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Trail Report: Highline Trail, High Uintas , UT

A 5-day, 31-mile solo excursion through an alpine wilderness in Utah by Basecamper Brent Umphlett

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  • Trail: Highline Trail, High Uintas, UT
  • Distance: 31 miles
  • Submission: Brent Umphlett
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Duration: 5 days
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

On September 20, 2018, I started a backpacking trip into the High Uintas Wilderness Area from the Highline trailhead, my first attempt at a solo backpacking trip. On day 1, I set up camp at Wilder Lake, a small, quiet mountain lake only 4 miles from the trailhead, then headed to the mountain views of Wyman and Packard Lakes with my daypack. The view down the drainage for the East Fork of the Duchesne River near Packard Lake was impressive, looking down the entirety of the river valley to the mountains beyond with bright golden aspen scattered between the cliff bands. On day 2, I hiked up and over 11,263-foot Rocky Sea Pass, then set up camp at Brinkley Lake for a 6.3-mile day.

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Brinkley Lake, photo by Brent Umphlett

I spent day 3 hiking the loop up to Rosalie, Gladys, and Lightning Lakes. The hike was mostly in forest, but it opened up at Rosalie Lake, where the edge of the world seemed to drop away beyond the water to the bare rock summits of the mountains across the basin. From there to Lightning Lake the hike was right around treeline with continuing views of the peaks.

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Between Gladys and Lightning Lakes, photo by Brent Umphlett

On day 4, heading back towards the trailhead, I noticed that Naturalist Basin was already fairly smoky from the Murdock Fire, and it looked like Four Lakes Basin was pretty clear. I got down into Four Lakes Basin and tried to find a camp spot that was out of the wind, but didn’t have much luck. My tent almost took flight while I was setting it up. I decided to hike 1.2 miles back to the intersection with the Highline Trail and camp there.

Assuming the fire wasn’t at the trail, I figured I could get up early the next morning and hike out, hoping the smoke would clear up overnight. I got camp set up, ate dinner, and called it a day. I got up at 5 a.m. and hit the trail around 5:45. This was my first experience hiking in the dark (with a headlamp of course), which was different. Thankfully it was an easy trail to follow. I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get to explore Four Lakes Basin or Naturalist Basin, but I was glad to make it out to my vehicle and not have to shift routes to avoid the fire.

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Solo hiking was an interesting experience; It’s really nice to have the ability to do what I want, go where I want, and at my own pace. I find it nice to have the solitude, but it’s also kind of a weird feeling at the same time being so isolated. When I started thinking about doing a solo hike, I wanted to do mountains outside of Wyoming, where I had done most of my previous backpacking. The Uintas were fairly easy to get to by flying, and remote enough to avoid crowds.

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