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Dog Lake (Big Water) Trail

The run up Big Water Trail to Dog Lake is one of the classic Salt Lake City rides. If you're a Wasatch biker, you simply have to make this trip. While this 6-mile out-and-back is short on grand mountain vistas, the trail is smooth and fast, the slope isn't brutal, and the wildflowers and trees are awesome. 

Dominic rides along the shore of Dog Lake. Photos August 10, 1999 by Bruce

The gate to Upper Mill Creek doesn't open until July. By riding up the road, the trail can be done in early June. Snow will usually close the trail by late October. Bikes are allowed on this trail ONLY on even-numbered days!

View up the Big Water Trail, about 1/4 mile uphill from the lower parking lot.

After the first 1-1/2 miles, the Big Water trail separates from the Upper Mill Creek Canyon (Great Western) trail. (The GW trail takes you another 1600 feet vertical to the Wasatch Crest.) The Dog Lake trail becomes a bit steeper and rougher, but still not too tough.

Dominic grinds up the smooth Big Water Trail through pines and wildflowers.

Little Water and Upper Big Water trails are optional routes back from Dog Lake, but are steeper than the Big Water trail.

Elderberry, currants, and wild strawberry are common along the trail.

Dog Lake is a total of 3.1 miles from the trailhead, with a total vertical rise of around 900 feet. Lake GPS is N 40 40.064' W 111 38.331'. At Dog Lake, kick back and have lunch, then enjoy a high-speed cruise back down. It's over all too soon.

As you climb higher, there will be occasional meadows in the aspen and fir forest.

Dogs are allowed on Mill Creek Canyon trails, but don't take Fido over the ridge into Big Cottonwood Canyon! About 150 feet past Dog Lake, dogs are absolutely outlawed. If you're caught with a dog in Big Cottonwood, you WILL be busted, you WILL go to court, and the fine is NOT trivial!

What description of Dog Lake would be complete without a photo of a dog at the lake? Here Jackie, the Mad Scientist's biking-fool Jack Russell terrier, plays on the shore of Dog Lake. August 10, 1999

The trail continues past Dog Lake over the ridge into Big Cottonwood Canyon, to join the Mill D North Fork trail, from which you can head up to Desolation Lake, or drop down to the Big Cottonwood road near Reynolds Flat.

As you pass Dog Lake southbound, the right fork drops steeply down the gulch. It's often nasty. The newer trail to the left has a more gentle downward pitch as it heads east. When it joins Mill D North, you can keep straight and begin climbing to Desolation Lake, or make a hard right turn downhill to descend Mill D North to the Big Cottonwood Canyon road.

Gary cruises along the shore of Dog Lake.

Getting there: Get to Foothill Blvd on the east bench of Salt Lake City via I-215. Exit at 39th South. Take 3800 South eastbound into the Canyon. Drive all the way to the top of the canyon, where the Big Water Trail parking area will be obvious at GPS N 40 40.922' W 111 38.914'.

(Note: the gate to upper Mill Creek Canyon is open to cars July 1 to November 1. Mountain bikes are only allowed on upper Mill Creek trails on EVEN numbered days!) There is a fee of $3 per car (2012).

Dog Lake Trail Map

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Dog Lake GPX via Big Water    Dog to Mill D North
     Dog Lake GPX from Little Water    Area multi-track file
High-res topo (printable):   View map  
Lodging, camping, shops:
       Links to southern SLC resources
       Links to northern SLC resources

Copyright 1999 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Topo map updated 2017