Northern Utah has so many amazing trails to hike and explore, but when the summer temperatures soar, that’s when I like to escape to the Uinta Mountain Range. With only a short 90-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City, you can enjoy temperatures 20 degrees (or more) cooler than in the valley. The Uintas are the tallest mountain range in Utah and boast high elevation hiking, over 1000 alpine lakes, wildlife including Utah’s largest population of mountain goats, and the tallest peaks in the state. It’s the perfect place for those looking to bag a few peaks, catch some fish, or paddle to your heart’s content after enjoying some time on the trails.
The Uintas have trails for just about every ability and interest level. Here are 8 trails located off the Mirror Lake Highway (150) for a great day of exploration out of the heat.
2 miles RT, 285 ft. gain
Ruth Lake is the perfect hike for families. At only two miles roundtrip, everyone can enjoy the satisfaction of reaching a destination after only one mile of hiking. Once you reach the lake, you can enjoy the day on the water, fishing, floating, hanging in your hammock, and even a picnic before heading back to your car blissed out by your afternoon spent by this alpine lake.
2.9 miles RT, 1,198 ft. gain
I can’t think of a more perfect first-timer peak to bag. It’s challenging enough that you feel like you really accomplished a hike but approachable enough that you can hike it in a few hours. And the VIEWs. This peak has major wow factor, and you’ll have bragging rights with your friends and family. After all, the peak of this mountain is just under 12,000 feet.
5.3 miles RT, 387 ft. gain
This hike is really one of the easiest hikes you can do for the distance because there is so little elevation change. For the first mile or so, you hike along the shore of lake Washington enjoying its beauty and the scenic view of Haystack mountain. Next, the trail begins to climb slightly to Shadow lake. For the last mile, you descend down to Haystack lake. Whenever we visited, we had the picturesque lake practically to ourselves. Aah.
Lofty Lake Loop
4.7 mile loop, 981 ft gain
Arguably one of the most popular day hikes in the area. The lofty Lakes loop is well worth the hype and not to be missed. You’ll have more elevation gain than on some others, but the views you gain as you crest Lofty Pass to peer down at Cutthroat Lake are well worth the effort. If you have the desire, your can even summit Lofty Peak from the pass. Just follow the “trail” up the boulders to the peak. (I only recommend this part to experienced hikers.)
3.9 miles RT, 617 ft. gain
This is another great short hike, but unlike Ruth Lake, you descend down to Fehr Lake on the way in. This means you’ll need to climb back out. The cliffs on the side of Fehr lake are just stunning. If time and energy allow, you can continue on to Shepard (yes, that is the spelling), Hoover, and Maba lakes which are quieter and scenic.
20 Lake Loop
7.3 mile loop, 780 ft gain
This is one of my favorite hikes in all the Uintas! Not only do you have the mentioned twenty lakes, views of many of the surrounding peaks, but the elevation gain is a mere 780 feet over seven miles. The hike is long enough to give you a great workout or push the little ones, but the relatively little elevation gain helps the miles sail by. It can make for a great backpacking trip, and if you’re really feeling like it, you can bring something to float on the enjoy the serenity at one of the many lakes. Wall or Crystal lakes are popular choices with their proximity to the trailhead, but my personal favorites are Cliff and Three Divide lakes.
Clegg, Notch, and Bench Lakes
6.5 miles RT, 653 ft. gain
This hike shares the same trailhead as Bald Mountain, and like the Fehr Lake trail, you descend down to the lakes, but with the incredible scenery and gentle grades, as you climb back out, you will hardly notice. I also really enjoy this hike because it is quieter than Lofty Lakes or the 20 Lakes Loop. Most people stop at Notch Lake, but if you continue on to Bench, you’ll have greater chances of having this beauty all to yourself.
Lake Country Trail
4.4 miles-8.4 miles RT, up to 1,107 ft gain.
This one is on the long side, but you can choose how many lakes you want to visit and how many miles you’d like to tackle. If you head all the way to Island lake, you’ll be in for 9 miles roundtrip, but you can choose to go only 4-6 miles by visiting either Long or Weir lakes. Weir Lake even has a few hidden waterfalls nearby you can enjoy.
Before you go:
Unlike much of the Wasatch Front, the Uintas are dog friendly, so feel free to bring Fido along.
There is a $6 per day use fee. Bring cash or a check. If you have an America the Beautiful pass, you can use this instead. They do ticket at the trailheads, so make sure to pay the fee and display your receipt to avoid a hefty fine.
As always, when out on the trail, you always want to pack your ten essentials. Mosquitos can be prevalent in June and July, so wear bug spray.
July through September is Utah’s monsoon season, and storms can approach quickly at higher elevations. Stay off the peaks in the afternoons to avoid lightning and hail. It’s a good idea to bring layers such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt or a waterproof jacket
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