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Editor’s Note: Going inside abandoned old mines is very dangerous as they are unstable and can collapse, and hikers should use discretion before entering the cave.SOLITUDE MOUNTAIN RESORT — If you like beautiful mountain lakes and going inside cool caves that used to be old mines, the hike to Lake Solitude is right up your alley.
The trailhead for the Solitude Lake hiking trail is located at the Solitude Nordic Center (also known as the Silver Lake Information Center) up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Hikers can get details about the different hikes in the visitor center, as there are a lot of trails that start from there.
To get to Lake Solitude, hikers will follow the boardwalk for the first quarter mile of the hike and will get great views of Silver Lake and the surrounding meadows. This part of the trail is very popular, so be sure to be courteous of those with strollers and share the path. Dogs are not allowed on the trail or in the area and, bicycles are also not allowed on the boardwalk portion of the trail.
Eventually, the boardwalk ends and the trail turns into hard-pack dirt. Continue along the trail until you reach a fork. A sign will direct you to take the right fork toward Lake Solitude, where the trail has a gradual incline for the next mile. You will cross beneath the ski lift and can see people playing disc golf in the area. This portion of the trail is also very popular and allows mountain bikers, so be sure to stay alert and share the trail.
Parts of the trail are shaded by large pine trees, which keeps it quite cool even during the middle of the day, however, not all of the trail is shaded and it is high elevation so be sure to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated during the hike.
The entire trail is marked, so even though it crosses several other dirt hiking/biking trails, you shouldn’t have any problem finding your way. While the entire hike is a gradual incline, it isn’t too hard because it is a slow ascent, the last 150 feet are quite steep to reach the lake, so if you have small children with you make sure to take a lot of breaks.
Once you summit the hill, you are rewarded with a scenic view of Lake Solitude. The trail winds around the east side of the Lake if you want to hike in closer to the water. I would recommend it because once you get closer to the lake, there is a hidden cave/old closed-off mine right along the trail.
I almost missed the small opening in the side of the mountain, so stay alert to see it. The mine is closed off so the cave is only about 20 feet deep into the mountainside. The Silver Fork area has a rich mining history that dates back to the 1850s, according to the Silver Fork Lodge website. The area was mined for gold and silver, and the last active mine in Big Cottonwood Canyon was closed in the 1950s.
Caves leftover from abandoned mines are very dangerous so be very careful and use discretion before you enter. It is only about 6-feet high so tall people will need to stoop. It is quite cool in the cave, which attracts a lot of gnats and flies so anyone who enters will likely want to be wearing insect repellant.
The lake is a nice place to have a picnic before beginning the 1.5-mile descent back to the visitor center.
Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
Time: 45 minutes to the lake, 30 minutes back