Let me start by saying there are 2 lakes called Dog Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon. This is the smaller of the two, and it starts right at Brighton Ski Resort. (The larger hike begins at Mill D Trailhead).
This hike begins at the Majestic ski run right at the main entrance to Brighton. It is very well traveled. We did it on Labor Day and probably saw 200 people. The hike itself is very pretty, but steep. You are, after all, hiking up a ski slope. The trail zigzags up the slope to the right. Finally, it crosses a bridge and enters the trees. Just after that, it splits and one trail goes farther up to Lake Mary, Martha, and eventually Katherine (coming soon).
There is a sign at the fork in the trail that points you to the left to Dog Lake. It says it is just 500 feet. After the climb you’ve just taken, you’ll be glad for that. Dog Lake is not much of lake, at least not in September. It’s more of a reedy marsh with about 100 square feet of water in it. A trail goes around the lake, which is not that far, and despite the crowds to the other lakes, we didn’t see a single hiker on this short loop. The total distance for this out and back hike (with the short loop around the lake) is only about 1 steep mile.
We liked this hike for kids despite the fact that it was very steep at the outset. Our 4 year-old needed to go very slowly, and did some complaining. We love Big Cottonwood Canyon, though. There are beautiful alpine meadows, dark stands of timber, and dozens of kinds or wildflowers. In addition, you can see all kinds of wildlife including moose, elk, deer, mountain goats, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, and the occasional bear.
One thing to consider: though this hike starts at a huge parking lot, all buildings are locked, and no bathrooms are available. If you think you might need to go, stop further down at one of the pit toilets. Otherwise, you’ll be using a watershed (Salt Lake City’s watershed to be exact) for a bathroom.
If you make it up the steep part of this trail to Dog Lake, you probably want to continue on at least to lake Mary and Martha which are just a little farther. Happy hiking!