There are a handful of places in Utah that I have a special connection to. The Uinta Mountains have provided some of the best backcountry memories for me. I love the Uinta’s for various reasons. The range is one of the most unique in the west, and is the only range to run East and West. Getting “lost” in the Uinta wilderness is an easy thing to do, and will always provide the mind much needed solitude.
It would take a lifetime to explore the entire mountain range, and the mountains have some real gems that are absolute must do’s for the average outdoor enthusiast. The range can be accessed from so many different locations. Kings Peak being the tallest peak in Utah at 13,528′ is an absolute must do for anyone living in Utah. See this story of a friend of mine who recently did Kings Peak in his training for his Everest trip coming soon.
My very favorite areas of the Uinta Mountains however are accessed from Utah via the Kamas Valley. Those areas being the Highline Trail and Grandaddy Basin. I’ve spent a lot of time in both areas and they are simply my favorite because of the time i’ve spent there and the memories associated with them.
Highline Trail: See a map here
The highline trail starts near Mirror Lake. Hiking this trail is pretty easy from the start and has a few moderate sections of harder hiking. After a few miles in you come to a turn off for an incredibly beautiful basin called, naturalist basin. This basin gets a lot of traffic as it is a close hike for a shorter backpacking trip. I do know that there have been some LNT issues here and harvesting firewood is not allowed. After the turn off and continuing on the trail you eventually start heading towards Rocky Sea Pass. At Rocky Sea Pass you can keep going on the highline or take the fork to Four Lakes Basin. I have yet to go to Four Lakes, but I sure hope to head there next season.
Getting over Rocky Sea Pass can be a struggle if you are not in shape. It gains a lot of elevation fast and requires boulder hoping at some spots. On top of the pass you find yourself over 11,000′. Rocky Sea Pass separates the causal backpacker from the serious backpacker. Going over the pass is absolutely worth the effort. The higher elevation lakes near the pass are beautiful and are worth going to see. The trail from there goes on for a long time, however I have not been further than Jack and Jill lakes. I have found the best camping is at Ouray Lake and then making day hikes to Jack and Jill lakes from there.
When I was 13 or 14 years old I went to Ouray Lake for the first time. My next door neighbors and I went together, and they were 14 and 16 at the time. To this day I do not know how we convinced our parents to let us spend a whole week several miles in the wilderness backpacking and fishing. See photos of the second time I went below.
Rocky Sea Pass – 2002 – 15 Years Old
Looking Towards Rocky Sea Pass From Pigeon Milk Springs
Sign Designating the Pass
Looking Down at the Highline Trail at Rocky Sea Pass
This basin is by far one of the most beautiful areas of the Uintas. I have spent most of my time in the Uintas here. From the Grandview Trailhead at over 9000′ the trail goes up consistently until you reach Hades Pass. From Hades Pass you see Heart Lake to your right and another small pond near that. From Hades it’s all downhill from there for the most part. You will eventually get to Grandaddy Lake. Grandaddy is the largest lake in the high Uinta range, and one of the most beautiful in my opinion. I’ve spent a lot time there fishing and camping as a scout, and young teenager.
After you pass Grandaddy Lake the trail continues to several other lakes, the first being Betsy Lake on your left, just minutes after the trail forks. My favorite lake in this area is Mohawk Lake. You must hike past Betsy lake for a few minutes and take the trail on the left just after you pass Betsy Lake. From there it’s about another 15-20 minutes to good camping spots.
I took my wife to Mohawk for her first backpacking trip ever. It was an amazing trip and see photos below of Mohawk. Eventually the Grandaddy trail passes Pinto Lake and meets up with the Highline Trail. This route would make for a really great extended trip, and would allow for you to see as many different lakes as you desire.
Coming Down From Hades Pass
A video my wife made of our trip to Mohawk Lake!