Cecret Lake Trail Review
July 23, 2018
If you were an amphibian, where would you want to live? How about high in Utah's Wasatch Mountains, at 9,875 feet elevation, next to a ski resort that is covered in snow for a good portion of the year? It sounds crazy, but surprisingly, Cecret Lake is totally full of Tiger Salamanders. I don't know why they choose such a strange place to live, or how they managed to get there, but Cecret Lake is a cool hiking trail and a cool lake if you want to see them.
- Distance: 1.7 Miles (round trip)
- Trail Type: Out and back
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 440 feet
- Location: All the way up Little Cottonwood Canyon
Drive all the way to the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are no turns, literally, you go all the way up the road. You'll pass Alta ski resort on your right, and will come to a tollbooth. You can either pay $6 to drive to the Cecret Lake trailhead, or skip the tollboth and park at the "Albion Base Area". Parking at the base adds about two miles each way. I opted to drive to the trailhead, which has notoriously bad parking, so we parked at "Catherine's Pass Trailhead Parking", just a short walk down the road.
We did the trail in mid-July. There were wildflowers everywhere. It isn't very difficult, though definitely don't try it with flip flops. It starts out fairly flat, and you cross a few small streams. The big pine trees and clear air along the trail are a nice change from the smog and sagebrush you'll find around Salt Lake. It was a decently busy trail, but not crowded. Along the trail we saw all sorts of ground-squirrels. They were screeching at us the whole time. We also saw a deer and hummingbird. There was a sign at the trailhead warning not to touch any "Boreal Toads" on the trail. We didn't see any. Why do so many amphibians live up there? As you get closer to the lake, it gets steeper and rockier. You may be tempted to give up, as the lake is nowhere to be seen, but keep going. Once you get to the top of the steep part, you pop out at Cecret Lake!
There isn't much to say about the lake, you really need to see it for yourself. It is surrounded by mountains, and looks really cool. There is no swimming allowed! The edge of the lake is rocky, and it looked like you could walk around the whole thing if you wanted. The highlight for me was getting close enough and looking for salamanders.
Salamanders in the Lake
The salamanders in the lake were the highlight of this trail for me. I had never seen one in the wild before, and was hoping to see one. I ended up seeing probably a hundred! The water was decently clear, and if you looked close enough, you could see salamanders swimming around. If I had to describe them, I'd say they look like fish, with flatter heads surrounded by spiky looking things. They also have little legs and arms. Like frogs, salamanders start as tadpoles, and eventually transform into land-dwelling lizard-like creatures. The only ones we saw were in between tadpole form and lizard form, swimming in the water. It was really cool to see. I wish I knew how they got all the way up the mountain into this obscure lake.
Overall it Cecret Lake is a fun, decently easy trail. I recommend it.