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Utah’s High Uintas: 600 Miles Of Trail

Tackling the High Uintas Wilderness from the east offers big paybacks.

QUICK TAKE: High Uintas Wilderness, Utah

DRIVE TIME: The Uinta Range, at its nearest, is no more than 100 miles from Salt Lake City. To encounter fewer people (but more horse packers) drive to the east end, about 200 miles (4 hours) from Salt Lake City.

THE WAY: From Vernal, Utah, go north on scenic US 191 then west on UT 44 toward Manila. Take Forest Route 218 3 miles to the junction with Forest Route 221. Go west 10 miles on 221 to Forest Route 001, then 3 miles to the trailhead at Spirit Lake.

TRAILS: More than 600 miles of backpackable trail.

ELEVATION: Spirit Lake trailhead lies at 10,000 feet; Fish Lake at 10,685. The ridge above Fish Lake rises to 11,300 feet.

CAN’T MISS: The panorama from the ridge above Fish Lake.

CROWD CONTROL: The heaviest use occurs between July 24 and the third week of August. Midweek trips before and after those dates avoid most crowds and horsepackers. To avoid people completely, steer clear of the lakes.

PIT STOP: That burger you started craving about mile 5 is sizzling on the griddle at Spirit Lake Lodge.

WALK SOFTLY: Limit group size to seven at the most. Avoid cutting off switchbacks, which on steep and muddy trails opens a path for erosion to destroy the route.

MAPS AND GUIDES: USGS topo maps Dutch John and King’s Peak give an overview of the wilderness. A large Forest Service map of the Uintas is more informative, but too big to pack conveniently. If you’re venturing no farther west than North Burro Peak, then Trails Illustrated’s Flaming Gorge/East Uintas map (#704) is your best bet. All are available from the address below.

MORE INFORMATION: Roosevelt Office, Ashley National Forest, 244 W. Highway 40, Box 333-6, Roosevelt, UT 84066; (801) 722-5018.

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