North Erickson Lake, Uinta Mountains

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Jan 26, 2014
North Erickson Lake is quickly becoming one of my favorite Uinta Mountain destinations. This was my second trip there in two years and I’m already wanting to get the next trip planned.

Last Summer (2013) my friend Dave, my daughter Reese (9) and I hiked to North Erickson Lake via Upper Setting Road and continued down Erickson Creek Trail to Smith and Morehouse Reservoir. This year I took my wife Erika, my two oldest daughters Reese (10) and Charley (8), along with my friend Todd, His wife Crista, and two oldest sons Kyler (13) and Tanner (10). The plan was to hike to North Erickson Lake but rather than finish at the Smith and Morehouse we would hike to Big Elk Lake and then come out the way we came in and finish back at the Upper Setting trailhead over 3 days. Not a lot of distance but we planned on fishing a bit and this was my youngest daughters firstbackpacking trip so we wanted to keep it reasonable for her.
Trip Report:

Friday July 25, 2014

We got a little later start than we hoped leaving Salt Lake around 11:30. We grabbed a quick bite in Kamas along with our 3 day Mirror Lake Highway pass ($6). About 8.5 miles up Highway 150 on the North side of the road is the turn off for Upper Setting Road (USR). USR goes back about 7-8 miles to the Upper Setting Trailhead. The first 2/3 of USR is an easily accessible dirt road suitable for almost any passenger car. The last 1/3 is another story. It is very rocky and suitable only for a higher clearance vehicle with 4WD. I put my Ford Expedition with no addition lift in 4 Low and it did just fine.


It is a 1.5 mile gradual climb from the trailhead to East Shingle Creek Lake.


You pass a very pretty lily pad covered pond/marsh about 1 mile in.



Just before you get to ESC Lake the trail conjoins with the Shingle Creek Trail. Take note of this junction as there is no sign and if you are coming back out this way it would be easy to take the wrong trail.


East Shingle Creek Lake is beautiful.


I’ve been told that the DWR stocked Tiger Trout here. Most fishermen I’ve run into have fished here with little to no success, myself included. That being said almost every cast I reeled in was followed by small fingerlings whose mouths were too small to take the treble hook on my Jake lure. I did manage to hook one small Tiger Trout and get it almost to shore. We hung out here and I fished for about an hour before we pushed on to where we set up camp for the night.

Upper Setting Trail continues North/North-East another 1 mile to Erickson Basin. The trail gets a little steeper and the air gets a little thinner.


You can see Wall Peak (10,887 ft) in the upper left hand corner of this picture.

On my topo map it looks like Erickson Basin is about 10,000 ft. Once in the basin there are some beautiful meadows with a small but deep little creek meandering through them.

Just past these meadows is a junction with Erickson Creek Trail going North passed North Erickson Lake and eventually to Smith and Morehouse Reservoir and the trail the goes passed South Erickson Lake over Big Elk pass to Big Elk Lake.

You can’t see South Erickson Lake from this junction but if you walk about 30 yards up the trail you can see it sitting at the base of Wall Peak.

We camped at NEL, which is about 1.5 miles from ESCL. Last year when we did this hike we camped at the well-established site at the South End of the lake that is right off the trail.

It was occupied this year so we ended up camping at another well-established site at the Northwest end of the lake. I like where we ended up as it was quite a ways off the trail it felt very secluded.


Last year when I fished here we caught 5 fish in about 2 hours and ate a couple of them for dinner. My plan for dinner this year was to repeat and feast on a couple nice brooks. I brought tin foil, fresh lemons, and lemon pepper but our luck at the lake was not good this time. Luckily my wife insisted on bringing enough food in case this happened. Even though we didn’t catch the first night it was so great to be up there by the lake. Many times since our trip last year, I have pictured myself in the evening at that lake. It felt good to be back.

Saturday July 26, 2014

Saturday morning, me and Todd’s two boys got an early start trying our luck at the lake again with the same results. We worked our way around the entire lake ending with a couple lures less and still no fish. Some of our group slept in and were just getting up when we walked back in camp.

I brought my .22 rifle along and we spend an hour or so shooting up some targets. I brought my gun along last year and it was one of my daughter’s favorite parts of the trip. Once again it was a hit. The kids could have done that all day.

We did manage to catch one fish at the lake later that morning. It was a small but very beautiful Brook. We did not get skunked!

In the afternoon we hiked back to South Erickson Lake, then up and over Big Elk Pass and down to Big Elk Lake (about 1.5 miles).

The view from the top of the pass overlooking Big Elk Lake and the 3 small surrounding lakes was spectacular.


The trail going down to the other side was pretty steep. Our original plan had been to camp the second night at Big Elk Lake and the retrace our path back out the way we came in. I am glad we opted to leave our packs at our North Erickson site and do this portion as a day hike.

Big Elk Lake is bigger and deeper than North Erickson Lake. We caught a few brilliantly colored brook trout on our gold Jake lures in the two hours we fished there. I't got hot and my oldest daughter talked me into jumping in the lake to swim with her. It was cold but really refreshing. (Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures while we were at BEL.)

As it got later in the afternoon we decided to return back to our camp at NEL. The hike up Big Elk Pass was a butt kicker especially at 10,000 feet.



South Erickson Lake in the distance.


South Erickson Lake at the base of Wall Peak.


Once again, no luck fishing (catching) at North Erickson.


Sunday July 27, 2014

I was the first to arise and sat by the lake taking it all in on our last day. Besides the breathtaking view I was trying to take in all the smells and sounds.


We had a few late risers in our camp again. Once we finally got everyone up, moving, and fed we decided to go shoot off the rest of the .22 shells I brought. It was a hit again.

We broke camp around 1:00 and headed out.


It started to sprinkle on us a little the rain cooled it down and made our hike out very pleasant. It cooled to about 65 degrees. We stopped at East Shingle Creek Lake for about 45 minutes and tried our luck fishing again. Nothing.

My wife and daughter were leading when we continued on. They were about 100 yards down the Shingle Creek trail just past where it forks with the Upper Setting Trail before we corrected them. (Remember I noted this earlier. There is no sign at this fork so remember to take the upper trail if you want to return to USR.)

USR is just as bumpy and rocky going out as it is coming in.

We grabbed a delicious greasy hamburger, fries and milk shake at Uinta Drive Inn (formerly Dick;s). I was impressed with how fast we got our food. It was good too.

Great Trip! Can’t wait to go back.


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Desperately Seeking Sandstone
Jan 21, 2012
Looks like a fun trip! Thanks for posting this. I've often wondered about this area, but it's hard to find much info on it. It seems like I remember hearing that the trail continuing on to Island Lake becomes vague. Did you have any issues finding your way when you hiked there from Smith and Morehouse last year? I don't have high clearance so I'd prefer to start there.


Jan 26, 2014
The trail from NEL to SM is steep and rocky. We lost the trail about 2 miles down for a bit so we just followed the river until we got back on it. Coming up from SM there is a fork in the trail that goes to Island Lake. Here is a picture from last years trip.


I've not hiked it but my friend has and I thought he said that the trail was closed or damaged due to a landslide and he had to bushwhack a little. I will ask him what he remembers and post his response.


Jan 28, 2013
I may just have to make this area one of my next trips, thanks for posting. And smart with the whistle's around the kid's necks.


Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
May 15, 2013
That sounds like a fun trip. Getting the family out is never, EVER, overrated.


Spiral out.
Aug 9, 2007
Awesome! I wish I was cozied up in a tent playing cards right now!

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