Lake Mary/Catherines Pass Trailhead

Lake Mary/Catherines Pass Trailhead

Page Type Page Type: Trailhead
Location Lat/Lon: 40.60079°N / 111.5811°W
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 8755 ft / 2669 m

The Lake Mary/Catherines Pass Trailhead Overview

Starting the base of Brighton Ski Resort, the Lake Mary/Catherines Pass Trailhead is one of the major trailheads of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Lake Catherine and Catherines Pass were named after Catherine Bow, the wife of Stuwart Brighton. She was known for being an excellent trout fisher woman and cook for her guests who stayed at her hotel. More information on her and the area can be found below in the "History of the Area" section. For those who walk up its well beaten path, depending on the time of year, you can be rewarded with spectacular alpine lakes, outstanding wildflower patches and every now and then a large moose. The popular lakes accessed from this trailhead are Lake Mary, Dog Lake, Lake Martha and Catherine Lake. Some of the more popular peaks in the area are Pioneer Peak, Sunset Peak, Mount Tuscaroroa and Mount Wolverine. No matter what time of year you choose to visit this area, it is sure to please. 

Wildflowers at Lake Catherine
Wildflowers at Lake Catherine
A Bull Moose up close and personal
A Bull Moose up close and personal at Dog Lake
Skiing Sunset Peak
Troy skiing right off Sunset Peak
Sunset Peak and Lake Catherine
Sunset Peak and Lake Catherine from Catherines Pass

How To Get There...

Out of all the trailheads that make up Utah, The Lake Mary/Catherines Pass Trailhead is perhaps the easiest to locate. Simply drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon until you reach the Brighton Ski Resort (located at the top of the canyon). When the one way loop begins continue driving. Soon the ski resort will come into view. Drive to the main Brighton Lodge and park near the Crest Express Chairlift. The trailhead will be inbetween these two structures.

The official TrailheadThe official Trailhead

The Trail

For an easy family day hike there are many destinations to choose from by starting at this trailhead. Starting at the base of Brighton the "official" trailhead is located inbetween the Brighton Ski Lodge and The Crest Express. At the trailhead itself the trail will split two ways. Take the one to the LEFT. The trail on the right is a RESTORATION AREA that is, for some reason, marked off at where it intercepts the actual trail. The trail will start by gaining some uphill while gradually traverseing in the direction of the lakes. At about tower 18 of the Crest Express Chairlift the trail will start making the final traverse to the lakes. After passing a log that has been converted into a bench, a very well marked trail junction will appear. From here it is your choice on which lake you wish to visit.

The official Trailhead
The official Trailhead
Wrong Trail
If you see this you are on the wrong trail

Dog Lake is a quick left from this junction and is a popular spot for wildlife viewing. This lake is a perfect example of SUCCESSION...which means this lake is slowly dying. As vegitation continues to grow along side the shores, it slowly, year after year, makes its way into the water. Eventaually this lake will become a marsh, and then soon after become just another open meadow.

A Big Bull Moose at Dog Lake
A bull Moose at Dog Lake
Dog Lake
Dog Lake

Going straight will take you to the southeast shores of Lake Mary. This lake is very popular with campers, fisherman and day hikers. Not long after passing Lake Mary, the smaller Lake Martha will appear on your left. From here the trail will turn away from both lakes and start another section of uphill. After passing the base of Pioneer Peak another well marked trail junction will appear. Both trails will take you to Catherines Pass, however the trail to the left will take you by Lake Catherine. After passing this last lake the trail will begin heading right, where it will make its final uphill to Catherines Pass.

Lake Mary below Catherines Pass
Lake Mary from the Northern shore
What the hell happened to Lake Mary??
Lake Mary as of August 2010. The cause...Dam repair is underway.
Lake Martha
Lake Martha and Mount Tuscarora

From the pass there are several peak options to choose from. The easiest is to make a LEFT and head out to Sunset Peak. This can be accomplished by hiking up a well beaten path to the top of Rocky Point (the promince between the Peak and the Pass) and making a left at the top out to Sunset Peak. The trail will traverse across a cliff and then climb the Dry Fork side of Sunset Peak. Just before the top is reached there is one more left turn. Another route option is to traverse underneath Rocky Point, however the trail is not all that well defined near Catherines Pass. Once at the summit you can take the steep ridge below you out to Pioneer Peak if you wish.

Skinning up Catherines Pass
Troy skinning back to Catherines Pass after skiing Sunset Peak
Troy on the summit of Sunset Peak
Troy standing on the summit of Sunset Peak
Troy v.s Sunset Peak
In winter it is best to traverse below the cliffs, rather than inbetween them.

For those looking to summit Mount Tuscarora and Mount Wolverine you should make a RIGHT at Catherines Pass. The trail will become steep shortly after making the right turn. Stick to the Alta side of the ridge until the summit of Mount Tuscarora is reached. Take in the views and then make the easy traverse out to the even more scenic Mount Wolverine.

Mt Wolverine through the Lupines
Mount Wolverine through the Lupines of Mount Tuscaroroa
MT Wolverine Summit view
Little Cottonwood Canyon from Mount Wolverine

If you parked at Brighton Ski Resort and you do not wish to repeat the same route back down, you can continue out north from Mount Wolverine out to Patsy Marley Peak. From this peak continue north and down to Twin Lakes Pass. A very obvious trail to your right will cross the slopes of "Highway to Heaven" out to Solitude Ski Resort. Once at the resort the trail will stay on Solitudes property for a short while. Soon the trail will split at Evergreen Peak. Go right and continue down until you reach the dam of the Twin lakes. Just below the dam traverse over to the main 4x4 road of the Brighton Ski Resort. Follow the road down as it twists and turns to the base of Milly Express, where you should be able to see your car.

Twin Lakes PassTwin Lakes Pass in late May


Alta's Albion Basin may be famous for its wildflowers however the flora that lines this trail is equal to, if not better than Alta. Due to the higher elevation of this area, the best time of year to see the wildflowers is every July through August. Asters, Coville's Columbines, Fireweed, Speckeld Rockets, Lupines, Gerainums, Giant Coreopsis, Tyedye Roses, Indian Paintbrush, Jacobs Ladder....they are all here.

Pink Speckeld Rockets near Lake Mary
Pink Speckeld Rockets near Lake Mary
A Giant Coreopsis near Lake Catherine
A Giant Coreopsis near Dog Lake
Fireweed on Mount Wolverine
Fireweed near the Twin Lakes


Whether it be mid summer, or mid winter, there are some excellent fishing oppertunities to be had at the lakes that surround brighton.

For families that are not looking for a hike Silver Lake is the best option. This pond is stocked every summer on almost a weekly basis with Rainbow Trout. With a boarded walk way around the entire lake the access is beyond easy. Every now and then a brook trout is taken out of that lake, but they are often small and rare.

Fall colors at Silver Lake
Silver Lake
A Rainbow Trout and 10,420
A Silver Lake Rainbow Trout

Lake Mary is the BEST lake when it comes to fishing. There are healthy populations of large brook trout, as well as some brood stock Lake Trout. These lake trout are rare but are in there. This lake recieves quite a bit of pressure in the summer, however winter is a different story. Although the lake is harder to access, the fishing can be "off the hook".

Brook Trout
A BIG Brook Trout
Lake Trout
A Lake Trout


Lake Mary below Catherines Pass
Lake Mary
Lake Mary
Lake Mary in winter

History of the Area

In 1871, William Brighton and Catherine Bow took their cattle, horses and kids up to the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Loving the alpine scenery and excellent fishing, they built a summer cabin up there one year later. By 1874 the family built a single story hotel, for the miners who traveled between Alta and Park City. In 1893 the hotel was three stories tall and had 50 avalible rooms by 1895. It was in that same year that a fisherman took the record catch of 63 fish in one day. Back then a nights stay cost the average family just $2.00 a night. With the turn of the century came a general store, telephone services, a post office and several city dwellers looking for summer cabin sites.

Lake Catherine and Sunset PeakLake Catherine and Sunset Peak



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