Island Lake Trail
Overview: Island Lake sits high on the Provo River Drainage and can be reached fairly easily. The first mile is steep, and the last half mile is steep, but sandwiched between these sections is some easy and level hiking. The trail is quite popular among overnighters, so expect to see a few people, especially on weekends.
Start: Crystal Lake trailhead
Distance: 7.0 miles out and back
Destination elevation: 10,140 feet
Approximate hiking time: 4.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate — some steep sections
Nearest town: Kamas, Utah
Drainage: Provo River
Maps: USGS Erickson Basin; USDA Forest Service High Uintas Wilderness; Trails Illustrated High Uinta Wilderness
Trail contacts: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Heber-Kamas Ranger District
Finding the trailhead: From Kamas, take the Mirror Lake Highway (Highway 150) 27 miles to Trial Lake Campground. Exit left (west) onto a paved road, and travel about a mile to a fork in the road. Then turn right (north) for another mile to the trailhead. This is a popular trailhead, with room for fifty-seven vehicles and nice toilet facilities. Water and other amenities can be found at Trial Lake Campground.
From Crystal Lake trailhead, go 0.1 mile to a trail junction. This trail goes by the east end of Washington Lake to the turnoff of Trial Lake Road. Stay right and follow the Smith Morehouse Trail for 1.5 miles to another trail junction. The trail to the right drops down into the Middle Fork of the Weber River. Stay left for 0.3 mile to Long Lake. Cross the creek and continue another 0.1 mile to Long Pond. Continue another 1.5 miles to Island Lake.
There are sheltered campsites on the east side of the lake, and springwater might be available near the northeast corner. Island Lake is picturesque, with its high cliffs dropping straight down into deep water along the northern shore. Whether you are looking at these cliffs from across the lake or standing on top of them, you’ll want your camera handy.
Large, wary cutthroats make fishing unpredictable. These fish are well fed by a healthy population of freshwater shrimp, and they don’t hit a dry fly as readily as trout do on other backcountry lakes. Try a pink shrimp imitation. You will only need a couple of these trout to fill the frying pan. If you are looking for faster fishing, venture over the hill about 0.25 mile to Junior Lake. This tiny lake is often overlooked by anglers and usually provides very good fishing for small cutts. Keep going a little farther and you’ll descend to Fire Lake, where fishing can be fast at times. The lake doesn’t get too much pressure, since it is situated in steep, rocky terrain; camping opportunities are virtually nonexistent. Other good fishing lakes in the immediate area are Duck and Beaver Lakes.
Back at Island Lake, enjoy a peaceful sunset, or stand atop the cliffs and peer into the depths of the lake for cruising trout. This lake will not satisfy true “solitude seekers,” but it is a quick getaway.