Hiking Willow Lake, Utah – A Big Cottonwood Canyon Easy Hike


Article Categories: Hiking

Willow Lake is a popular and family friendly small lake hike that features gorgeous aspen groves, and views of Solitude Ski Resort. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this hike.

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Difficulty – Easy
Distance – 2.31 miles round trip (3.72 km)
Height – 8,508 feet (2593.24 m)
Elevation gain – 662 feet (201.78 m)
Duration – 1.5 – 2 hours (book time)
Trailhead Location – “Willow Heights” On Big Cottonwood Canyon Road (7,933 Feet)
Dogs – Not allowed on this trail


Need To Know Information

  • Dogs are not allowed on this hike.
  • Parking is located along the road, and not in a parking lot. It can fill up during foliage season.
  • Swimming is not allowed in any of the lakes in this area.
  • This is a popular hike, and you will encounter people.
  • This lake appears to be too shallow to hold fish as it completely freezes each year.

Trail Map

Willow Lake, Utah - Trail Map

Click to enlarge map

Download GPX File For This HIke




Willow Lake Via Big Cottonwood Canyon Road – 2.31 miles round trip (3.72 km) – 662 feet (201.78 m) Elevation Gain

Directions to the parking area on the road are below.

Hikers begin at the path that leads up from the road right next to the yellow speed limit sign. Immediately the hike begins with a solid but reasonable incline into the forest. The trail is very easy to follow. 0.1 miles in, hikers reach a junction that isn’t marked, here they can go in either direction as they both go to the lake. They are similar distances and similar steepness, so it doesn’t matter much which direction hikers take. We recommend going up, and down the other simply for variation.

If hikers start by going left at the first junction, they will reach another unmarked junction. At this junction they should continue to the right (the more uphill looking direction.)

The entire trail remains with a steady incline until it begins flattening out slightly near an open field just before the lake. Here there are fantastic views of the surrounding mountains.

Hikers at the end of this field will have the option to do a loop to go around the lake. Our recommendation is to do a counterclockwise loop around the lake which takes hikers through a stunning aspen grove before looping all the way around Willow Lake. For this hike, it is worth doing the entire loop as it is quick, flat, and the aspen groves are beautiful.


Hiking in Winter

This is a fantastic winter hike. Microspikes are recommended in winter months, and snowshoes may be required depending upon snow levels.


Camping Information

Because of the ease of access and common moose sightings, many people camp in this area. As you hike around the lake, on the western side, you’ll find dispersed campsites that are often used. No permits are required.


Fishing Willow Lake

This lake appears to be too shallow to hold fish as it likely freezes completely in winter.



Here is a detailed weather forecast for the area:

Alta, UT

Memorial Day
Sunny, with a high near 55. West northwest wind around 6 mph.

Mostly clear. Low around 41, with temperatures rising to around 43 overnight. South wind around 7 mph.

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Sunny, with a high near 60. South wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Tuesday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 42. South wind 6 to 10 mph.

A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 58. Southwest wind 8 to 12 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 36.

Sunny, with a high near 51.



Willow Heights Trailhead:



Additional Pictures

Views of Solitude Ski Resort

Views of Solitude Ski Resort

Willow Lake, Utah

Willow Lake, Utah

Willow Lake Trailhead

Willow Lake Trailhead

Aspen groves near the trailhead

Aspen groves near the trailhead

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about

One Response

  1. Max DesMarais October 2, 2022

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