The summer season in Alta officially kicks off when the road into Albion Basin opens, which usually happens on July 1. Here’s what you need to know about “The Basin”:
Albion Basin Summer Road: This United States Forest Service road is one of the highest elevation vehicle access points in the Wasatch Mountains, and as such it is extremely popular. This 2.2 mile, unpaved road provides access to the Catherine’s Pass and Cecret Lake trailheads, as well as the Albion Basin Campground. There is no fee to use “the summer road,” but…
Parking: There is extremely limited parking available in Albion Basin, and even at off-hours, mid-week, it is common for all trailhead parking spaces to be occupied. Parking is prohibited outside of signed parking areas. One way to access the Basin without fighting for parking is to ride the…
Albion Basin Shuttle: In order to reduce congestion on the summer road, and help Alta’s summer visitors access the upper reaches of Albion Basin, the Town of Alta operates a free shuttle service on weekends and holidays. Vans depart the Albion Base Area parking lot roughly every half-hour from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, and seats on these vehicles are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The shuttle transports summer visitors from downtown Alta toward…
Destinations: Cecret Lake is the primary attraction in Albion Basin, and the 1.5 mile round trip from the Cecret Lake parking lot is one of the most popular hikes in Utah. While Cecret Lake is indeed a stunning place, there are numerous adventurous hiking destinations in the Basin:
-Catherine’s Pass is a moderate, 2 mile round-trip accessed from the Catherine’s Pass trailhead. This trail passes through open meadows and skirts a lush wetland area that is a very common place to see moose and other wildlife. The trail to Catherine’s Pass provides huge views of Devil’s Castle, and hikers who reach the top of Catherine’s Pass can proceed into Big Cottonwood Canyon toward Brighton Ski Area.
-Germania Pass via East Greeley is a 5 mile round-trip primarily on ski area service road. This is one of the least crowded hikes in Albion Basin, and it leads hikers up the massive open slopes of Alta Ski Area’s “Backside” area, which abounds with wildflowers and is a popular area for deer and moose sitings. Germania Pass is the gateway to Collins Gulch. When you reach the pass you’ll be face to face with Mount Baldy, one of Alta’s landmark mountain peaks. From there, head into Collins Gulch, or continue to the south toward Sugarloaf Pass to access Snowbird’s hiking trails, and to find the route to the summit of Baldy.
-Devil’s Castle Loop is another lesser known trail in Albion Basin. This 1.8 mile round-trip takes hikers from Cecret Lake trailhead through the Albion Basin Campground and along a densely-forested single-track, and brings hikers to within a few hundred feet of the dark, looming walls of Devil’s Castle itself. Descending from the top of the loop, hikers can enjoy intriguing rock formations, babbling streams, and lush wildflowers in the heart of Albion Basin.
-Upper Albion Meadows Trail is the very best place in Alta to see wildflowers, and you don’t even need to wait for a seat on the shuttle for this hike. Simply park at the Albion Base and follow the signs. Hike the 1.5 mile Upper Albion Meadows in order to access any of these other trails to make a truly rewarding Alta adventure.
Campground: The Albion Basin Campground is a beautiful place to spend a midsummer night, but it is open for only a few months every summer, and sites are often booked well in advance. Prospective campers are encouraged to make a reservation at www.recreation.gov.
Restrictions: Please be aware that Albion Basin and the rest of Alta is a protected watershed area, which means that dogs are prohibited without proper permits, and that swimming or bathing in creeks, streams, and lakes is also prohibited. Albion Basin is a natural wonder under increasing pressure from the popularity of outdoor recreation. Please do not pick the wildflowers and please stay on designated trails so that future generations can experience the Basin the same way that we do!