Sunday, September 20, 2015

Twin Lakes Reservoir and Silver Lake

Twin Lakes Reservoir is an alpine reservoir at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Named so because originally 2 lakes were combined when the reservoir was built. It is a little bit of a tougher climb but it is a really pretty climb that also allows an exceptional view of Silver Lake below.

Quick Details:

Length: 1 mile to twin lakes reservoir, 8/10 of a mile around silver lake. Total 2.8 miles. If you decide not to go around silver lake, and go counterclockwise around Silver Lake from the parking lot maybe 2.2 miles total.
Difficulty: Silver Lake: DR2 easy peasy mostly board walked. Twin Lakes DR5 a lot of up and rocky.
Elevation Gain: Silver Lake: Negligible, Twin Lakes: 710 feet.
Restroom: Yes at the Silver Lake parking lot. Flush toilettes.

To get here head up Big Cottonwood Canyon.As you enter the one way loop road at the top, look for the Silver Lake Information Center on the right (first driveway on the right). General Store on the left. If you make it to the big Brighton parking lot, you went too far.

You will have to walk around silver lake as the trail head is near the back end of it. I recommend going right (counter clockwise) as the trail head is a little closer from that direction.

I wanted to get in some fall color today. I know the color is still near the tops of the mountains so I figured somewhere near Brighton. I was leaning towards doing Lake Solitude again, but figured we would get up there, have a look around and decide on a trail from there.


Near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The hills are definitely starting to get some color (Drive By Photography (DBP)).


Near the top of the canyon, starting to get some yellows (DBP).


Color above silver lake.


From the first bridge.


Looking towards Mt. Millicent. Todays hike will bring us a bit closer to that peak.

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Oh good they put the signs back. Looks like it might be new, so maybe it was replaced.


Beautiful yellows.


My hiking stick kept acting like a trash picker. I was very happy to have this guy today though.


At the last minute I changed my mind and decided to go up to Twin Lakes. We have done it before, but it has been over 6 years, and we got rained out when we hit the lake and were not able to explore. Where we just did Lake Solitude last year.





Well success! I still got some great fall color!


Ruins of an old cabin of some sort.


More color.


A new pine tree growing from a broken stump.


Fantastic color up here.


Looking up.


Open landslide section. I remembered this part and for some reason I got a little nervous here. That is until I actually did it, it is not scary in the slightest. The trail is quite wide, the slope is not that steep. It’s fine. I’d bring the kids up here.


Plus, it offers this incredible view of Silver Lake below.

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Quick panoramic. I believe that is Peak 10,420 and Clayton Peak to the right there.


From a little higher up.


Zooming in a little closer. This weird stuff in the lake is new in the last 2 years. It kind of looks like the pine pollen we saw at Crater Lake so I wonder if that’s all it is, and usually we come in the spring or summer. Last year was the first time we came in the fall, so I am leaning towards that being what it is.


The rest of the trail is REALLY rocky.


More color.


Looking towards Guardsman Pass. Looks like we chose wisely as the color isn’t as vivid out that way.

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A couple patches of orange.


The dam.


The overflow valve is completely dry.


And we finally made it to the lake!


Which appears to be really low right now. It looks the the twins may almost be separate again.


Quite a few feet of dam above the water.

We decided to walk around the lake and explore a bit.


The lake through the trees.


Mt. Millicent.


More through the trees.


Getting near the back twin.


Amazing up here.


The dam just looks, weird against the peaks in the background.


Different shore levels. I would guess the strong middle line is normal, and the strong higher line is high level. And then the lower lines are just from the current drought conditions.


A little closer.


The narrow channel between the 2 lakes.


The back lake. Where I am currently standing, I would be completely underwater if the reservoir was full.


Old stump.


Color up on this peak.


Some snow leftover from last weeks storm.


Looking back towards the front lake.

After relaxing and enjoying the lake we decided it was time to head back down.


Patch of orange.

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Another panoramic.


Dry spillway.


The dam and Mt Millicent in the background.


The lake from as far back as I could get on the dam. You can see it is fenced off from the photo above.


Even way up here at about 9500 ft of elevation fall is just starting, but it looks fantastic.

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Panoramic of the peaks across the canyon.


Empty spillway.


The “Mickey Mouse” mine pile. and some fall color creeping in.


On the way up I noticed a few people on this side trail, decided to try it on the way down. It’s thin, it’s a little more steep, but definitely less rocky. Not sure if it is a better option on the way up, but it sure was on the way down. It basically parallels the original trail as you can see, through the most rocky section of trail.

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My first thought was wow, they really mean it. My second, when someone is skiing, how are they going to read all that? (quick gist: leaving ski patrol boundary. continue at own risk)


Getting back to that great view point.

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American pika, cute little fella. Kind of wish I had hung around a little longer to get a better picture. First time I have seen one of these guys. I did recently learn they like to hang out in boulder fields, near the tree line, so I might start hanging around those more often.


Back into the band of aspens.


I particularly like this one.


More color.


Down at the trail split, there is a warning not to go beyond Lake Solitude due to construction. Grumble, grumble. I guess I can’t complain as it really didn’t affect my plans today.


Also at the trail split, directly across from the trail down from Twin Lakes. I added this picture because on the way up there was a woman who looked a little confused here, and asked us where we came from. We said Silver Lake. She asked, is that the way down? We said, yes, it goes back to the parking lot. She thanked us and continued down. We kind of wondered how she was so lost, but now I see this and I guess I can understand why she got a little confused. Not to mention there is no sign pointing towards Silver Lake. My advice, when you come upon a trail split that looks a little confusing take a moment to look around and familiarize yourself with it, maybe even take a picture of the way back.


And we’re back to Silver Lake. Even though it is absolutely the most crowded I have ever seen it, we decided to go ahead and continue our way around it. It is a beautiful day up here after all.


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And I am glad we did continue around the lake. Moose Butt! Not long after I took this picture we realized she had a baby. She was a little closer than I was comfortable with and a crowd was gathering. So, we decided it was time to move on. Before the crowd made her nervous. Honestly, with as many people were milling about I’m surprised we saw any wildlife at all.

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Getting past all of the pine pollen and seeing the beautiful clear lake.

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Here we are below where the open area of trail was on the way up to Twin Lakes.


Crowds or not, this is a beautiful lake.


This one to just show about how crowded it is today. Constant flow of people from either direction.


Small patch of pines to walk through.


the band of color we hiked through earlier..


Beaver dam.


One last shot of the colors.

That was a great adventure! I am glad we finally made it back to Twin Lakes and got to explore the area, and it was kind of neat seeing the water level so low we could almost make out the original lakes. Even with all of the people, I always enjoy walking around Silver Lake. It really is such a pretty lake. Lastly, even though the color is just starting, it is amazing up here! I am really glad we made a point of getting up here today.

10 squirrels for Twin Lakes, and 8 for Silver Lake due to crowds. Settling on an average of 9 squirrels.

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As for difficulty, Silver Lake gets a DR2. It’s super easy family friendly. .8 mile mostly board walked loop around a beautiful lake. Good chance of seeing moose. Silver Lake is going to bump it up to a DR5. even though it is short at about 2 miles round trip, it is pretty steep and rocky.

Dogs are not allowed. Big Cottonwood Canyon is watershed so leave your furry friend at home for this adventure.

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