It’s not often that I come across a trail that has options that can be enjoyed not only by children and hiking newbies, but seasoned hikers too.
The trail to Twin Lakes starts out at the Silver Lake Visitor’s Center (aka: Solitude Nordic Center in winter) up Big Cottonwood Canyon at the scenic Silver Lake, a popular tourist attraction that has a relatively flat one-mile trail and boardwalk around its perimeter that is stroller-friendly and wheelchair accessible.
The boardwalk crosses over marshland where people can fish and is also home to frogs, ducks and other waterfowl. A resident moose makes an occasional appearance in the marsh, along with deer that may cross your path as you hike along the trail.
As the trail heads west, you will come to your first fork with a large kiosk sporting a map of the area -- stay left and travel along the western shore of Silver Lake. It passes through a beautiful forest strewn with giant logs and rocks where children enjoy playing and watching the many chipmunks that run along the ground. The entire path around the lake starts and ends at the Visitor’s Center, making a complete loop.
Twin Lakes and Twin Lakes Pass
For a more challenging hike, skip the first left fork and continue on up the trail which will take you west away from the lake. You will come to another junction with a wooden sign on your left that says “Twin Lakes Trail.” Turn left here and head south uphill for almost a mile enjoying a beautiful view of Silver Lake on your left as you hike.
You will notice that the trail is actually a ski service road that occasionally branches off into a single-track trail at times. You can continue up the road or take the trail. They both end up at the base of the Twin Lakes dam.
When you arrive on the east side of the dam, head northwest and hike up and around the north end of the dam where you will arrive at beautiful Twin Lakes! To the south you will see Mt. Millicent and to the west you will see a saddle called Twin Lakes Pass. Directly north of you is a tree-covered hill known as Mt. Evergreen.
After spending time at the lake, some of your group may want to continue to the pass. Head north on the trail coming from the lake to get to Twin Lakes Pass. It will travel along the south side of the ridge parallel to Twin Lakes as you head toward the pass.
About halfway, the trail will meander to the north side of this ridge and soon you will not be able to see the lake for a short distance. Keep heading west up the hill until you get to some rock bands. The trail will wander through an opening in the rocks on your left and bring you back to the south side of the ridge again.
Head west on the trail a few hundred more yards where you will arrive at Twin Lakes Pass. The view west will let you see down through Grizzly Gulch into Alta and to the east you will see Twin Lakes and the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. In the summer the pass is profuse with wildflowers.
Climb Mt. Millicent
Once you arrive at Twin Lakes, another option is to skip going up to the pass and climb 10,542-foot Mt. Millicent instead! This is for experienced hikers only as it requires strength and sure-footedness to scramble up the boulder-strewn mountain.
Travel south on the ski service road that is east of the dam and wind up the hillside (keep right at the fork) to the Mt. Millie Ski Lift. You will now be at the base of the mountain, where you will carefully begin your ascent.
Stay along the center of the hill for the best path, as there is no trail up to Mt. Millicent. You will see some strange looking pipes sticking out of the ground on your ascent -- these are Gazex avalanche-control exploders (gas-based) that bring down the accumulating snow on these slopes during ski season. (See our online photos gallery at Utahadventurer.com for photos of the trail and junctions). At the top you will have spectacular views of the Brighton/Solitude Ski areas, Brighton Lakes, Sunset Peak, Clayton Peak, Preston Peak and Guardsman Pass. After heading back down the mountain to Twin Lakes, take a break and have a picnic at the lake ... and don’t forget your camera!
Getting there: Drive 15 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon where it will end and turn into the Brighton Loop Road. Stay right and look for the Silver Lake Visitor’s Center on your right at the beginning of the loop. Park in the parking lot just east of the buildings. There is a restroom at the south end of the parking lot. Get onto the boardwalk and head northwest around Silver Lake to get to Twin Lakes.
Silver Lake, 1 mile round trip.
Twin Lakes, 2.2 miles round trip with 730 feet of vertical gain.
Twin Lakes Pass, 4 miles round trip with 1,263 feet of gain.
Mt. Millicent, 3.8 miles round trip with 1,722 feet of gain.