chasing epic at home + on the road

Willow Lake, Utah

Willow Lake, Utah

Last August, I took a trip to Salt Lake City for an event. After work was done I set out for some adventuring in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Willow Lake was my destination! My hope…moose!

Willow Lake Path - Big Cottonwood Canyon - Cheers Suz

Lexi and I found a parking spot near the trailhead, grabbed our gear, and headed off up the trail. No sooner did we get a few feet up the trail and it started raining but the prospect of moose kept me going and the rain lifted Lexi’s spirits. What Lab doesn’t love rain?

Lexi - Willow Lake Trail - Cheers Suz

We reached Willow Lake just in time for the rain to stop and for the moose to come out. Have you ever seen such a sight?

Moose at Willow Lake - Cheers Suz
Moose at Willow Lake – Cheers Suz

This was my first, and so far only, moose experience. It was incredible. Truly incredible. Something I am not going to forget anytime soon.

Moose Chat at Willow Lake - Cheers Suz
Moose Chat at Willow Lake – Cheers Suz

Lexi and I settled in and set up camp towards the far side of the lake and spent the rest of the evening watching the moose wander in and out of the bushes along the shore line. Incredible. Willow Lake was completely silent outside of the moose rusting the branches. There was no wind passing through the trees or across the water. Only the passing clouds reflected themselves in the lake and that evening there was no other place I wanted to be.

Big Cottonwood Canyon - Cheers Suz
Big Cottonwood Canyon – Cheers Suz

Moose populations have been dramatically declining since the 1990’s. From my reading, there isn’t an exact cause for the decline. It could be wolves, bacterial infections, parasites, malnutrition, stress, etc. The warmer temperatures associated with climate change appear to be exacerbating the problem. There’s an estimated 300,000 left in the US which makes for this sighting to be all more incredible. Utah has an isolated group of moose with most ranging farther north, especially into Canada.

Big Cottonwood Canyon Sunset Near Willow Lake - Cheers Suz
Big Cottonwood Canyon Sunset Near Willow Lake – Cheers Suz

Moose stand over seven feet tall and can crush a wolf’s head with a single kick of its hooves. In a setting this incredible it’s hard to fathom the fate of the Moose. What will become of them if we do not act? What will become of them if we let the people in Washington ignore climate change and go about business as usual? Can we sit idly by and watch the light of another species, another life, be snuffed out? For if we did, what does that say about us?

Big Cottonwood Canyon Near Willow Lake - Cheers Suz
Big Cottonwood Canyon Near Willow Lake – Cheers Suz

The following morning, we woke at down to find that the moose were back grazing away at the lakeside. They were completely engrossed in their breakfast and so we too settled in for ours. Some little ground squirrels joined us and poked their noses in and out of their burrows and around our tent. Lexi who usually has a strong prey drive just hung out while I packed up our gear. She was so content just listening to the noises of the morning and sniffing the air. Incredible.

When the moose had finally headed off into the woods we set off down the trail. This time rain-free and vibrant. The trunks of the aspen glowed in the morning sun, the last of the summer flowers were still hanging on, and the earth was untrodden. Perfection!

Hiking Willow Lake Trail - Cheers Suz
Hiking Willow Lake Trail – Cheers Suz
Willow Lake Trails - Cheers Suz
Willow Lake Trails – Cheers Suz
Aspens Along Willow Lake Trail - Cheers Suz
Aspens Along Willow Lake Trail – Cheers Suz

Getting there:

Willow Lake is located Big Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Drive about 11 miles up the canyon it is found on the left side of the road shortly after passing Silver Fork Lodge on the right and Canyon Vacation Rentals on the left. It’s easy to miss.

The Hike:

The lake is about a mile from the trail head up it’s pretty much uphill the whole way. Make sure you camp at least 200 feet away from the lake. There’s no swimming in the lake. If there’s a moose or two, please respect it’s privacy and give it plenty of space.

Additional reading:

Declining Moose Populations: What Does the Future Hold?

Global Warming and Moose: A North Woods Icon at Risk

Can Our Moose Be Saved?

Who’s been here? Who’s seen a moose?

Cheers Suz



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