Beartrap Fork is a steep, narrow hike with breathtaking views of the Wasatch Mountain Range and Desolation Lake. It’s unique for the number of natural habitats you’ll encounter: old deciduous forests, glades of waist-high wildflowers, aspen groves, and mountain meadows. The trail tops on an arid, rocky ridge.
What Makes It Great
The trail starts at 7,055 feet in elevation and tops out on the Crest Trail at about 9300 feet. Round trip, the hike is approximately 8 miles. Be watchful when you reach the top—the dirt trail at the peak is the Crest Trail and is frequented by mountain bikers. They aren’t usually expecting hikers.
Big Cottonwood Canyon is a watershed, so no dogs or pets are allowed. Be sure to pack out what you pack in. And carry plenty of water—2 liters per person at least. There are some exposed, dry sections and most of the hike is uphill. This hike isn’t recommended for small children—they’d do better coming up from the Mill D North Fork Trailhead. The best time of day to hike Beartrap Fork is early morning, especially during the summer. Lots of insects come out around noon, and the hike back through waist-high vegetation can be very uncomfortable.
If you hit the top of Beartrap and find yourself needing to go a little further, follow the Crest Trail north—it will drop you down and around the lake basin and you can hike the lake shore. If you’re still feeling restless, hike out from the northwest side of Desolation Lake. That trail will drop you out at the Mill D North Fork Trailhead, several miles below where you parked, but walking up the shoulder of Big Cottonwood Canyon Road is fairly safe.
After a hike like Beartrap, you need a cool, dim place with an amazing beer list. Try The Bayou, on State Street in downtown Salt Lake City. It’s a 15-minute drive from the canyon, and they have the biggest beer list in town (although they're still restricted to the Utah tap rules: only 4% beers on tap). The menu consists of a hearty mix of pub standards, pizzas, and Cajun-influenced dishes.
Who is Going to Love It
The Beartrap Fork Trail has a few challenging spots, so it’s best for folks who are in pretty good shape and are used to hiking at higher altitudes. Children and families may find the hike to be too much.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To find the trailhead, drive approximately 10 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon, past Spruces Campground. Look for Lower Pine Tree Road on your right, and immediately look for a low metal gate with a Watershed informational sign on your left. The gate is the trailhead. Past the gate, follow the washout about 40 feet up to an old utility road and take the trail to your left up the hill. About a quarter mile up the trail, you'll come to a clearing—a wide four-wheel track doubles back to the left, but Beartrap continues up the narrower path ahead of you. Beyond that, the trail is very clear until you reach the final ridge—then it's just a scramble uphill. Parking is free, and the trailhead is open year-round, 24 hours a day.