Quick Adventure Facts:
What - Uinta Highline Trail
When - July 26th to August 4th 2018 | 10 Days
The Unita Highline Trail is a remote trial extending east to west as it roughly follows the ridge-line of the Uinta Mountains in northeast Utah.Length
Beginning at McKee Draw in the east and ending at Hayden Pass on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, the official length of the Uinta Highline trail is 107 miles.
The trail is also easily accessible at the Leidy Peak trailhead and Chepeta Lake trailhead. Hikers commonly start at one of these trailheads to shorten the westward hike to Hayden Pass to 79 miles or 66 miles, respectively.Terrain
The Uinta Highline Trail is the definition of solitude. In places, the trail disappears under your feet and merely becomes a route occasionally marked with cairns and the infrequent sign or post.
The terrain, crossing long stretches of forest, treeless tundra, leads the trail through expansive alpine landscapes, separated by rocky passes carved by retreating glaciers. Hikers will continually switch back and forth between grassy subalpine meadows, alpine tundra and steep rocky climbs and descents.Weather
Summer weather in the Uinta's can be unpredictable. Afternoon thunderstorms complete with lightning and hail are very common. The temperatures are fairly pleasant with mild days and cool nights.
Mid to late Summer is a great time to hike the Unitas. The wild flowers are in full bloom and the weather is fairly nice. Even then, you will hardly see another person unless you're close to a trail head.
The biggest challenge with the UHT is getting to and from either of it's trailheads. While flying into Salt Lake City may be a breeze, coordinating the 5 hour drive to the eastern terminus can prove to be difficult. Wilkin's Bus Service is a great little shuttle service out of Vernal which can help with your ride. You can reach them at (435) 789-0507.Resupply
Due to the remote nature of the UHT, there is no resupply. You will have to carry all of your food over the course of your hike. There are also long stretches without water on the eastern section which will require you to carry a days worth at a time.Gear
By: Will Wood
On Thursday July 26th we started our Westbound hike of the incredible Uinta Highline Trail in northeast Utah. This trail might just be the best trail I have ever hiked for a multitude of reasons. This trail is extremely secluded and has very little traffic. This is hard to believe when seeing the incredible beauty that this trail has to offer. Because of the lack of people and the amazing beauty this trail ranks as one of my all-time favorites.
The first 20 miles or so provides a bit of time to acclimate to the elevation. For the majority of the 104 mile hike you are up over 10,000’ in elevation with the average elevation right at 10,700’ and the low point of 8,240’ occurs at the eastern terminus where we started our journey. So be prepared for elevation sickness, something I experienced for the first time in my life on day 1 and 2 of this hike.
On day 3 around 20 miles into the hike you reach Leidy Peak trailhead and enter the high Uintas for the first time. From here on out you are essentially over 10,000’ in elevation reaching the high point at 12,700’ on Anderson Pass. We took a side trail from Anderson Pass to the top of Kings Peak, the tallest mountain in Utah at 13,534’ in elevation. What a rock scramble this was and the views from the top were unforgettable!
The trail ascends 8 named passes each one more spectacular than the last. The region is also filled with beautiful lakes and ponds that further enhance the experience. One thing that we highly recommend utilizing on this trek is a gps unit. The trail receives little traffic and for huge portion you are essentially following a route with no visible trail. The first 20 miles were especially difficult to navigate. If you plan to attempt this hike, which we highly recommend, make sure to do so with a gps or expect to get lost multiple times.
The amount of wildlife we encountered on this trail was incredible. We saw deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, sheep just to name a few. This trail truly provides a feeling of isolation which we greatly enjoyed, don’t expect to be calling home at night on this hike because cell service pretty much doesn’t exist on the entire hike. Water sources were also abundant on this hike, excluding the first 20 miles. For the start of the hike we each carried a minimum of 5 liters of water which was purchased before arriving to the trailhead. After the first 20 miles though water is everywhere and we never carried more than 2 liters at a time.
We took 10 days to hike this trail but it can be done quicker if needed. But don’t expect to easily do 20 mile days through here as the elevation definitely will slow most people down. We would recommend planning to take this hike slow as there are endless places that you will want to stop and take in while hiking. This is not a trail you will want to rush through. You will gain a total of 16,700’ in elevation and descend a total of 14,600’ so be ready for some serious ups and downs.
In our minds this trail rivals the beauty and majesty of the John Muir Trail but doesn’t require a permit and provides an experience far away from large crowds. For this reason we cant recommend this hike enough. 10 days after our journey began we climbed up and over the last pass and descended down to Hayden Pass and for the first time came across lots of day hikers as we reached the western terminus. What a test this hike was on our endurance and ability to deal with tough hiking over 10,000’. It was truly a journey that we will never forget.
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