Lake Blanche / Sundial Peak

Sundial Peak


4300′ gain

10.5 miles round trip (my circuitous route)

Class 3


I was looking for another hike to do to kill time today, so I pulled out the trusty Tri-Canyon topo map and zeroed in on Big Cottonwood Canyon. Lake Blanche looked nice and had a peak nearby (Sundial Peak) so that’s what I chose to do.

I got a later-than-usual start on the trail, starting at around 8:20. The Lake Blanche trail is rocky but fairly well graded for a Wasatch trail – I saw lots of people and families enjoying themselves on the moderate trail.

Wildcat Ridge in the morning
Climbing up to the lake

Morning is a really good time to do this trail. It does get hot in the afternoon, even in the shade, but in the morning the canyon wall darkens the trail the entire length up to the lake. Soon enough I came up on a waterfall.

Waterfall: big by Wasatch standards

Finally, Sundial Peak comes into view, indicating that the lake is close.

First glimpse of Sundial Peak

The lake was beautiful as expected. I reached the lake in 1:15 then headed West towards the other two smaller lakes to try to find my way to Sundial.

Lake Blanche from the northeast corner

On the east end of the lake, there are great beds of wildflowers. I love this time of year in Utah!

Sundial with wildflowers below
Lake Blanche from the southeast corner

The correct way to get to Sundial Peak is to follow the trail to the man-made wall on the west end of Lake Blanche, then walk across via a trail just on the west side of the dam which crosses the outlet of the lake. Then bushwhack south, heading for the right (west) side of the base of Sundial. There is slabby rock with some cairns, then a set of cliff bands which gets you to a hanging canyon with scree on the left and more slabs and a meadow on the right. Do not cross to the left too early! The routes are cliffy and dangerous. Instead, continue south along the canyon bottom until you reach a low point in the ridge which is easily (ish) negotiated.

Reaching the base of sundial just before the cliff bands
Climbing up to the ridge (in the wrong spot!)

Once on the ridge, there is exposure left (and especially right) but the routefinding is fairly obvious, even if an occasional move is a bit “exciting.” After 300 yards or so you are standing on top!

Knife edge ridge
East Panorama (click to expand)
Northwest panorama (click to expand)
South and West Panorama with Sunrise and Dromedary peaks on the right
The hanging meadow and scree slope I came up
Dromedary and Sunrise Peaks
Monte Cristo Peak

I ate lunch then headed back down the ridge which was a blast. I took pics this time to give an idea of the scrambling. Not hard, but exposed.

Looking northeast off the ridge
The knife-edge
Coming off the ridge at the saddle

Coming off the ridge in the correct spot was much easier than gaining the ridge in a random gully. I headed to the meadow and found a shady spot to read a magazine. I was in no hurry to go back down where it would be a 100+ degree day in the valley.

From my shady hide out
Coming down the cliff bands looking at the three lakes

I was in the wrong spot coming down the cliff bands so that was sketchier than anticipated. I found the cairns again and made my way down to the south side of Lake Blanche, where I found a shaded rock and read for another couple of hours. It was breezy and I actually felt a little chill there for a bit which was great.

View from my perch

I headed down across the dam at the outlet to the lake and hike out quickly back to the trailhead.

Crossing the outlet of Lake Blanche
Sundial from the West end of Lake Blanche
Sundial reflected in Lake Blanche

Can’t really top that photo. The hike down was quick and uneventful (and hot) but I was glad to have escaped the heat for a little while.

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