NOTE: Dog Lake is not a summit nor a route to a summit. It is, however, a great place to enjoy family time with a nice hike in the forest and is one of northern Utah's most iconic trails. You need to do this route because everyone else in Utah has and they are going to ask. Have fun and see you on the trails.
Let’s face it, hiking in Utah during high summer can be hot and miserable. We are talking 100+ hot. Most of the mountainsides are barren, sun swept wastelands with nary a tree in sight and a coolish Utah summer is enough to drive Gatorade stock prices into the gutter. When the temps are soaring to the 100th floor, any hike that is mostly trees is pure gold. Dog Lake features a 3-mile hike through high forest and is one of those pure-gold hikes for hot summer days.
Dog Lake for the dog days of summer. This little gem starts from either Butler Fork or Big Water Trailheads, goes through forest and bog, and ends at a good camping site near Dog Lake. Dog Lake, in and of itself, is actually pretty pedestrian; the views are minimal and the lake small. A hike to Dog Lake is about the hike, not the destination. It’s an early morning summer hike that has shade nearly every step of the way and is cool even when the rest of the state is hitting the triple digit mark. If you are looking for a hike to drag the little folk, Dog Lake is the “this is the place” destination.
Dog Lake Location: 40.667619,-111.638775
Distance: ~ 3 Miles one way
Starting Elevation: ~7100
Ending Elevation: 8745
Total Elevation Gain: ~1640
Time Required: ~3 hours
NOTE: The Butler Fork, Big Water and Desolation Trail all converge near Dog Lake.
The hike to Dog Lake, from either side, is good in all seasons. For the winter, snowshoes are a very good idea unless you enjoy postholing. The snow is also a little unstable in places, so watch your step and keep aware of avalanche dangers. Fall comes a little earlier because of the altitude, so you can catch some good late-September leaf changes before the snow rolls in. Depending on the year’s snow, you might see snow into May or even early June.
While the trail is a touch long for very small children, it is pretty kid friendly for making an outdoors day. There aren’t any steep prepices or rocks to fall off of and the trail itself is in good repair.
There are two common ways to approach Dog Lake; the slightly longer way from Butler Fork and the slightly shorter way from Big Water Trailhead.
ROUTE #1: From Butler Fork Big Cottonwood Canyon (3 Miles one way):
Starting at the Butler Fork Trailhead, the trail follows a small creek bed and steadily rises. There are a couple of steep parts, but overall it climbs at a 500 foot per mile pace. At about the half mile mark, the trail splits (it is signed) with the left fork going toward the Desolation Trail (Mill A) and the right fork to Dog Lake. Continue on the right fork following the main trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. The path weaves up through the forest until it reaches the ridge line and past Reynolds Peak. After the ridgeline, the trail levels out and continues to the lake. The one unmarked split on the trail is just after leaving the Olympic Wilderness Area—No problem, either way is correct. Follow the either fork and you are there! No Dogs allowed on the Big Cottonwood Canyon Trail as it is part of the SLC watershed.
ROUTE #2: Big Water Trail (2.5 Miles one way)
At the Big Water Trailhead, starting at the north side of the parking lot, take the trail north east up the hill. Follow the trail 1.75 miles until you see pipes in the stream. The water here is potable, so you can resupply if you’ve already ran out. Just after the spring, there’s a cross road marked with a sign. Right goes to Desolation Lake, Left goes to onto Dog Lake. Follow the trail through the forest to the lake. Dogs are allowed on this trail.
Okay, so you just HAVE to climb something:
Reynolds Peak 9422: About .5 from Dog Lake to the South
Little Water Peak 9605: About 1.5 miles from Dog Lake to the North East
Info From Reynolds Peak Summitpost Page (Joseph Bullough)
Big Water Trailhead
From I-215 on the east side of Salt Lake valley, take either the 3300 or 3900 South exit, and proceed east to Wasatch Boulevard. Follow Wasatch Boulevard to 3800 South, and look for signs to Mill Creek Canyon. Proceed 9.6 miles up Mill Creek Canyon to a parking area at the end of the road, and the Big Water Trailhead.
Butler Fork Trailhead
From the 6200 South exit off I-215, head east and south on State Highway 190 for ±2 miles to the intersection with Big Cottonwood Canyon road. Turn left at the intersection and drive approximately 8 miles east to the Butler Fork Trailhead and parking area, located on the left side of the road.
RED TAPEOn the Big Water Trailhead side, bikes are only allowed on even numbered days.
Much of the hike (from the Butler Fork side) goes through the Olympus Wilderness Area---Federal Wilderness rules apply. No fighting, drug use, or loud rock-n-roll music. Pack in/pack out all trash and practice leave no trace camping. Dog Lake and the Big Water Trail are just outside of the Wilderness Area.
Big Cottonwood Canyon (Butler Fork side) is within the Salt Lake City Watershed
…NO DOGS, HORSES, LLAMAS, PACK OXEN or other animals allowed!
FaunaThe Dog Lake area has the whole rouge’s gallery of Utah wildlife. For big stuff, you’ve got your bears, you’ve got your deer, you’ve got your elk, and you’ve got your moose. In addition, there’s a whole passel of small predators like coyotes, bobcats, and foxen. Since the predators have to eat something, there’s rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. Bring your binoculars and have a ball!