Last week we drove up to Silver Lake, and hiked up to Lake Solitude, while on the trail I looked out and saw the road to Guardsman Pass it had some great fall color and I really wanted to check it out. We didn’t because of the snow. While researching it, I discovered Bloods Lake and decided to add that to the adventure. Bloods Lake is a short 1 mile out and back hike to a high elevation lake and sounded pretty interesting. Today was an exceptionally beautiful day, so I decided we should go check it out finally.
To get here, drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon, past Solitude, but before Brighton there is a marked turnoff to the left. If you miss it, don’t worry, Brighton is a loop road, and you will be back again before you know it, with a right turn this time. I did notice last week that it is not signed from this direction. About 3 miles up from the turnoff is the actual pass, which has the parking lot for the trailhead.
The mountains still as colorful as ever. (Drive By Photo). We are certainly enjoying an extended fall this year.
Not far after the turnoff, there is a pullout next to the seasonal closure gates. Here is the view from it.
And the accidental Mickey Mouse above.
Back to the drive. Lovely through the pines. (DBP)
Unfortunately, it appears the aspens are all done for the season up here. :( (DBP) I really am just not having the best luck this year. However, I am still enjoying this drive.
And the view from Guardsman Pass. WOW! Guardsman Pass is 9700 feet above sea level. To put that in perspective, Salt Lake City is about 4330 ft. and Brighton Ski Resort is 8755. So you know, you climb about a thousand feet to this pass in 3 miles from the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
After struggling to find a place to park in the very small and crowded parking lot, we were ready to explore. We found the trailhead, or at least what we believed to be the trailhead, because the sign had long ago faded away. Either way, it seemed to be right so a hiking we went.
Now, just a word of warning, because the trail starts at the pass, this is one of those backwards trails. Meaning you start at the top going downhill, and have to return uphill. These kinds of trails can be tricky because you don’t know how difficult it will be coming back. This trail is short enough that it probably isn’t a problem though.
For the most part, the trail was pretty easy.
Another extraordinary view.
First glimpse of the lake. From here, the previously easy trail starts down pretty steeply. It’s not too bad, but it is definitely steep.
After scrambling down the side of the hill, the trail splits so you can go around either direction. We opted to go right, as there were some people to the left.
Clear enough to see the large log.
I love the way the one turned out, with some great blue skies.
Reflections in a swampy section.
From the small peninsula on the western shore.
I love the color of this lake.
Not far beyond this there is a land slide cutting off the trail. So we backtracked to get around the other side.
Someone made a little raft!
Here is the small outlet.
What I thought was another small peninsula turned out to be an island.
Even though it is an island, you can still get onto it. Here is the view from it.
And the peak above the lake. Here you can see the landslide that stopped us from getting around
And a panoramic.
Continuing around the lake, the trail is quite a bit more thin.
Looking back across the lake. You can just make out the trail down.
Before long this little trail kind of fizzled out so we turned around again.
There is a steep side trail going up the hill. Not sure where it heads. Probably the peak.
Little camp site. And some snow left over from last weekends snow storm we were lucky enough to experience first hand.
Better shot of the little island.
Heading back out of this little bowl.
A last parting shot of the lake.
And now we just have to climb up this. Actually, it was easier, footing wise, to get up than down. Not so easy on the lungs though.
Dry stream bed, or snowmelt trail maybe.
The only flower I saw on the trail. Probably the last one of the season.
Looking towards the peak, and the crowded parking lot. You emerge from Big Cottonwood Canyon between those 2 groups of pines the actual pass (the highest point of the road) appears to be just to the right.
Panoramic from Guardsman Pass looking into the Heber Valley.
This shot kind of shows the road going down the other side. It doesn’t look too bad.
Well that was a great little hike with a beautiful lake! It is pretty popular, but we got lucky and had the lake to our selves for most of our visit. Now we are going to finish our fall drive into Park City.
View from one of the curves. (DBP)
Another section of the road (DBP). I wish we hadn’t missed the color. We will have to try earlier next year.
Hills and clouds. (DBP)
Not far down from the pass the road splits. Left will take you to Park City, right will take you towards Midway and Heber (there is a small sign pointing towards Park City). We went Left.
Somewhere beyond Empire Pass (from what I can tell, but not verified: 8936 ft.) heading into Park City. So the whole loop (at least this direction) is completely paved. (DBP)
Passing through Park City.
A nice valley shot down Parleys Canyon (DBP). Oh, Parleys Summit is 7120 ft. So Guardsman is quite a bit higher.
Familiar ground. Back in the Salt Lake Valley. (DBP)
The hike: The hike out to Bloods Lake was awesome. Absolutely beautiful even this late in the year. I had never even heard of it before a few days ago as I was researching the drive, but it is a popular little trail. At about a mile out and back (plus whatever you decide to do around the lake) it is definitely one of the prettier high elevation lakes we have done. I want to remove a squirrel for the lake of signage and the crowds, but it really was a terrific trail 10 out 10. It was mostly easy, with a short steep section towards the lake. Going with a DR3 for difficulty.
The fall drive: Unfortunately, we did this one too late in the year and missed all of the color. I can tell from all the naked aspens, that it is probably spectacular earlier in the year. Not going to rate it just yet just for that reason. I will say, as far as small mountain roads go, it wasn’t too bad. It is only a little scary right up near the pass on either direction, but we have definitely driven scarier routes. *cough*, Crater Lake, *cough*. And it is paved all the way.
Dogs: Dogs are welcome at Bloods Lake, but are not allowed in Big Cottonwood Canyon. So if you come from the Park City end, then turn around and leave that way, your furry friend is welcome.