Solitude in the Uintas -- Gilbert Lake Loop

Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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18
August 21-28, 2018

This was my first trip to the Uinta Mountains. I had looked at the guidebook and read descriptions of Henry's Fork, Red Castle, Granddaddy Basin, etc. and they all looked and sounded splendid, both I ultimately decided I wanted a route that would offer more solitude. I settled on a seven-day loop hike beginning and ending at Hoop Lake that connected Gibert Lake to Gilbert Creek Basin via a high cross-country route. The route is shown here.

I got the solitude I wanted. A saw a group of horsemen within an hour of leaving the trailhead on day one, and after that did not see another person until after I had finished my hike seven days later. It helped that I was off trail at least half the time, and went at the end of August when much of Utah seems to be back in school.

Temps were ideal. Highs around 60, lows around 40 all week.

Day 1

I started my hike at the Hoop Lake trailhead around 4 PM. My compact car made the trip just fine. This is an unusual trailhead in that there is no designated parking for hikers as far as I could tell. I had to just find a spot to park my car and hope I didn't get ticketed. I didn't. And there is no fee for hikers. I hiked about 3 miles to Burnt Ridge and camped. It started raining heavily, with lightning and brief hail, about halfway there and continued for most of the night.
 
Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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18
Day 2

Today I had a fairly short hike to Beaver Lake. I was able to follow the trail the entire way, but not without some difficulty. Had to backtrack a couple of times after losing the trail, and there was a lot of blowdown to negotiate. Made it to Beaver Lake midafternoon where I set up camp and it soon started to rain. Sat under a tree and watched a moose for over an hour. The rain intensified and continued for most of the night.

Lake at Burnt Ridge

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Thompson Peak

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Nice views from the trail

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Corral Meadows

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Moose in the rain (it did the full body shake a couple of times)

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Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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Day 3

Today's goal was to get from Beaver Lake to Gilbert Lake. I opted for a cross-country route that left Beaver Lake heading due west, through a beautiful soggy meadow, up onto a high shelf above tree line, descending to Lake 10930, and continuing westward to Gilbert Lake. There was a well-worn trail the last mile to Gilbert Lake. I camped on the south side of the lake, and watched an elk sipping from the shore as twilight faded.

Beaver Lake in the morning

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Meadow west of Beaver Lake, ascent route in the distance (nice game trail at the top)

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Up above treeline. There was major haze today but still had some nice sights.

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Unsuspecting moose from above

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Lake 10930 where I took a lunch break and a brief dip.

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Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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Day 4

Today was an unintended rest today. I think the altitude caught up with me, but whatever the reason, I slept poorly and was totally exhausted to start the day. I had planned to attempt climbing Gilbert Peak. It's a shame too, because yesterday's haze was gone and the skies were crystal blue. I've never taken a rest day before on a backpacking trip, and thought I would find it boring, but ended up having no trouble passing the time. Gilbert Lake had a lot to do with that, it's a beautiful spot. My only activity for the day was a hike around the lake. At dusk I watched a moose grazing in the lake, and there was a great sunset.

View from camp in the morning

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Gilbert Lake and Peak

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Another day, another moose.

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Best sunset of the week

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Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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Day 5

I set off at 7 AM heading south from Gilbert Lake, and made my way over the Uinta crest to Gilbert Creek Basin. The climb up to the crest is not bad at all if you take the right line (read most gradual slope), and there was frequent water the whole way. Saw three more moose and an elk on the climb. Once up high, the walking is very easy and satisfying. My climb down into Gilbert Creek Basin was more strenuous as I climbed down a talus-filled notch. Down in Gilbert Creek Basin, there are elk everywhere and it's rather windy. Good campsites are rare but I managed to find a decent one, the biggest challenge being finding an 8 x 10 patch devoid of elk droppings.

Looking back on Lake 11033

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and Lake 11295.

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Approaching the crest.

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Overlook of Gilbert Creek Basin

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While climbing down the notch I saw a small white mountain goat resting in this bush. It ran off before I could photograph it.

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The downclimb. There are a couple of pouroffs that must be bypassed on the left. The talus is a bit loose in places so this route is not for the faint of heart.

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This shows a possible alternate route down, note the funky fin in the middle. Looks more gradual than my route but longer.

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Curious youngsters got pretty close to me. Mama was more cautious.

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Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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Day 6

After a 2 hour day hike of the upper portion of the basin, I headed through the trees toward Verlie Lake where I stopped for lunch and a brief swim. The only sane way to approach Verlie Lake is from the west, all other directions are talus field. This meant I could not continue cross-country to the Rainbow Lake area, and instead had to drop down to the highline trail, which I followed brielfy before passing through Kidney Lakes and on to Davis Lakes where I camped for the night.

Upper Gilbert Creek Basin

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Lake 11124

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Verlie Lake

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Approaching Davis Lakes

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Joined
Sep 16, 2018
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18
Day 7

Plan A was to climb South and North Burro Peaks and descend to Kabell Lakes via Thomson pass. Unfortunately the haze had returned and by 7:30 clouds were already moving in. So I opted for Plan B which was a lower route past Samuels Lake, Dime Lake, over Divide Pass and following the trail past Island Lake down to Kabell Meadows.

King's Peak is there somewhere in the haze.


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Approaching Samuels Lake.

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Samuels Lake

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Climbing out of Samuels Lake area

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Pass between Samuels and Dime Lakes.

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Lake 10832, just above Dime Lake.

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This shows a typical cross country route through the forest, along a game trail. Easy!

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Near Divide Pass

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Descent from Divide Pass, had to wait 5 minutes for this dude to clear out.

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Sep 16, 2018
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Day 8

Kabell Meadows back to my car at Hoop Lake, 4.5 miles, out by 10 am. There is a tremendous amount of blowdown along this section and someone has worked very hard to keep the way clear for horses, but there were still 4-5 trees blocking the trail in various places.

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Sep 16, 2018
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Some thoughts on my route.

Overall I would recommend this route to anyone seeking 4-7 days of solitude. The only thing I would have done differently would be to avoid dropping down to Gilbert Creek Basin. The climb down is challenging for one, and to get out you are forced to choose between hiking a talus field or the highline trail. Instead, I would have just spent an hour soaking in views of the basin from above, and then proceeded to Rainbow lake. The drop down to Rainbow Lake from the crest is gentle, seen hear from one of the Wilderness Lakes.

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With my extra day I would have explored the upper reaches of the Rainbow Lake basin.

The other obvious tweak to this loop would be to use the Middle or West Beaver trailheads. That could save a day if desired.

Except for my climb down in to Gilbert Creek Basin, off-trail travel was not particularly challenging, but it was very rewarding. Your hiking times are slower because of route finding, not necessarily because of the terrain.

I hope this report gives people some ideas for getting away from the more popular areas. For anyone seeking more detail, here is a link to the Flickr album for this trip.

DRS
 
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Born to Hike

Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
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146
I'm always on the lookout for solitude, so I really appreciate your TR and map. I've never seen so many moose from someone's TR in the Uintas - that speaks for itself of the lack of the Homo sapien variety. Thanks again!
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
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2,561
Didn't see this the first tume... but wow! Cool trip and great report! Got me thinking about that section of ridge...
 

Miya

Because I am able.
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Joined
Dec 31, 2017
Messages
1,231
Thanks for sharing! Glad you found that solitude! Seeing more animals than humans sounds like a good trip!
 
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