Willow Heights is an extraordinarily beautiful hike through a serene aspen forest; eventually leading to a small, picturesque lake nestled high in the Wasatch Mountains. The trail is not very long at 0.75 miles one-way, however it packs a bit of punch as it gains 600 feet over that short distance. Most hikers will also want to continue on the loop trail around the lake, which adds 0.7 miles to the hike. This trail is very family-friendly and is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
The Willow Heights Trailhead is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon (40.630342, -111.604623). To reach the trailhead from I-215:
There is no signage or off-street parking, so finding the trailhead takes requires paying close attention. Without a GPS, it is easy to miss. Just past the end of an area with homes and businesses, the road bends to the left. The trailhead is located right around this bend. Look for a 35-mph speed limit sign facing toward down canyon traffic, located at the entrance to the trail. A stone monument designating the Willow Heights Conservation Area marks the start of the trail.
- Take Exit 6 for 6200 S/Wasatch Blvd.
- Drive south on Wasatch Blvd. for 1.7 miles.
- Turn left onto Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.
- Continue up the canyon 11.6 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.
From the trailhead, begin hiking north through an idyllic aspen forest. The 600-foot climb is mostly gradual with a few steep spots as you make your way up the slope toward Willow Lake. After about a quarter mile, a few breaks in the trees offer nice views of the surrounding mountains and Solitude Ski Resort to the south.
Soon the trail enters a particularly dense portion of the aspen forest where the trees are so thick that visibility is limited to less than 200-feet in any direction. Continue hiking as the trail leaves the forest and arrives in a large, grassy meadow. A junction is soon encountered (40.636122, -111.597354). Turn left and continue about 100 yards to the shoreline of Willow Lake.
Willow Heights Lake
Continue hiking on the trail as it circles Willow Lake in a clockwise direction. The trail on the north side of the lake follows right alongside the open shoreline, offering fantastic views. On a calm day, the aspen grove on the east side of the lake forms a beautiful reflection in the still water. Wildlife sightings are common here, so pay careful attention as you hike. Be sure to keep a safe distance from any animals you might see, for your safety and theirs.
The trail continues beyond the inlet at the northeast end of the lake before crossing it and turning south. Pay close attention through this part of the hike, as the trail can be faint and overgrown, making it more difficult to follow. Eventually the trail arrives back at the junction where you first arrived near the south shore of Willow Lake. Return the way you came on the main trail.
Round trip hiking distance to the junction near Willow Lake is 1.5 miles. Hiking the loop around the lake adds on 0.7 miles to the hike for a total of 2.2 miles round trip.
Permits & Regulations
- No dogs allowed.
- No swimming or wading.
- No camping within 200 feet of trails and water sources.
- No campfires.