3 Hikes That Showcase the Raw, Dramatic Beauty of the High Uintas Wilderness

Utah’s High Uinta Wilderness displays some of the most impressive and classic Rocky Mountain beauty that Utah has to offer. Located in the northeast part of the state due east of Salt Lake City, the nearly 500,000-acre preserve was designated a wilderness area in 1984 and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. With alpine lakes surrounded by snow-specked, craggy peaks and trails that weave between ponderosas and aspens, the High Uinta Wilderness never disappoint as a destination for adventure. Here are three of the best trails to experience this rugged part of Utah for yourself.

1. Kings Peak Trail

Distance: 26.8 miles

Trailhead: Henry’s Fork Trailhead

Perched at a lofty 13,528 feet above sea level, Kings Peak marks the highest point in the state of Utah. And, with 6,348 feet of prominence, this summit stands out amid the ridgelines and valleys of the High Uintas.

Take the nearly 30-mile, out-and-back route from the Henry’s Fork Trailhead for a challenging multi-day trek. Follow the North Slope Trail until you reach Elkhorn Crossing and either continue along the North Slope Trail for the most direct route to the base of Kings Peak, or tack on an extra mile to the hike by taking the West Side Loop with fewer crowds and beautiful lake vistas.

The best campsites are at one of the lakes along the West Side Loop, or at Dollar Lake on the main route before tackling the summit of Kings Peak via Gunsight Pass and the Highline Ridge. After savoring the summit, spend another night along the trail below Kings Peak before returning.

Henry’s Fork Trailhead is three hours from Salt Lake City via I-80 through Wyoming to the range’s north side.

Thanks to the high elevation, the backcountry trails of the High Uintas Wilderness usually lead to incredible, panoramic views. Photo: Jay Dash Photography
Thanks to the high elevation, the backcountry trails of the High Uintas Wilderness usually lead to incredible, panoramic views. Photo: Jay Dash Photography

2. Teepee Lakes Trail

Distance: 7 miles

Trailhead: Browne Lake Campground

For hikers seeking a day hike with spectacular Uinta vistas, the Teepee Lakes Trail offers just that. Access the trail from the Spirit Lake Scenic Backway and head past Browne Lake Campground for about one mile before reaching the Teepee Lakes Trailhead.

From the trailhead, enjoy this out-and-back trail as it weaves through ponderosa pines to a tranquil alpine lake. If you have an angler in your group, pack a fly rod and cast a line along the picturesque shores.

Browne Lake is in the eastern Uintas and the Ashley National Forest. The trailhead is less than an hour from Manila near Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area or about 90 minutes from a base camp in Vernal. The area is approximately four hours from Salt Lake City.

3. Christmas Meadows/Amethyst Lake Trail

Distance: 11.7 miles

Trailhead: Christmas Meadows Campground

Head to Christmas Meadows for some of the High Uintas’ best camping and hiking. Make reservations at the Christmas Meadows Campground and spend a couple days exploring the area.

Head out for a full-day trek to Amethyst Lake and you’ll be rewarded with seclusion and stunning alpine vistas. Follow the Stillwater Fork Trail through the pine forest and along the Stillwater Fork before reaching the junction to Amethyst Meadows. Climb the remainder of the trail to the treeline and look find the turquoise waters of Amethyst Lake nestled between rocky ridgelines in this remarkable alpine cirque.

Explore high-alpine lakes surrounded by snow-specked, craggy peaks and trails that weave between ponderosas and aspens.

Take some time to revel in the beauty of the High Uintas (and snap a few photos for Instagram!) before retracing your steps back to the trailhead for another night of camping at Christmas Meadows.

Christmas Meadows is about two hours from Salt Lake City on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, the closest access to the High Uintas from the Wasatch Front.

Planning Tips and Logistics

  • Whenever venturing into a backcountry alpine environment, keep an eye on the weather. Mountain ranges like the Uintas have their own weather systems, and storms can roll in without warning. Pack rain gear and appropriate clothing for a variety of weather conditions, from hot summer days to cold nights.

  • Keep in mind that you’re sharing this wild backcountry space with the true locals — black bears, moose, elk, deer and bighorn sheep.

  • If you’re camping overnight in the backcountry, remember to store food in a bear-proof container or hang a bear bag to avoid unexpected wildlife encounters.

  • Have a plan, map and navigation tools before trekking into the mountains.

  • Learn more about backpacking in Utah, including additional tips and tricks.

Be sure that you are fully prepared before heading into the backcountry to ensure a wonderful and memorable trip. With proper planning and the appropriate gear, an adventure in Utah’s High Uintas will make for the trip of a lifetime.


Written by Stasia Callaghan for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.

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