Secret Lake – A Hike for Everyone

Secret Lake Reflection

Reflection at sunset across Secret Lake

Secret Lake is a great hike for everyone – even for people who don’t like to hike.  It provides gorgeous views of the surrounding mountain peaks in an easy one mile hike that the youngest child or oldest grandparent can handle.  The great thing about this hike is that it is an alpine environment with a lot of wildflowers, streams and vegetation only 20 minutes from the Salt Lake Valley.

While it is called Secret Lake, it is a popular hike with the locals, so you will probably

find a crowded parking if you attempt to hike this on a weekend in the summer, especially

Secret Lake, Alta Utah

Sun setting over the pine trees at Secret Lake

in the evenings.  I recommend this hike during the weekday to avoid the crowds, it is a hike that can easily be done after work.

In just a mile this hike has it all, meadows, pine trees, mountain streams, the occasional moose and a beautiful mountain lake at the end.  It makes for a great picnic, a hike with the kids or a romantic stroll.  There are other hikes nearby, including one to Sugar Loaf and Devil’s castle, if you have some time and would like to go on a couple of hikes.

Bull Moose, Secret Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon

Bull Moose on the trail to Secret Lake

It is not uncommon to see a moose on the trail to Secret Lake, especially if you go in the evening or the morning hours.  At these times you probably have a 50/50 shot of seeing one.  I’ve even seen them mid-day in July, they really like this area.  While seeing a wild animal is one of the greatest things to see, remember that they are still wild so keep your distance.  Moose are powerful animals, one that you don’t want to make mad.  em.

Getting There:  Secret Lake is at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Take the road up the canyon to the booth as the end of the pave road, Alta Ski resort will be on your right.  You will continue up the dirt road, which can be done in a sedan with decent clearance if you are careful, it is well maintained and has just a few speed bumps you’ll need to negotiate.  Follow this road until you see a parking lot next to a campground.  You can park here and you will see signs to the trail, it is well marked.  There is also a restroom here if you need one.

Devil's Castle near Secret Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

View of Devil’s Castle from the Secret Lake Trail

The Hike:  The hike is about 1 mile long and goes through some nice green meadows, a small pine forest and then up a few switch backs to the lake.  The trail is well marked and well maintained.  There are a few streams, but there are plenty of rocks to hop-scoth your way across.  Even if you miss one, it is not a big deal as the stream, if you can call it that, is only a few inches deep.  There is just a little bit of elevation gain, but it is very manageable and for this reason I give it an easy rating.

Wildflowers can be seen along the way, and if you time it just right, usually the beginning of June, you can hike it when they are in full bloom.  But no matter when you go, there is always something pretty to see.  The Lake itself is maybe 100 yards across at its widest point, but provides a beautiful spot for picnicking, napping or just taking in natures beauty.

  • Distance (roundtrip): 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: A few hundred feet, if that
  • Rating: Easy
Peaks near Secret Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta Utah

There are great views of surrounding peaks from the Secret Lake trail.

What to take:  A little bit of water and food, is probably all you need for this hike.  Of course wear good shoes, but leave the swimming suit at home, as no swimming is allowed in Secret Lake.  I also recommend bringing a camera as it is hard to take a bad photo in this beautiful area.

I’ve never snow shoed this area before as it lies in the middle of Alta Ski Resort, which makes it a little difficult to find in the snow.  If you want to snow shoe near this area, I recommend Grizzly Gulch.  Stay tuned for a post about Grizzly Gulch coming soon.  One other note, because of its higher elevation, this hike is not accessible until late May early June depending on how late it snows.

As always if you have any questions or comments about this hike, please use the comments

Secret Lake up Little Cottonwood Canyon

Reflection of the surrounding mountains across Secret Lake

section below, or feel free to email me at  And don’t forget to go outside and do something fun!

About Dustin

Healthcare professional by day, Outdoor adventurer on the evenings and weekends.
This entry was posted in Beautiful Places, Great Place for a Date, Hiking Utah and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Secret Lake – A Hike for Everyone

  1. Wild Edibles says:

    There are lots of wild edibles up this canyon as well and you could likely grab a snack from the forest around you as you hike or when you get there. Lots of great things to eat in both big and little cottonwood canyons.

  2. There are hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails all around the lake. They range in length, difficulty and popularity. One of the most famous of Tahoe’s trails is the Tahoe Rim Trail , a 165-mile (270-km) trail that circumnavigates the lake. Directly to the west of the lake is the Granite Chief Wilderness , which provides great hiking and wilderness camping. Also, to the southwest is the very popular Desolation Wilderness. One of the most popular trailheads is the Eagle Lake Trailhead . The Flume Trail is one of Mountain Biking Magazine’s Top 10 Trails in the U.S. There are also several paved off-road bicycle paths.

    • Dustin says:

      Garth, Thanks for your comment. Just so you are aware this blog post is about Secret Lake in Utah, but the one in Tahoe is a great place I trust from your description too.

  3. Bridger says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *