Primitive, backpacking/hiking accessible only
Red Pine Lake is located up Little Cottonwood Canyon, on the south side of the road. Parking at the trailhead can be a bit crowded during peak season (between June and September) so arrive early in the day for a good spot. The lake is a 3-4 mile hike up the trail, most of which is rather gradual. However the last mile or so is moderately difficult.
AllTrails.com has a great detailed overview of the trail itself and the elevation gain involved. Check it out here!
No fires or pets are allowed given that Little Cottonwood Canyon is considered Watershed. So plan on cooking with a backpacking stove/cooker.
wonderful place to backpack up to during the week. can access 3 different beautiful lakes from this drainage and 2 beautiful peaks!
This can be done in a short 4 hour 7 mile out and back day hike but can be fully enjoyed as a backpacking trip. The weekend can get very busy so during the week is the best time to camp as it's likely you'll be the only overnight camper.
Nearby are the upper and lower red pine lakes in addition to a couple smaller ponds in the red pine drainage. If you make your way through the talus field to the south you can gain the ridge and summit white baldy which gives one of the best views in the entire Wasatch!
I was looking for a quick, one night out and back backpacking trip while visiting family in Utah this summer. I knew that there were some nice trails (and views) in the Cottonwood canyons, and since they are close to Park City where I was staying, I thought this would be a good choice. A helpful employee at the Salt Lake REI confirmed that Red Pine/White Pine lakes are both excellent short backpacking destinations.
The hike up to the lake starts off pretty easily, and since it follows the stream coming down, clean drinking water is always at hand. I didn't have to carry anything beyond my little half liter filter bottle. After about a mile or two, the trail gets significantly steeper and rockier, and there is one very rocky section where you have to pay attention or you'll easily wander off course, as the trail is not marked. It took me around 2 hours to make it up to the lower lake, and I carried about 18lbs.
Once at the lake, there is a sign asking that campsites be kept 200ft from the water, as the lake is a source of drinking water for the area. That's also why dogs aren't allowed on any of the Cottonwood canyon trails. I thought the best campsite was at the south end of the lake, where the stream from the upper lake feeds into the lower. There is also a nice peninsula on the west side, where I saw a few tents. I also hiked up to the upper red pine lake, which is a very steep climb. The trail is unmarked and nearly impossible to follow (at least for a first-timer), so it requires some creativity and bushwacking/rock hopping to get up there, which was fun for me. The guy at REI recommended camping at the upper lake, but it is pretty much above the treeline (10,000'+) and I had a hammock, so that wasn't an option for me. On the south end of the upper lake there is a very nice flat grassy area that is perfect for a tent, but the rest of the area is all rocks.
Both lakes were loaded with large trout, but I didn't have a fishing rod, so all I could do was look at them this time. I did see signs of an old campfire and some trout bones so someone had a tasty meal at one point. The signs say no swimming in the lake, again because of their use as drinking water reservoirs.
It stormed pretty hard in the middle of the night, and since the lake is up near the top of the mountain, it got pretty windy. Be prepared for significant foul weather and choose your campsite appropriately.
Overall, this place is magically beautiful, and at least during the week in mid August, is relatively uncrowded at night. There are a lot of day hikers but not too many overnighters. I highly recommend this area!