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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)

Descending from the peak into Painter Basin, we skirt the banks of Yellowstone Creek in a huge bowl filled with stunted pines and rushing blue water, our horizon ringed by tiered ridges. The sun sizzles our skin while the breeze simultaneously cools it. We can’t help but take another long pause, this time to yak, snack, and scratch ourselves lazily in a state of high-road aboriginalism.

The next morning, in Oweep Basin at mile 52, thick frost makes the bouldery trail around Mt. Lovenia a slick-footed struggle. Atop the broad saddle of Red Knob Pass, beneath the talus slopes of Tokewanna Peak, we gawk at the shattered tooth of 12,516-foot Mt. Beulah rearing across the gorge. Our next destination, Dead Horse Lake, shines like a milky turquoise mirror at the head of the valley. Immediately beneath us, a large elk herd grazes on an alpine shelf. Three small calves play on a snowbank, spinning and bucking like rodeo bulls. We watch for an hour, then descend to camp. Feeding trout spread rings across the calm water, and Pete heads off with his rod. I scout the wealth of five-star sunset vantage points. Like every camp so far, this one seems finer than the last.

At mile 62, we reach a junction and a choice: take the official Highline Trail and drop into forest to quickly reach the trailhead (mile 73.4), or extend our vista trek by detouring on the Head of Rock Creek Trail. Duh. We loop north another five miles to stay in the alpine zone. When faced with a quandary, always take the high road.

The way
Though this trail is within striking distance of Salt Lake, you’ll need to add one day to your itinerary for the 224-mile (one way) shuttle. Go to backpacker.com/highline for complete directions.

Season July through September. Pack an ice axe for early-season. Mosquitoes are fierce around lakes in July and early August.

Map Trails Illustrated High Uintas Wilderness ($12, natgeomaps.com)

Contact (801) 789-1181; fs.fed.us/r4/ashley





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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!

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