First Time 5-Day Backpacking thru High Uintas

Tasha Siebach

Jun 19, 2015
Hi Everyone! Just joined after years of reading:) What's your advice for experienced, bust rusty out-of-towners (all 17 yrs+)? Right now I'm planning to hike in from Highline Trail trailhead near Mirror Lake and set up camp in Naturalist Basin to do day hikes from there. Is this a good idea? Any strong advice for our campsite location? Will it be crowded there in mid-July? Will we wish we had pushed deeper, away from foot traffic? Is there enough to keep us busy for 5 days?

Also, we'll be driving in from sea level a week before the start date, with plans to do short, daily hikes in the Wasatch area leading up to this trip. Any other advice for acclimating to altitude, etc? Thanks for your help!


Mar 16, 2015
1) Shouldn't be too busy on a weekdays, but it might get crowded on the weekends, at least around Jordan Lake. However...

2) Look for a campsite up on the bench. I saw some great ones not far from Faxon Lake, but still in the trees. There's more up near Blue Lake too, if you want to go 'round more to the east.

3) I don't know about five days of just Naturalist Basin. If you grab Peter Potterfield's book about 25 classic hikes of North America, he takes about five days to explore Naturalist and Rock Creek. If you get tired of Naturalist after a day or two and want to see more, I'd back up to the Highline Trail again, and then go over Rocky Sea Pass and spend a few more days in Rock Creek Basin. Then a quick few hours to get back to the car on the last day, and you'll be all set.

4) My plan to acclimate when I go soon is to actually spend a night at one of the Mirror Lake Highway campsites before starting my backpacking trip. Along with some rather relaxed day hikes, like climbing Bald Mountain, or going up to Lofty Lake, or Lake Ibantek or something--without necessarily a hard and fast itinerary--I hope to be ready to hit the strenuous Red Castle via Bald Mtn Ridge hike on the second day in the area. But that's just my plan; I actually haven't done it yet, so I can't comment entirely on how successful it'll be.


The mountains are calling and I must go
Mar 31, 2013
I'd back up to the Highline Trail again, and then go over Rocky Sea Pass and spend a few more days in Rock Creek Basin.

This is what I'd do.

I haven't spent any time in Naturalist but I do know it's popular enough to draw good crowds.

I loved Rock Creek. Depending on how adventuresome you are and how much you're willing to hike you
could spend weeks in Rock Creek. You'd might encounter a few people but nothing.

Or even better enter at West Fork Black's Fork spend your first night in Buck's pasture or above, that'll get
you acclimated, then push over Dead Horse Pass into the north side of Rock Creek.


Aug 9, 2007
With 5 days I would not bother with Naturalist unless it's stopping to check it out on the way to some place more remote. Use the time and get away from the crowds.

I second the Rock Creek recommendation. And also second the entry at West Fork Black's Fork instead. Explore over Red Knob to Crater Lake perhaps, or over Dead Horse to Rock Creek. Or even make a loop and cross over to Allsop (off-trail) and then go down and hit the trail back over near the Allsop trailhead to where you started. Lots of options, but with 5 days, I'd definitely shoot for something more remote than Naturalist.

The Wasatch hikes are a good idea, but I would still definitely plan to sleep one night at elevation. Buck Pasture would be a great spot for that.
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