The first hike we chose on our quest for the Hiking merit badge was up Big Cottonwood Canyon. We decided to travel the Butler Fork trail to Dog Lake. Now there are two ways to Dog from Butler: 1) a lower route through the canyon floor following the Butler Fork of Big Cottonwood Creek or 2) an upper route via the Mill A Basin and Desolation Trails that traverse along the mountain side. We had already been to Dog Lake a few days earlier via the lower route to check out our options (a 6 mile round trip). But on this day, we wanted to reach our destination along the upper route to complete our first 10 mile scout hike.
The first two miles of this route is a little rough as you gain nearly 1,000 feet of elevation per mile for the first two miles. After that, the trail is just another long scenic walk with a view almost the whole way. Most of it is exposed with very few shady sections of trail. Near the tail end of this upper trail, it does merge back up with the end of the lower trail just before you reach Dog Lake. 5 miles in, 5 miles back…DONE!
Below is the elevation profile to see what you’re in for should you choose this as one of your required five:
Here’s a Google Earth file of these two routes with waypoints to help you navigate this destination.