Willow Lake Trail Professional Reviews and Guides
"You’ll find quick and safe access to the Park City/Big Cottonwood ridgeline here, and a relatively safe area to ski—even when avalanche hazard is considerable. Signatures in USA Bowl are the envy of skiers at Solitude Ski Resort."
--Tyson Bradley, Backcountry Skiing Utah (Falcon Guides).
"The hike to Willow Heights is less trafficked than others in the area and a favorite for locals. It’s filled with wildflowers, colorful aspens, and an abundance of wildlife, and it leads to a secluded mountain meadow lake."
--Greg Witt and Rob Witt, Best Easy Day Hikes: Salt Lake City (Falcon Guides).
"A short, little-known hike to a high meadow and lake. Situated at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Willow Heights is filled with wildflowers and wildlife, and attracts few people."
--Greg Witt, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City (Menasha Ridge Press).
"The trail to Willow Heights Pond provides a quick, pleasant outing when you want a short route, a quick climb, a picnic in a place of solitude, or a day with the kids. The trail runs through beautiful aspen groves, which makes fall an especially colorful time to hit the trail, and in summer the trees shade the route nicely. Don’t be fooled by the shortness of the route; it’s still a workout, gaining 600 feet of elevation in 0.75 mile. Enjoy the protected status of the conservation area, and keep an eye out for wildlife."
--Lori J. Lee, Best Hikes Near Salt Lake City (Falcon Guides).
"Willow Fork, or “the Willows,” is a generally low-angle and avy-safe backcountry ski area across the highway from Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It’s a lesser known but awesome place for either a short tour or an all-day yo-yo fest where you can ﬁnd open, low-angle bowls next to steep tree runs covered in well-spaced pines. Willow Fork also provides easy access to the Wasatch Crest, where you can ski into the north-facing and avalanche-prone West and South Monitor bowls. To the east of Willow Fork is USA Bowl, a marquee line where skiers at Solitude can look upon your backcountry powder tracks with jealousy."
--Jared Hargrave, Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Utah (The Mountaineers Books).
FR194, more commonly known as Forest Lake ROAD, is maintained by the Forest Service for motorized use. Complaining about the vehicles present is like going to a kite convention and getting mad about all the string.
Like everywhere else up American Fork Canyon, the Forest Lake road is beautiful but overused. It's about two miles from the stream crossing on FR085 to the lake (puddle) shore. Drivers will find the most technical bits right away, and once past the rock gardens at the beginning the road mellows out to mostly a rough and narrow dirt two track. The top of the road terminates at a small glacial scoop - not the best for swimming, and there's no fish. It's not really a lake, it's barely a pond in fact - we like to call it Forest Mud Puddle. A couple smaller singletracks open to hikers/bikers/horses/motorcycles but closed to ATVs and 4WDs leave from the Forest Lake basin.
Nonmotorized users on this road should be aware that is it in fact a jeep road that is very frequently used by trucks and SUVs with the capability to traverse it safely (and sometimes by those without). You will see and hear motor vehicles (especially on weekends), you will see tire tracks where there should not be tire tracks and trash where there should not be trash. If these things offend you, perhaps you should try hiking on a hiking trail.
Motorized users on this road should STAY ON THE ROAD. Do not detour around mud pits or rock gardens - if you can't drive the road as it sits, you don't belong on it. Please take the time to read the trail rules posted at the beginning of the trail and follow them, and please Tread Lightly. I don't want to see your tire tracks in the grass or your trash on the side of the trail any more than non-motorized users do.
This is one of the nicest mountain lakes I have ever visited. The backdrop of aspen, pine, patches of snow and towering peaks are beautiful. I hiked on a Monday, so I was up there alone the hike and the views were AWESOME. I would give this a five star, but on the way back I passed 3 motorcycles and two vehicles attempting to make the climb… not what I hiker likes to see. Even with the moto vehicles this is a must hike!
The lake is pretty, but is surrounded by jeep roads crisscrossing and otherwise defacing the entire area. The road in (its NOT a trail) is rutted, eroded and just a plain eye-sore.
There is a TRAIL that leaves from the left hand side of the lake (as viewed while approaching the lake from the road). This trail is quite steep, and climbs only 1/2 mile or so at the most, but intersects the Ridge 157 Trail. There are some great views of the lake and the surrounding mountains from the top of the trail. This trail would rate at least 3-Stars and maybe four except for the ugly scars of jeep roads all over.
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