Hiking Project Logo

Alta-Brighton Loop

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.6 (16) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A high elevation, alpine tour of some of the most beautiful parts of the Wasatch Range.


Your Rating:      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add to Favorites · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

8.6

Miles

13.8

KM

Loop

10,201' 3,109 m

High

8,663' 2,640 m

Low

2,297' 700 m

Up

2,319' 707 m

Down

10%

Avg Grade (6°)

34%

Max Grade (19°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · Lake · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

This loop will be closed to hiking during Alta and Brighton ski season (usually late November through early April) due to being largely within the ski resorts. Also, it will be covered in snow for much of that time.

Overview

This route covers several of the most popular trails in the Wasatch mountain range, and for good reason. It goes by four different alpine lakes, over two mountain passes, through beautiful green meadows (with tons of wildflowers in season), and has great views of the surrounding peaks and cirques. Although there is a decent amount of elevation gain, there is also a large amount of enjoyable terrain and some great descents.

Description

This route generally starts just outside of the main parking lot for Alta's Sunnyside area, at the parking area on the north side of the road. There is a little trail (referred to here as the Twin Lakes Pass Trail #027 Connector) that is a little hard to see because of the vegetation around it, but it starts here at this parking lot and heads up towards the Twin Lakes Pass Trail #027. Within a quarter of a mile the trails meet up, and this loop starts heading northeast, towards Twin Lakes Pass.

This is an interesting section, with the trail going by several abandoned mines and tailings piles, including the ruins of the Michigan City Mine. About 1.5 miles in, a fork in the road takes one trail to the north toward Silver Fork while the Twin Lakes Pass Trail branches off, turns into singletrack, and heads east, toward Twin Lakes Pass. This portion of the trail after the junction ascends through some beautiful alpine meadows, small stands of sparse pine trees, and eventually arrives at Twin Lakes Pass.

From the pass, there are great views of the Wasatch Crest, Twin Lakes Reservoir below, and parts of Brighton ski area. This is an exceptional place to see the sunrise, or even come in the twilight hours. After cresting the pass, the trail heads to the left, contouring around the hillside below the Honeycomb Cliffs (be careful here—there is an unmaintained spur trail that heads down towards Twin Lakes Reservoir that looks like the main trail, but actually is not. It descends quickly, then becomes pretty steep and eventually becomes overgrown). This section is pretty fun, and the views are great. The trail alternates between singletrack and ski run, and ends up coming out at the top of the Twin Lakes dam.

After passing the dam, the route gets onto some wide ski runs below the dam, and crosses the outlet of the reservoir, then heads up a pretty steep ski run until it meets up with the Brighton Lakes Trail. This portion can get a little technical as the trail is rocky, but there's still plenty of manageable terrain, and it is a fun section without much climbing, on the lower aprons of Mount Millicent. A little over 3 miles in, the trail crosses a talus field, but then enters a nice pine forest where the trail is nice and spongy as it ascends a few switchbacks.

After this short climb, the trail contours around the lower end of Lake Mary, where the views of the lake are spectacular, especially in the early morning hours. After going around the lower end of the lake, the trail becomes a little harder to follow because of branching trails and the rocky nature of the area, but basically the loop goes around the old cabin and then heads down towards the toe of the dam. The trail is pretty defined once you get down below the dam, and it heads up towards the other side of Lake Mary.

Once the trail has come up to Lake Mary again, it follows along the shores of the lake for a little bit but then starts climbing again as it heads towards Lake Martha, Lake Catherine, an then to Catherine's Pass. The section below the pass often has deer or other wildlife in it, and the meadows are beautiful, with great views of Mount Tuscarora, Pioneer Peak, and Sunset Peak. The climb up to the pass is pretty steep, but short, and then the real descent on this loop begins. This section is a great place to see wildflowers, as the meadows are generally full of them in season, and moose are also often found on this section in these meadows.

Once you get near Sunnyside Lift (before the trailhead for Catherine's Pass), veer left on a dirt road, then cross the main Albion Basin road, and then join up with the Upper Albion Meadows Trail. This portion of the trail crosses through more wildflower fields, and lower down has some interpretive signs for ecological features in the area. Eventually the trail ends near the bottom of the Albion and Sunnyside lifts, and then the loop heads up to the parking lot and follows that up to the beginning of the loop.

Flora & Fauna

Moose, deer, wildflowers, pine trees, aspens, etc.

History & Background

This loop goes right by the Michigan City Mine, and several other mining ruins, and through the Brighton and Alta ski areas.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tomsen Reed

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 16 votes

#1

in Alta

#567

Overall
  4.6 from 16 votes
5 Star
56%
4 Star
44%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Alta

#46

in Utah

#567

Overall
501 Views Last Month
7,865 Since Aug 13, 2018
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
7%
53%
40%
0%

Photos

Sunrise on Catherine Pass.
Oct 15, 2015 near Alta, UT
Sunrise from Catherine Pass.
Oct 15, 2015 near Alta, UT
View of Twin Lakes from the north.
Jun 20, 2020 near Brighton, UT
Lake Mary and more rocky trail.
Oct 10, 2019 near Brighton, UT
Lake Mary from the east.
Jun 20, 2020 near Brighton, UT
Twin Lakes Reservoir
Aug 29, 2019 near Alta, UT

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 19 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In

Check-Ins

Jul 19, 2021
Michelle Brewer
Jul 18, 2021
Alessandro V
Wonderful breeze at the top. Quite trafficked on a midday Sunday. 5.4mi — 11h 30m
Jul 12, 2021
Kayla Hollis
Jul 11, 2021
Cassie Dougherty
Jul 6, 2021
Sara Hoy
The real distance is 8.4 but we took a few "detours" (wrong turns?) which added a mile 9.4mi — 5h 25m
Sep 24, 2020
Michael Kellman
easy and fun 8.6mi
Sep 2, 2020
Brandon Dotinga
10.1mi — 5h 30m
Aug 9, 2020
Jackie Laux
more up and down elevation then expected. Great hike ... recomended. — 4h 45m