Sunday Drive: A hike to tranquility

Tom Kelly
Sunday Drive

Blue skies and puffy white clouds reflected off shimmering ripples of water in the clear mountain lake. Up above was Clayton Peak, standing sentinel along the ridgelines between Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Wasatch Back.

For years, Bloods Lake was somewhat of a clandestine destination for hikers from Guardsman Pass, angling down from the trail past no trespassing signs to the pristine mountain lake below. Today, thanks to the city’s acquisition of Bonanza Flat in 2017 and the installation of parking and trailheads, the newly developed Bloods Lake Trail, opened in 2019, has become one of the most popular in the Wasatch. The trail is well designed to offer hikers of any ability level an opportunity to easily reach a secluded mountain lake.

As much as I love the infrastructure the city has built in Bonanza Flat, I still have fond memories of Sundays past up at Guardsman Pass, risking life on the four-wheel drive up the old dirt road in our Jeep Wrangler, watching tire placement on narrow sections where the roadway had eroded away and a slip of a tire meant a few hundred foot drop down the embankment. The hike up 10,420 offered panoramic views in every direction and meetups with friends from town. Hardy hikers continued on to Clayton Peak, while others dropped down to Bloods Lake.

We arrived early at the lot, following the trail through groves of aspen and stands of pines. Rounding a corner, we encountered a Yellowstone-like backup as hikers paused to get a glimpse of two moose bedded down.

Stone benches at turnouts provided a brief respite, offering expansive views down to the flats below. There were a few touches of red and yellow on the leaves, but you could start to imagine the rainbow of color that was just a week or two away.

The trail climbs easily but steady before dipping down into a canyon. Then it’s a steeper switchback climb up to Bloods Lake — manageable for hikers of any ability, but it will get your heart pumping.

The lake is an idyllic scene set at the base of a tree-covered cliff. You can walk around much of the lake or rest on one of the secluded benches. Its amphitheater-like setting offers a tranquil space away from your cares of the world.

There’s a bit of mystery and intrigue around the Bloods Lake name. Some think it may extend back to Utah Gov. Henry D. Blood, who brought Utah through the latter stages of the Great Depression from 1933-41. It first appears by that name on 1960 maps.

Known to locals years ago as Judge Lake, Bloods was part of the so-called Park City Lake Country under the ridgeline that separates Big Cottonwood Canyon from the Wasatch Back. Down below are Silver Lake, Brimhall Lake and Silver Lake Islet, all on the property of Camp Cloud Rim. But energetic hikers can continue on past Bloods Lake for another mile to Lackawaxen Lake, sitting above 10,000 feet below a steep cliff up to Clayton Peak.

After a relaxing hour at Bloods Lake, we opted for the Lupine Trail back down, a gently-sloping pitch which offers some stunning views as soon-to-turn aspens before winding back up to the trailhead.

It was a tranquil day in the mountains!


Getting There: Simply drive up S.R. 224, Marsac Drive, up through Empire Pass and on toward Guardsman Pass. 

Parking: Get there early for a parking place on the trailhead or take advantage of the amazing Transit to Trails program, offering free shuttle service from town up to the mountain trailheads. Parking on weekends is especially busy!

What to Bring: Good hiking shoes, plenty of water, binoculars to spot moose from a safe distance.

The Trail: It’s about a 3.25 mile round trip with just under 500 feet of vertical. Plan to take the Bloods Lake Trail up then loop back on the Lupine Trail for your return — an especially colorful route as the leaves turn.

Dogs?: While dogs on a leash are welcome on much of the trail, they are no longer allowed at Bloods Lake itself, despite what you might read in other trail reviews. Dogs are permitted at Lake Lackawaxen, another mile past Bloods Lake.


Ridgelines: It’s about the athletes

Emotion permeated the air last Friday night as snow drifted down from the heavens around Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, reflecting in the orange glow of the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron. On stage were three generations of athletes. Some of them basked in the glow of memories from the days they won their gold, silver or bronze medals, while younger future stars had big eyes from sharing moments with their heroes.

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