HELP! Need ideas for 50 mile routes in the Uintas

Blake Merrell

Life Elevated - Rising Higher
Feb 25, 2013
Hey all!

I am looking to take my Varsity Scouts on a 50 mile backpacking trek this next summer and need some ideas of some good routes. I thought id pick your brains about it. I have only been camping at some of the lakes in the Uintas, and have yet to actually go backpacking in there. Please help me! :)


Blake Merrell
You need to be more specific. Are you looking at going from and returning to the same trailhead, or arranging a shuttle? Any peak bagging along the way? A lot of scouts like to work Kings Peak into their plans. Or is avoiding lots of elevation change more your style? The more info you can give, the better information we can help you with.
Thanks Uintahiker for your reply

I am thinking that we would like to do a Thru Hike. (That way the boys won't be tempted to turn back to the car. the nearests one will be 50 miles away haha) BUT, I would like to get a feel for some Loop hikes as well. I would appreciate beta for both types of routes.

As far as peak bagging is concerned, we are not to much into that yet. I would like to see some pretty lakes and mountain vistas though, and if summiting some peaks is part of the trip, I wouldn't complain. (I imagine those abound almost anywhere you go in the Uintas though?)

For this group of boys, it would probably be best to limit the amount of elevation gain. However, I would like beta and ideas for other routes as well.

Thanks in advance for all your help and advise!
Hey Blake,

My bro was a scout leader for a while and did two of these so he asked me for a lot of input in their planning.

Before I mention anything about actual routes, there are a couple of big pieces of advice I have.

1. Absolutely DO NOT have a big first day, especially if it involves strenuous elevation change. You might already know this, but a lot of people get sick of they over exert at that altitude before having a day to acclimate. This can linger for days if it hits them. I speak from personal experience and the stories from my brother on their first outing. Think boyscouts puking in the trees and not able to eat after a big first day.

2. Planning on a certain amount of your mileage to be in the form of day trips on the side is not a bad idea. It makes it so you can plan more like a 35-40 mile trip and get those last 10-15 in along the way without all the heavy packs on which means happier scouts.

So with that said, and the fact that you want to do a route that involves a shuttle, the possibilities are huge. The central Uintas are a good spot to look and you can setup relatively short shuttles. I believe one of the trips my bro did was From Center Park to Swift Creek. That's one of those ones where the route itself is only like 40 miles but with a day to bag King's and maybe something else, the 50 mile requirement is easily met. I just quickly drew it up on Google Maps which pegged the core route at 32 so accounting for the broad lines and the fact that I didn't try to follow the trail, it's at least 40 miles. It's the blue line here:

View larger map.
Shuttling those two trailheads would be relatively easy although I think Center Park requires high clearance. I wouldn't start at Swift Creek because of big elevation change the first day. Start at Center Park because you already start high and it will give the boys a chance to acclimate.

The red line on that map would be a good route for a straight point-to-point where you'd probably rack up your miles without any side trips. I think google said 40 for my line so most definitely 50. If you have the Probst book you could figure out decent mileage but keep in mind that most distances in the Probst book are short by a bit. They must have measured with a string on a map or something because whenever I track my GPS they are always about 10-15% short of the actual mileage.

Do you have the Nat Geo Trails Illustrated for the Uintas? If not I'd pick one up ASAP. Its a great map for figuring this kind of stuff out and truthfully, you could basically pick two trailheads and put together a 50-miler in almost any part of the Uintas. If you have specific questions about any certain areas or trailheads and such I and others here are pretty familiar with most of the range.
@Nick do you have the .KML file for those routes? Id like to plop them into google earth if I could and look at them a bit more closely :) thanks!
Those are just crudely drawn lines but you can download the KML from the actual google map by clicking here and then clicking the KML button. The tracks on my Milk Lake guide are actual tracks though. Also, if you click 'view larger map' here or on the map above then you can see it full screen and toggle to a high res topo map. Might be even better than viewing in Google Earth for that because you can compare the line to actual trails. Of course you may have a topo layer installed on GE too which would do the same thing.
Whoa crap. Something happened to my map that I just linked you to and now it's just showing some tracks in Wyoming. Are you seeing the same thing?
Nick, I am seeing the same thing. Looks like it took me to the Windrivers! Now that is somewhere I would LOVE to go!
OK! I now have my own copies of "Hiking: Utah's High Uintas" and the Nat Geo Map!

One of the routes I am looking to do for this trip is: Mirror Lake to W.F.B.F.

What suggestions do you have about this route? Lakes so see, good campsites? what TH would be the easiest: Mirror Lake side? WFBF side?

Thanks for your help! :)
Last edited:
can you say NOOB! LOL **face palm**, Yes, WFBF is what I ment.

Interesting that you posted a link to that TR, I found it today and didn't realize it was YOUR TR lol. I have saved it as a KML and it has helped me immensely in making my initial plans.

We will be going for 6 days, and and i would like to know which start would be the best/easiest for my boys...
Starting on the WFBF side is easiest. It's a very gentle incline up that canyon which is especially good for keeping altitude sickness at bay, which can often be a problem at the start of these trips if you don't have a car camp night to start it off. Camping in WFBF itself would be sublime, Buck Pasture is beautiful and fly fisherman and photogs will love it.

Dead Horse and EJOD are beautiful, but not the place to camp if you want a fire (illegal and no wood around anyway). Fishing in EJOD is supposed to be incredible for big cuts. So so in DHL from what I've seen. I camped at DHL once and in the trees downstream once.

Cross Dead Horse pass early in the day, you're exposed pretty much all the way down to Ledge Lake on the other side. Snow can hold on to the north side of Dead Horse and cover the trail well into the summer. It's a dang steep trail so be sure you're prepared for the conditions if that's the case. I'd just plan to do it later in the year to be safe.

Once in Rock Creek...

Continent Lake is way above tree line and drains like a toilet bowl. We caught nothing.

Ledge Lake is nice - good campsites, a nice waterall, good fishing.

Around the ridge from Ledge, Reconnaissance Lake looks beautiful but is well above tree line so not so good for camping. Some of the other 'lakes' in there aren't really lakes as you probably saw in my TR.

Moving west, Helen, Lightning and the four on the west side (Marjorie, Rosalie, Uintah, Gladys) provide good camping and fishing. I haven't visited all of them, but they ones I have have been good and I've heard even more great things about the ones I haven't been to. I'd focus most of your time in that area.

If you shoot through the middle, Jack & Jill, Ouray and Black all have good camping and fishing, but they're deep in the trees and lack good views unless you find a spot on the south sides that may offer a peak at the Uinta crest.

Rocky Sea is only really rocky on the east side and it's way easier than it sounds. Once again though, hit it early to avoid the storms. You're back in the trees about half way down to Pigeon Milk Springs. If you need a night on the other side of Rocky Sea, Olga and Carolyn are okay. Nothing spectacular though. There is some nice camping at the edge of a the big hill southwest of Carolyn that has great views into the Duchesne drainage.

The last stretch of the Highline is the least pleasant part of the hike, IMO. Very rocky and lots of up and down. Good to save for the last day and just blast through it with light packs.
WOW! Ask and ye shall receive! Thanks for all of that. that is EXACTLY what I needed to know. Now the only question I have is: IS IT SUMMER YET!?
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