Silver Lake in American Fork Canyon is a beautiful high alpine lake that sits just below the Little Cottonwood Canyon ridgeline on the south side.
This moderate trail slowly gains elevation, so it’s not super hard to reach this awesome destination. The trail passes by some boulders, crosses a stream, climbs up 3-4 long switchbacks, and finally reaches the lake after only 2.2 miles (one way). This is a great hike for dogs to be off leash, and there is plenty of water for them to drink from. Bring some snacks, and take in the scenery at Silver Lake, or for those needing some extra mileage, continue on to Silver Glance Lake.
From SLC head south on I-15 and take exit 284 and turn left towards American Fork Canyon. Drive past the fee station, then turn left for Tibble Fork Reservoir. Just after the reservoir, you will make a sharp left turn with a sign for the “Horse Transfer Station” and “Granite Flats Campground”. Just before the campground, you will turn right onto the dirt road. Follow this until you reach the large parking lot and the Silver Lake TH. A small, compact car can make this drive, so 4×4 is not needed. There are restrooms at the TH, and parking for about 20-25 cars. I recommend arriving early to beat the crowds and possibly see wildlife. Here’s a driving map.
Distance: 5 miles RT to Silver Lake, 6 miles RT to Silver Glance Lake
Elevation gain: 1,400 ft to Silver Lake, 2,300 ft to Silver Glance Lake
Time: 3-5 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, to Silver Lake
Fees/Permits? There is a $6 fee to enter AF Canyon. It’s FREE if you have an annual AF Canyon Pass or annual National Park Pass. No Permits are required.
Just before the Granite Flats Campground, you will see the sign for Silver Lake. Turn here and drive until you reach the large parking lot for the TH. This is a narrow, winding, dirt road, so drive carefully.
Looking across Silver Lake Reservoir. What an awesome view of Mt. Timpanogos (to the far left).
Begin by hiking behind the TH signs, and keep left. Keep in mind that at this elevation, temperatures are a good 10-15F cooler than in the valley. If hiking early in the morning, be sure to bring gloves and a hat.
After 5-10 minutes you’ll enter the Lone Peak Wilderness! The first part of the trail is very well shaded with beautiful Aspen trees. In Fall, the colors are amazing!
I love hiking in my new Lems Primal2 shoes! They are super wide, which is perfect for my feet since having bunion surgery.
The view begins to open up and you can finally see the ridgeline. Silver Lake sits just below the saddle in the white rock.
Cross the stream. In late spring/early summer, this stream can be raging and difficult to cross. However, since we hiked this in early October, the stream was easy to cross and the water level was very low. This is a good spot to stop with the dogs so they can take a quick break and drink. Once you cross the stream, continue right.
Work your way up several long switchbacks.
The fall colors were so pretty!
Starting to get good views!
Cross the old mine dirt section.
There are plenty of spaces to sit and snack and take in the view. If you like to fish, there’s good fishing here too.
Charlie took advantage of our break, and took a swim in this freezing water. The water is really clear.
This is a great turn around spot for families with kids or older adults. You just take the same trail back down to the cars. Charlie and I needed some extra mileage so we continued up to Silver Glance Lake from here.
From Silver Lake, find the small trail in the NW corner of the lake. The distance from Silver Lake to Silver Glance Lake is an additional 0.8 miles and 900 ft. It was steep! The boys lead the way…
Great views of the rocky ridgeline on the way up.
There are several great places to take photos looking back where you hiked up from, as well as Mt.Timpanogos.
Stopping below White Baldy to pose for a photo.
Silver Glance lake is much smaller in size compared to Silver Lake, but you’ll likely see way less people here.
Charlie and I loved the view from this trail.
Hiking to Silver Lake in Winter
We were lucky in that the very first gate was open in late April 2020. This 2nd gate typically stays closed until June, but we were expecting to walk up most of the road anyway to reach the actual TH.
It was 2.5 miles to reach Silver Flat Reservoir, and another 1/2 mile to reach the TH.
Passing the sign. So much snow still in April!
The winter trail was SO steep!
The trail in winter may vary, depending on where skiers/snowshoers have gone before you, and it may go straight up like it did for us to avoid the nearby slopes for avalanche danger.
April was way too early to see the actual lake, but still an amazing view of the surrounding peaks!
Whew, that was steep and much harder in winter! As soon as we took this photo every single layer went back on, and the snow arrived as well. We only stayed at the lake maybe 10 minute to snack and take photos.
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