Hiking Utah: Sunset Peak at Sunset

A must do for mountain lovers, Sunset Peak is one of Josiah's favorite hikes in Utah and it happens to be one of the easiest peaks to summit in the Wasatch Front. Though, the peak stands at 10,648 ft from sea level, this trail's elevation gain is only 1,256 ft. It's 5.9 miles round trip via the Brighton Lakes trail head and took us 3.5 hours to complete.

I did this hike once before but we didn't quite make it to the top. I developed an awful headache early on in the ascent thanks to the hot summer sun. This time, however, we hit the trail on an early September evening and I was practically singing all the way up.

We started off just before 5:30. A benefit of doing this hike in the evening was that as I got more tired, the mountain air got cooler. 

Besides the Brighton Lakes were gorgeous in the evening light! There are cool evergreens and jutting granite along the way and the aspens had already started turning gold. The waning light reflected softly off the still water. Plus there were hardly any other people on the trail beyond Lake Mary. 

Many people turn back after seeing Lake Mary but the trail did not get very steep until after we passed little Lake Catherine. Until then I hardly felt any burn in my legs. Shortly before reaching Lake Catherine, where the trail forks, we stayed to the right.

This took us to Catherine Pass where both the Little and Big Cottonwood trails converge. I have only taken the Brighton Lakes trail from Big Cottonwood but I hear the way via Catherine Pass trail (5 miles round trip) from the Little Cottonwood side is very pretty, especially in midsummer when wildflowers are in bloom. I would like to go up that way the next time I hike Sunset Peak. Either way, hikers are rewarded with breath-taking scenery in every direction.

From Catherine Pass we went south toward Sunset Peak and reached the top in the nick of time. The trail forks in a few spots and there are several steep drop offs along the way, but it was worth the brief nervousness. At the summit, we marveled at Mount Timpanogas to the south, Heber Valley to the southeast. All around us the sun's rays scattered through the rolling hills. Spread out before us to the north were all three lakes, (Mary, Martha, and Catherine) dark and serene.

We snacked on mini Nutter Butter cookies while a chilly wind billowed around us. Soon the sun was just peaking above the western peaks illuminating the horizon with radiant shades of orange and coral.

The way down went by fast. We made good time with the little light remaining, and Josiah had brought headlamps. Near the end, as we walked under the Brighton ski lifts, we spotted seven deer in the meadow. We made it back to the car at 9:00 pm and slept very well that night.

What is your favorite hike in Utah? 

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