Brighton Lakes Loop Trail – Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Lake Mary

The Brighton Lakes Trail is located near the end of Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. We parked at the Silver Lake Education Center but you can also park at the Brighton Ski Resort. Hiking and camping were the primary summer recreation since dog walking and swimming were not allowed. Parking was free and the Silver Lake Education Center had water fountains and restrooms. My cell phone service was intermittent.

We hiked a 6.0 mile counter-clockwise loop with a range in elevation of 1,100 feet. I think most people explore the Brighton Lakes by starting from the ski resort because it results in a shorter hike. We were up for a longer adventure and wanted to check out the Twin Lakes Reservoir so we started from Silver Lake.


From the education center, we walked along the northeastern end of Silver Lake. In August 2010, I saw moose only 20 feet away from the Silver Lake wood platform.

Silver Lake Interpretive Trail
Silver Lake Interpretive Trail

After a short distance on the wood platform interpretive trail, we made a right turn onto a dirt trail and then followed a sign for “Twin Lakes Trail” which quickly had us make a left turn. After a short segment through Aspen trees, the landscape opened up.


The open landscape gave us views of Silver Lake and the canyon below.

view of Silver Lake

It was standing here that we saw some Indian paintbrush.

Indian paintbrush
Indian paintbrush

With a gain in elevation of 600 feet, the ascent up to Twin Lakes Reservoir was the steepest and most prolonged on our loop. There were a couple of ambiguous trail intersections. We were successful in reaching the reservoir by staying to the right of what appeared to be a dried up creek bed.


We found the reservoir by hiking up to its northeastern corner. The shoreline offered plenty of space to set up a picnic.

Twin Lakes Reservoir
Twin Lakes Reservoir

Here, we saw a Uinta Ground Squirrel scurrying between the rocks.

Uinta Ground Squirrel
Uinta Ground Squirrel

This video captured the scene at the reservoir.

Without any trail signs, we continued towards Lake Mary by walking down and away from the reservoir and then back up to the reservoir’s southeast corner.


From there, we followed a narrow trail along a ridge.


It led us through several areas of pine trees.


We were fortunate to have a sunny day with no storms in the forecast because that allowed us to do this extended loop without any stress. Notably, the shaded areas were few and far between.


In between sections of smooth trail was a large area of scree.


After an additional 200 feet of elevation gain, we arrived at Lake Mary’s northwest corner.

Lake Mary
Lake Mary

Up to this point, we’d only crossed paths with a few hikers so it had been a peaceful experience. This next video was taken from the northwest shoreline.

We walked along the northern shore, down away from the lake, around the cabin in the next photo, and then back up to the lake to pick up the trail in the direction of Lake Martha.


From the cabin, we had a view of Brighton below.


Lake Mary was the busiest of the lakes with several groups of people hanging out on itsĀ  shores; some were fishing and others were relaxing. In addition, we saw a group of backcountry campers several hundred feet up the ridge from the shore. We hiked along the eastern border of Lake Mary to get to Lake Martha.


After a short and easy walk, we came within viewing range of Lake Martha. The photo below illustrates the long distance between the trail and the lake.

Lake Martha
Lake Martha

We continued south on the same trail to head to Lake Catherine. It was an additional 200 feet of elevation gain on mostly smooth and gently sloping terrain.

IMG_0876There was a fork in the trail near the shoreline ridge of Lake Catherine. The main trail continued to the right and headed up to Catherine Pass, which we were too tired to reach. Instead, we walked left to a dead end at the water’s edge.

Lake Catherine
Lake Catherine

The next video features Lake Catherine’s tranquil landscape.

Before we left, we saw another Uinta Ground Squirrel.

Uinta Ground Squirrel
Uinta Ground Squirrel

From here, we backtracked to Lake Mary, where several people told us they had seen two moose crossing the trail. We headed down from Lake Mary in the direction of Dog Lake and were lucky to spot one of them about a hundred feet off of the trail.

zoomed-in look at a moose

Near the place where the moose had crossed the trail was what I believe to be his scat, which looked much different than the pellets I saw on Mt. Aire.

moose scat

We progressed down from Lake Mary and made a quick stop at Dog Lake.

dog lake
Dog Lake

The trail down from there was wide and smooth, which makes it the more popular route to all of the lakes we visited. Although we found this section to be the least interesting, we would bring our kids up this way instead of via Silver Lake because it provided a shorter and easier route to Lake Mary.


We finished our loop at the Brighton Ski Resort parking lot. From there, we walked a short distance along the road to where we had parked at the Silver Lake Education Center.

Brighton Ski Resort

In sum, we thoroughly enjoyed our extended loop to all of the Brighton Lakes. Other fun Big Cottonwood Canyon trails we’ve hiked are Willow Heights, Doughnut Falls, and Peak 10,420.

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