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Cecret Lake & Sugarloaf Peak, Alta, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge | Hike 32

Cecret Lake & Sugarloaf Peak, Alta, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge | Hike 32

The last hike of my time in Utah! 52 Hike Challenge Hike #32 was a big one – hiking in Alta first to Cecret Lake, then up towards Sugarloaf Peak. The most challenging of my entire year-long challenge and wish I could do it again!

Cecret Lake

Pronounced like “secret.” It’s not much of one. I had heard that this place was popular and even on a weekday this place was hoppin’. I still like my nature time quiet and with as few people as possible, but it is cool to see other people out enjoying the outdoors. The water looks inviting, but since it’s used for Salt Lake City drinking water supplied by snow melt, there is no swimming allowed. Bummer.


Sugarloaf Peak

Sugarloaf Mountain, in the Wasatch Range, tops out just over 11,000 feet and is the easiest way to bag a Utah 11’er. From Cecret Lake there are two trails up to this summit, a foot path and a service road. This mountain is the site of the Snowbird and Alta ski resorts in the winter.


The Cecret Lake Trail

Just getting to the trail head can be an adventure, as it requires traveling up a steep, unpaved road (that is doable in any regular vehicle). However, the trail head isn’t difficult to find. The well-marked road will lead you to a parking area for the Albion Basin campground. You pick up the Cecret Lake trail just next to this camping area.

The hike to Cecret Lake is considered easy, but steadily heading up. Flora and Fauna are everywhere along this hike. Along this section of trail I saw a few wildflowers, signs of moose (scat!) and a hoary marmot sunbathing on a giant rock. Tall, stately conifers surround the area and far off peaks provide even more scenery.

Even though I hit the trail early there were already quite a few folks at the popular lake. I found a rock to call my own and hung out for a bit, enjoying the nice weather and having a snack. After watching some salamanders swim for a bit I decided to head up toward the summit.


The Sugarloaf Peak Trail

While not considered especially difficult, Sugarloaf Peak did challenge me in one way. My lungs. At this point along the trail I’m huffing and puffing at around 10,000 feet and my lungs are burning. The trail becomes much steeper beyond Cecret Lake and the incline plus thinner air did a doozy on my respiratory system. However, I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of a lung-burning climb and enjoyed this one immensely.

I chose to hike up the service road since I was alone and it seemed less likely I’d get lost this way. Some sections of the gravel road were quite steep, creating a footing challenge on the sliding rock. I forgot hiking poles that day. Lesson learned.

Much of this hike travels under ski lifts. I find it oddly satisfying to walk up a mountain that many use a machine to climb. On this day, one of the lifts was running, perhaps for maintenance, and it was actually quite creepy. An empty lift with no operator in sight, varying speed out in the wilderness. It was like a lift for lazy ghosts.

I didn’t see many animals along this section of trail except a surprise encounter with another marmot and a few birds. As the trail steadily gained elevation, I could really only travel a couple dozen steps before having to take a rest. I didn’t see another hiker, just a noisy construction crew on the way up.

I reached the ski lift and took a selfie break. Unfortunately this also became my turn around point, as I realized my cell phone was rapidly losing power. Since I hadn’t seen any other hikers I didn’t want to scramble rocks at 11,000 feet with no way to call for help. So, sadly, I headed back down. Safety first, especially when hiking solo.


The Return

The return hike was uneventful, except for passing one other solo hiker heading up. He had the brains to bring poles and I was very jealous of his ability to keep his balance on shifting rock. I also felt better about my struggle up the peak, watching him stop about as often as I had. My phone died entirely about 5 minutes before reaching my car in the parking lot.

I would absolutely hike this trail again, hopefully hitting the summit with a fully charged phone and hiking buddy! Have you ever hiked this trail or another huge peak in Utah? Tell me about your favorite ‘high’ hike in the comments!


Roadside Ruin & Cave Spring Trails, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 27

Roadside Ruin & Cave Spring Trails, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 27

These Canyonlands hikes were both pretty short, so I’m combining them into Hike 26 of my 52 Hike Challenge – the halfway point!!

Roadside Ruin

We arrived in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and since the Visitor’s Center was closed and the closest town was an hour away, we hit the trails right away! First, we did the short Roadside Ruin Trail. This simple, flat path leads to an ancient granary, where grains and other foods were stored by Native Americans who lived here hundreds of years ago. This granary was built sometime in the late 1200s. Incredible that it has lasted so long for us to view and study.

This hike really hammered home that we were in the desolate Canyonlands. There is truly nothing around for miles but chaparral and an occasional lizard.

Cave Spring

Next up was the Cave Spring Trail. For such a short trail, this really has a wide variety of interesting things to offer. The first part of the loop (heading clockwise) passes by an abandoned cowboy camp. Because of the presence of year-round water (this trail’s namesake) in such a remote spot, cowboys set up camp here while tending to their grazing livestock. The abandoned camp has been preserved for passersby to get a glimpse of the hard, rugged living conditions of the late 1800s-early 1900s ranchers.

A little further along the trail you reach the spring and the location of various ancient pictographs.

After passing through the spring, it’s like you’re on a completely new trail. Two wooden ladders take you to the top of the rock formation where the trail continues via cairns. From the top of the rock formation you can see practically forever, and the late afternoon light made the mountains and desert glow beautifully. The surface of the top of the rock was full of eroded depressions that made me think of craters on the moon.

Although the super remote Needles District of Canyonlands National Park might be off the beaten path and difficult to reach, it is so, so worth it. We only spent one day here but saw so many interesting things. After our hikes in this district we headed to the Island in the Sky District for even more jaw-dropping scenery.

Traveling with a View – Don’t Miss the In Between

Traveling with a View – Don’t Miss the In Between

Ask someone which seat he prefers on an airplane and more often than not you’ll get a passionate response. I always go for the window seat. Some people say they feel too closed in and claustrophobic in this seat, but I actually have that issue when I’m sitting on the aisle. As a former map maker, I also like sitting at the window so I can appreciate the earth from above. As far back as the first grade I was drawing aerial maps of my neighborhood. So it’s no surprise how excited I get when my window seat comes with a clear day and incredible view.

Aisle-sitters, here’s what you would have missed on a recent trip from Chicago to San Francisco:

Pretty neat, huh? I was sad to see that every single other window shade in my cabin was closed for the duration of the flight. I suppose not everyone is as captivated by the mountains as I am, but it still seemed like even the most frequent fliers were missing out on some impressive scenery.

Since I was taking these pictures with my phone, I have GPS information for each of these locations. When I’m back on the ground and have some time I like to look up some of the more interesting locations, like Montgomery Pass, Nevada. For those who aren’t snapping pics from a GPS enabled device or who don’t have/want a window seat, a friend just told me about an app called Flyover Country. I’ve only looked at it from the ground so far, but it looks like a neat way to see what you (might) fly over. You enter your departure and arrival locations and the app shows you points of interest that lie inside a buffer around the line connecting the points you entered. Pretty cool!

I have to admit that flying over the mountains of the west was a little bit more exciting than a lot of my travel that occurs around the midwest. What’s the coolest sight you’ve seen from your airplane window? Share in the comments!

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