Imagine a beautiful, family-friendly hike where you can bring the kids that gets you high into the alpine wilderness, out of the summer heat, arrives at a stunning high mountain lake surrounded by rugged mountains, and is only a short drive from Salt Lake Valley. Sound too good to be true? Cecret Lake has long been a hidden gem that’s starting to grow in popularity, and it is a perfect family hike for a sunny summer day.
With the booming popularity of the Cottonwood Canyons, you may have a hard time finding parking if you don’t plan ahead. I’ll give you some tips for where to start and what route to take to beat the crowds and have an amazing day at Cecret Lake.
Cecret Lake Trail Details
There are two main routes to get to Cecret Lake. You can either start at the Albion Basin Campground or at the base of the Albion area of Alta Ski Resort. I highly recommend starting at the base, even though this more than doubles the length of the hike. The upper trailhead has very limited parking and fills up quickly.
Cecret Lake from Albion Basin Campground
Distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 465 ft
Dogs Allowed: No
Cecret Lake from Albion Base
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,213 ft
Dogs Allowed: No
Cecret Lake Trail Location
To reach either trailhead, you will drive to the top of the Little Cottonwood Canyon Road to Alta Ski Resort.
To get to the Albion Basin Campground Trailhead, you’ll continue past a toll booth at the end of the Alta Ski Resort parking. There is a $10 fee to continue past this point. Then you drive up the Alta Summer Road (smooth, well-maintained dirt) past the top of the Sunnyside ski lift and down to the entrance of the campground.
There is a small dirt parking parking lot, some parking along the road, and some space a half-mile back at the Catherine’s Pass Trailhead. It all fills up quickly though, especially on summer weekends. If you want to start at this upper trailhead, you want to get an early start. There is a trailhead kiosk that marks the beginning of the trail.
If you’re okay with hiking a bit farther, I’d definitely recommend starting lower down at the Albion Base of Alta Resort. Though the hike from here is longer, it is beautiful and I definitely think it’s worth it, plus, you don’t have to stress about parking.
To get to the Albion Base Trailhead, you’ll keep right before you reach the toll station and enter a large parking area that’s used during the ski season. This parking lot will never fill up in summer, so it’s a much safer bet for starting out. The trail starts at the southeast end of the parking lot, if you just start walking that direction it will be easy to find.
Cecret Lake Trail Description
I’m going to focus on the hike starting from the Albion Base because I really think this is the better way to go. The top section covers the same route you would take from the upper campground, so if you want to do the shorter hike, just skip down a few paragraphs.
From the Albion Base parking lot, you’ll start hiking Southeast along a gravel road past the Sunnyside and Albion lift bases. There is a fork less than a quarter mile in, and you’ll want to stay left in the trees.
The lower section of the trail alternates between sparse pine and aspen tree cover and wide-open meadows and ski slopes. The trail is wide, well-marked, and easy to follow. It is important to stay on the trail because, with the number of people who come up here, there have been problems with people leaving the trail and damaging vegetation.
After hiking a little over a half mile, you’ll enter a massive wide-open alpine slope as you head towards Alf’s Restaurant (closed in the summer). This is a prime area for wildflowers, and in late June and early July you’ll see an explosion of color across this open meadow area.
Around mile 1 you’ll pass near the Alf’s Restaurant. The trail skirts around the left of the building and keeps heading up into the pine trees. From here the trail starts getting steeper as you climb up the main face to Cecret Lake. Take advantage of the tree cover here for shade to rest, because as you get higher the trail becomes more exposed to the sun.
The last mile or so of the trail joins up with the trail from the Albion Basin Campground. This is the steepest, most exposed section as you climb up into the true alpine areas and out of the tree cover. As you climb, the views open up around you and you can look across the entire Albion Basin.
The final crest to Cecret lake is steep, but it’s well worth the effort. This high mountain lake is crystal clear and is surrounded by
Hiking Beyond Cecret Lake
If you are up for more of a challenge, there are several options to hike farther once you get to Cecret Lake. This entire area is beautiful and is an incredible place to explore. It’s pretty easy to spend all day hiking different trails in the Albion Basin.
This hike can become a longer loop if you head left from Cecret Lake on the Devil’s Castle Spur Trail. This trail loops around the edge of the Albion Basin and takes you under the towering cliffs of the iconic Devil’s Castle mountain. You eventually connect with a road that will take you back down to the Albion Basin Campground.
You can turn this into a truly epic hike by summiting Sugarloaf Mountain, which towers right above Cecret Lake. To get there you head left from the lake on the spur trail until you see a trail going off to the right toward the ridge. It is a steep and direct climb to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain and involves some more difficult scrambling, so it’s not the best for small kids. The panoramic view from the top are incredible though.
From the top of Sugarloaf, you can either descend the way you came or drop down the other side and come down the Sugarloaf Pass Trail.
There are dozens of different options for longer hikes in this area. It’s definitely worth coming back multiple times to explore different routes.
When To Hike the Cecret Lake Trail
Hiking Cecret Lake is best between July and early October. Come in early July for stunning wildflowers. Come in the second or third week of September to see the explosion of fall colors in the Aspens and Maples.
I’ve done this hike in early June and brought sleds to slide down the remaining spring snow. This is a super fun option with kids, though you may not be able to make it to Cecret Lake depending on the snowpack.
Tips For Hiking the Cecret Lake Trail With Kids
This is a fantastic trail for hiking with kids of any age. The difficulty is moderate and very doable with small kids with great stops to rest along the way, and the lake itself is a fantastic destination to make it worth the journey.
The lower section of the trail from the Albion Base has a few signs describing the natural fauna and flora of the area, so this makes for a great field trip to get to know more about the local wildlife.
One highlight for kids is that there is a population of Salamanders living in Cecret Lake. It can be tons of fun to walk around the shoreline keeping an eye out for Salamanders. They blend in well, so you have to be observant!
About The Author: Jakob Withyr is an outdoor adventure seeker who collects sunburns, National Park maps, and trail miles. I love anything that gets me outdoors, whether it’s on foot, on skis, on a bike, or on the open road. A Utah native, I’m most at home in mountains and deserts with clear air and bright stars.