Utah's not-so-secret Cecret Lake

Sunflowers in the Albion Basin at Alta Ski Resort in July. 

The Albion Basin, one of the most scenic spots on the Wasatch Front, is home to a number of beautiful hiking trails including the one to Cecret (pronounced “secret”) Lake, a popular family hike, and Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the easiest "Wasatch 11'ers" to climb.

If you have a group of mixed hikers, the short, three-quarter mile hike to Cecret Lake is perfect for all ages with only 300 feet of gain. Those in the group who want a more difficult challenge can summit Sugarloaf Mt. (11,051 feet) while the rest wait and relax at Cecret Lake. Since the trailhead starts at around 9,410 feet in elevation, you will have less overall gain, making Sugarloaf a quick mountain to summit.

Since the Albion Basin is known for its beautiful wildflowers, the ideal time to do this hike would be the latter end of July and first half of August. The town of Alta hosts an annual international wildflower festival the end of July in the Albion Basin with free wildflower walks worth attending.

The trail to Cecret Lake begins at the Albion Basin Trailhead, which has a small parking area just west of the campground. Since parking fills up on summer mornings, plan to arrive early or park down at Alta Ski Resort and take the free shuttle (passenger vans) up to the trailhead. (See directions in the “Getting There” section of this article).

You will find a restroom and water at the trailhead; however, bring at least a quart if you plan to do Cecret Lake and two quarts if you plan to summit Sugarloaf. No dogs are allowed ($300 fine) on any trail up Little or Big Cottonwood Canyons, as this is a protected watershed area.

A short distance into the hike to Cecret Lake, you will come to a fork in the trail -- stay to the left. (See photos of these junctions in the online photo gallery at Utahadventurer.com). A short distance further you will see a faint trail go off to the left but continue staying to the right. The trail will begin to wind up a rocky hillside until you come to the eastern shore of Cecret Lake. This is a fun place for a picnic among the rocks that surround the lake and the children will be entertained by the numerous critters running around begging for a morsel to eat. Make sure you bring a hat and sunscreen as there are few trees on this trail to shade your hike.

If you plan to summit Sugarloaf Mountain

Once you arrive at Cecret Lake, you have two options that will take you up to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain -- the eastern ridge and the northern ridge.

Eastern Ridge: As you face Cecret Lake, you will notice a trail that travels south (just east of the lake) off to your left. This trail will wind up the steep eastern face of Sugarloaf through rock fields and scree, wherein you will reach the saddle between Devil’s Castle and Sugarloaf Mt. (This is also the standard route up to Devil’s Castle, the peak just south of Sugarloaf.) From the saddle, you will follow the ridge north among rocks and boulders, to the summit. The distance for this route is 3.8 miles round trip with 1,631 feet of gain. (See YouTube clip of this route courtesy of WasatchHiker.com on Utahadventurer.com along with this online article).

Northern Ridge: From Cecret Lake you will notice a ski service dirt road about 100 yards to the north. This road will be your trail that will lead you up to the base of Sugarloaf Mt. There are several ways to get from Cecret Lake to this dirt road.

The most scenic route is via the trail that travels up the steep hill just north of Cecret Lake that gives you some great photo shots with turquoise-colored Cecret Lake behind it. This trail ends and you have to find your way through the field of flowers another 50 yards up to the dirt road, which is easy to do because you will see the road directly to your northwest.

An easier way to the dirt road, is to take one of the short trails coming off the north end of Cecret Lake. The ski service road will be heading up the hill southward. Follow this road up the hill as it winds up through a ski run to the base of Sugarloaf Mt. (See photos of this road in our online photo gallery on Utahadventurer.com).

You will see the top of the Sugarloaf ski lift to your left. Continue on up the trail that veers off to the right of the lift, and switchbacks up the northwest side of this mountain to the summit. The distance for this route is 3.4 miles round trip with 1,631 feet of gain.

The summit of Sugarloaf allows you to see the turquoise-colored waters of Cecret Lake and the surrounding mountains including the top of the Snowbird tram station on Hidden Peak, American Fork Twin Peaks, Mt. Timpanogos, Mill Canyon Peak, Devil’s Castle and Sunset Peak.

Tina Crowder is an avid hiker and peak bagger and manages the Facebook pages, Hike the Wasatch and Wasatch Peak Baggers. You can contact her at tinatcrowder@gmail.com.