends through the aspen trees toward a junction with the Lake Solitude Trail. When you reach the junction turn right and retrace your steps on the short connecting trail back to the northern side of Silver Lake. From there you will probably want to turn right again to see the rest of the Silver Lake Nature Trail as you return to your car.

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