SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Backpacker Magazine – May 2011

The High Life: Hiking Utah's Highline Trail

Watch your step on Utah' Highline Trail. The nonstop views and rampant wildlife are distractingly spectacular. Plus: Gaze away on 9 more elevated hikes.

by: Steve Howe

Utah's Highline Trail (Steve Howe)
Utah's Highline Trail (Steve Howe)
Casting for brook trout in Dead Horse Lake (Steve Howe)
Casting for brook trout in Dead Horse Lake (Steve Howe)
Upper East Fork of Whiterocks River (Steve Howe)
Upper East Fork of Whiterocks River (Steve Howe)


“I love wildlife, but this is getting ridiculous,” Pete laughs, after a coyote wail scares the bull moose we’ve been watching just outside of camp. He has a point. We’d only hiked a half mile from the trailhead near Hacking Lake on a warm August day when we stopped to ogle a herd of 35 mountain goats. Minutes later, a weasel darted upon our track with a mouse hanging in its mouth. Another half mile, and Pete stumbled two spotted elk calves lounging near timberline. Then, two more goat herds on the five-mile climb to 11,700-foot Gabbro Pass, from which we flush 100 elk on the far side. After just 10 miles of hiking, we’ve had about one animal encounter per mile. And that’s just counting the obvious ones. We surely missed more, with 100-mile vistas hogging our attention nearly every step of the way.

Views of every kind—distant horizons, nearby wildlife, isolated lake basins—are better on ridgeline hikes. And the king of the hill is the Highline Trail, which runs 78 east-west miles through the 456,705-acre High Uintas Wilderness of northeast Utah. The often-bouldery track crosses nine major passes and seldom dips below 10,500 feet. It’s the perfect aerie to spy the wilderness’s 26 summits above 13,000 feet, an estimated 1,000 lakes and ponds, 36 major streams, and megafauna galore. My partner, Pete Rives, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker from North Carolina, brought a fly rod, and I’ve packed my camera, the tools of our stop-and-play hobbies. This is not a recipe for ticking off miles, but with these surroundings, we’d be fools to rush it.

You’d think all of this unobstructed beauty would attract a crowd, but fewer than 50 people a year thru-hike the ridge-hugging track—it’s overshadowed on a regional menu that includes the Tetons, Sawtooths, Wind Rivers, and Colorado’s Fourteeners. The Uintas’ long, brick-red ridgelines of billion-year-old quartzite, gradually being swallowed by their own talus, have a powerful majesty that 19th-century explorer Ferdinand Hayden singled out among all the mountain ranges he’d seen. Compared to others, he wrote, the Uintas stands alone for its “contrast so pleasing to the eye.”

Of course, treeless alpine grandeur doesn’t come without some risk. The next night, we camp at Fox Lake in a bowl not far below 12,710-foot Anderson Pass, at mile 33, the trail’s highest point. Clouds appear and gusts swirl. We get ready to run for it, but fortunately no lightning appears.

We drop packs atop Anderson Pass the next morning to side hike to Kings Peak, Utah’s 13,528-foot highpoint. There’s no summit register, just another world’s-end vista of lake-dotted tundra, spiked pine forests, and mazes of snow-banked ridgeline. On lesser treks, this would be the highlight moment. Here, such views are routine.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Phil
Apr 04, 2013

I am thinking of doing the Highline trail in July and looking for a buddy. Goal is 20 miles per day, but willing to settle for 15. (Hope to only miss the family and work for 4 days instead of a full 7). I am not sure on the snow pack situation, but wanna miss the thunder storms as I think the risk of being struck in the Uintah's is relatively high since it seems like at least one person dies there every year...
u 0 4 9 2 6 0 0 @gmail.com (no spaces) this is my spam account, so I will take a week or two to respond, but can then give you my good email,
Phil

Brian
Jul 25, 2012

Just did the Highline Trail from Hacking Lake to the Trail head at Mirror Lake in three and a half days! needless to say my buddy and I are exhausted and our feet are torn and bruised, but it was well worth the trip, one of the best and most beautiful trips ive ever been on

Jenn Blitch
Aug 13, 2011

63 year old Eric Robinson from Australia, set off to thru hike the Highline Trail 7.28.11. He was scheduled to finish Sunday 8.7.11. Please Call Sherriff Mitchell at 435.738.2015 if you are available for the next few days to join the search or have any info.

Jenn Blitch
Aug 13, 2011

Calling Volunteers! Missing Hiker on Highline Trail, Uintas, Utah: Eric Robinson
PLEASE SEARCH BLOGS, FACEBOOK, TRAIL JOURNALS for anyone who hiked on the Highline Trail between 7.28.11-8.7.11 and get in touch with them. ANY INFO ABOUT ERIC WILL HELP.

larry hartenstein
Jun 23, 2011

i live up in jackson, wy and thte tetons will not be clear until august as well. tough year for getting high!

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

AVAGADRO V
Jun 23, 2011

UNNNNGH BACKWA FREEEBLE ZICK !

Jason W.
Jun 23, 2011

Oh, there it is. Nevermind, just showed up.

Jason W.
Jun 23, 2011

So...I don't get it, where's the article on the High Line? All I see are a few picts.

Jason W.
Jun 23, 2011

So...I don't get it, where's the article on the High Line? All I see are a few picts.

andy J
Jun 23, 2011

Better bring snow shoes this year! Mirror lake pass is still closed due to heavy snow. Pray that it all melts by August!

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Honey Badgers are cool!
Posted On: Apr 20, 2014
Submitted By: reubenstump
Gear
Thinking About Buying Trekking Poles
Posted On: Apr 20, 2014
Submitted By: bigsilk
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions