Red Pine Lake is an iconic hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon located at the same trailhead as its sister lake, White Pine. The trailhead is a common jumping off and finishing point for backcountry skiers because it is located just down the canyon from Snowbird Ski Resort. The snow lasts well into spring here, which also means the avalanche danger is very real and prevalent. The sights along the trail and at the top are quite spectacular so its definitely worth a try on safe days. There are amazing jagged granite cliffs and sweeping down-valley views alongside thick pine and aspen groves. Views of White Baldy and the Pfeifferhorn sit above the giant bowl in which Red Pine Lake lies. It is a gorgeous setting with nearly 360-degree views.
The trail is not too steep from the start, but the last third has some steep pitches. You can access the mighty Pfeifferhorn from this trail, and upper Red Pine Lake and Maybird Lakes are nearby as well. They remain frozen and covered in ice until late spring or early summer.
The route crosses a large bridge and hugs the canyon walls, heading west and then south. The trail will fork: Stay on the Red Pine Trail, continue over the small bridge, and make your way further west rather than doubling back to head to White Pine. After heading down the canyon to the next drainage you will begin to head south and hit steeper parts of the trail. There are a few sections with sheer drop-offs so be careful. This trail is one where you should pretty much always use full snowshoes and poles because of the technical aspects.
This is a classic, must-do Wasatch hike in the summer that is just as fantastic in the winter. Keep and eye out for moose and porcupine, and keep your ears out for downhill skiers that can come around corners quickly. Check the conditions at the Utah Avalanche Center before you head out. This hike is not recommend if conditions are any worse than yellow. Small and medium slides are clearly visible along the route. You'll want to give yourself at least a half a day to complete this trail and enjoy the views in the winter. Because the trail is exposed most of the way up, a hat and sunscreen can be handy. Finally, if you have extra time, stop by Secret Falls near the White Pine and Red Pine junction.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.