Bloods Lake is nothing like its name suggests. Tucked just below Guardsman Pass at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, this little body of water boasts an island, a rock cliff, and an alpine forest. The hike down is beautiful, wandering between big, old conifer trees and revealing wide views of the Heber valley. The hike is pretty flat until you reach the lake, where there’s a short descent.
What Makes It Great
The hike to Bloods Lake is short and easy, so it’s great for the whole family. The lake is beautiful and, while there are usually folks with their dogs, you can always find a quiet little corner to enjoy. Guardsman Pass is closed in the winter, so this hike is best for late spring, summer, and fall when the snow has melted. Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon, and take the left-hand road just past Solitude Mountain Resort—there’s a big green directional sign indicating Guardsman and Empire Passes to the left.
You’ll climb to about 9,800 feet and emerge onto a steep overlook and parking lot. The gorgeous high alpine terrain looks like a scene from The Sound of Music. This parking area serves several different trails, including one of the most popular mountain bike trails in the Salt Lake area (the Wasatch Crest Trail), so parking can be a challenge during the warmer months. If you park facing the valley, the Bloods Lake trail starts to your left and continues downhill. The total distance to the lake is .6 miles, and you descend about 300 feet as you wind down to the lake.
Guardsman Pass and Bloods Lake are dog-friendly, if you come up from the Park City side. Chances are, there will be lots of folks at the lake with their furry friends if the weather is nice. Dogs aren’t allowed in Big Cottonwood Canyon, though—not even in the car. You are also welcome to wade or swim in Bloods Lake when the water is warm enough. Always be sure to carry out or bury anything they leave behind and respect other hikers by leashing them when others are around.
Who is Going to Love It
This hike is great for children—there are rocks to scramble over and water to play in and a little improvised bridge to get you onto the island. And the adults will enjoy the beauty and the serenity of Bloods Lake’s little nook.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The parking area is shared by hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers who use it to access a variety of trails in the area, so parking can be scarce during peak times. Be prepared to wait a few minutes until something opens up. The area is always open, except for winter, and makes for great moonlight hikes, as well.
A good finish to an evening of easy play is a hearty dinner—Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery in Park City has a thoughtful menu for the little ones and a good variety to please any adult, including their brewed-on-site beers. The location at the top of Main Street is good—you get a nice view of the city and the chance to ride the free trolley back down to where you parked. If you’re heading back down to the Salt Lake Valley, try the Silver Fork Lodge for lunch or dinner. A favorite among fans of Big Cottonwood Canyon, the Silver Fork is open daily from 8AM to 9PM.