Check out my list of the BEST Day Hikes in the Uintas! The High Uintas Wilderness offers some of the best day hiking near Salt Lake City. It provides for a fun, quick getaway that you can do in one day. If you have time, I highly recommend backpacking this mountain range as well. The Uintas are the only mountain range in the lower 48 states that run East to West. The Uinta Mountains extend for 100 miles across Northeast Utah, and a small part of Northwest Colorado, bordered by the Wasatch Mountains to the West.
The Uintas contain an unusual amount of land above tree line, and has over 2,000 lakes! The most visited area of the Uintas are along the Mirror Lake Highway, which offers the highest paved road in Utah, as well as plenty of trailheads, camping, fishing, and climbing areas.
BEST Day Hikes in the Uintas
The Lofty Lakes Loop in the Uintas is a beautiful 4 mile loop that takes you past several high alpine lakes, a few cool overlooks, and is relatively easy hike for most people. To make this route even better, add on a side trek to Cuberant Lake! It is one of the most popular trails along the Mirror Lake Highway, however don’t let that stop you from hiking this loop at least once. This is one of the prettiest day hikes in the area! You can hike this loop in either direction, but counter-clockwise is a bit easier since the elevation gain is done near the beginning of the hike and it’s more gradual this way.
The Fehr Lake Trail (pronounced like “Fair”) sits high in the Uintas Wilderness at 10,260 ft, and offers a few hiking options from really easy and short at 1 mile round trip, to a little longer at 4 miles round trip. The trailhead starts across from the Moosehorn Campground, just below Bald Mountain Pass. The Fehr Lake trail will take you to three lakes – Fehr, Sheppard, and Hoover Lakes. All three lakes around about 30 ft deep. Fehr Lake is highest in elevation gain, so most of this hike is downhill. Keep this in mind for the hike back – it will be all uphill. The traditional Uinta boardwalks are in place to keep hikers from tracking through the marshy areas. Bring bug spray – the mosquitoes are pretty bad on this trail because of how wet this trail is.
Bald Mountain (11,942 ft) in the High Uintas Wilderness is one of my favorite peaks to summit. Not only is this peak one of the easiest to summit in the area, but it also offers grand views of the Mirror Lake Highway, surrounding lakes, several peaks, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Timpanogos. Along the Bald Mountain trail you may see mountain goats, pika, squirrels, and an abundance of wildflowers in early summer. As with any high altitude terrain, start this hike early in the day to beat the daily afternoon thunderstorms, the afternoon heat, and crowds.
Island Lake is one of many gorgeous lakes in the Uintas – it can be hard to choose which lake to visit. This lake offers a quick backpacking trip, cliff jumping, swimming, fishing, & solitude in the summer months. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even hike up to one of the three surrounding peaks. Hiking to Island Lake is an easy, family friendly hike, that even the dogs can join in on.
The West Summit of Notch Mountain (11,206 ft) is near “The Notch”, an opening in between the West and East summits. The Notch is the high, open area on the Notch Mountain Trail by Lovenia Lake and Twin Lakes. Hiking to the West summit is fairly easy for seasoned peak baggers, and offers a good intro to peak bagging for newbies. There is a trail all the way to The Notch, after that you need to find your own route. It’s not hard though, just steep hiking over medium sized boulders. Short on time? Hike to The Notch and call it good for the day!
Ruth Lake sits high in the Uintas Wilderness at roughly 10,200 ft. It is one of the easiest trails in the Uintas, making it great for families with children, or perfect for the beginner backpacker. Where else can you hike to a high alpine lake at only 0.8 miles one way and 155 ft elevation gain? Along the way you’ll get to see beautiful open meadows, streams that are perfect for the dogs to play in, and wide open opens of the surrounding peaks. The only downside? This is a heavily used trail, so don’t expect solitude.
Bourbon Lake sits at an elevation of 9,800 ft and offers a beautiful high alpine lake in the High Uintas. This lake gets its name from the color of the lake – the deep amber color reflected against the surrounding cliffs creates an amazing reflection of yellow and golds. Hiking to Bourbon Lake is great for the whole family, since it is only 1.5 miles to the lake with only 600 ft elevation gain. You can camp across the road from the trail head at Sulphur Campground, then follow this short trail for some beautiful views. Bring a hammock and enjoy the scenery!
Whiskey Island Lake sits at 10,400 ft in the High Uintas and is a secluded lake great for a day hike and fishing. If you’re really feeling like getting a workout, add on the surrounding peak above the lake, Whiskey Island Peak. This 3 mile routes follows a road for the first 2.2 miles, then it’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of day following your GPS to guide you to the lake since there is no trail the last 3/4 mile. There are several routes to reach Whiskey Island Lake.
Ibantik Lake (“eye-ban-tick”) is located conveniently close to the Mirror Lake Highway in the High Uintas, and backpacking this route is perfect for beginner backpackers, or a great day hike since it’s a fairly short yet rewarding trail. It is a very popular lake to camp at, and therefore you won’t have much solitude. The best things about this lake is how clear the water is, and you’ll see plenty of mountain goats as Notch Mountain looms above you. The trail is really easy to follow, and is best done as a point-to-point route. Day hikers will prefer to do this as an out-and-back route from the Crystal Lake trailhead.
The Cataract Gorge is located near Murdock Basin in the High Uintas. At the end of the hike you’ll reach the 100 ft waterfall that you can cool off under. But be careful, the rocks are extremely slippery. Once you are done enjoying the water, hike off trail to reach the actual gorge. Hike south in the gorge as you pass by several deep pools of water. This area is best to visit in July, August and September when the snow melt has lowered significantly and it’s safer to explore this canyon. Bring your swimsuit on a hot day and take a dip in one of the pools!
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