Uinta Highline Trail, July 4-8 2018


New Member
Jun 22, 2018
I've really enjoyed reading others trip reports (and using them for my own planning) over the past year, so thought I should start contributing with this UHT trip report. If I have time, I'll come back and add some pictures, but that may have to wait for winter; summer time is outdoor time :)

The trip: A friend and I hiked the Uinta Highline Trail from Leidy Peak to Hayden Pass from July 4th-8th. ~85 miles including side trips.
Trail conditions: By and large, the trail was in great shape and well marked, with minimal blowdowns or swampy areas. We brought ice axes just in case they were needed for any of the passes-- they were not. The area is worryingly dry for this time of year, but drinking water sources are still abundant-- I usually only carried a liter at a time. I only picked up a few pieces of other folks trash over the whole trail. Special shout out to the person who pooped two feet from the trail between Deadhorse Pass and Ledge Lake and covered it with a pile of wipes. You’re a real gem.
Navigation: We used the Nat Geo Trails Illustrated map (#711) and a Suunto M-3 compass (although the compass only got used once), with the USGS quad maps saved in Gaia GPS as a backup. The whole trail could easily be done without GPS, although in that case I would definitely recommend the level of detail found in the USGS maps (we did like having a big overview map in case we needed to bail out due to injury, fires, etc.)
Weather: Practically perfect. Warm and sunny with just enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. A few late afternoon thundershowers that passed quickly. Great views despite some haze from the Dollar Ridge fire. Nights were extremely warm.

Daily Details
Day 0/July 3rd: Getting there
My friend Amanda and I left SLC after work and drove to the Hacking Lake/Leidy Peak trailhead. Luckily, Highway 40 was open-- we could see flames from the Dollar Ridge fire as we drove through. We got to the trailhead by about 10 pm, and slept in her vehicle.

Day 1/July 4th: Leidy Peak to Fox Lake
We had a relaxing start to the morning and began hiking around 7:30 am. Most of the morning consisted of beautiful rolling terrain. A highlight was the large herd of elk on top of Gabbro Pass. Navigation became slightly trickier at Deadman Lake-- an obvious trail went up around the east side of the lake, but our map and the signs showed the highline on the left side. We were able to regain the trail at the summit, but if I were to do it over again, I would stick with the trail that exists on the ground, instead of the one on paper. Similarly, following the map down the other side led us down a talus field that took a lot of time and energy to traverse, but I think we could have avoided most of it if we hadn’t been trying to stay on route. We took a quick lunch break at Whiterocks Lake, which had a super low water level, and then continued to Chepeta Lake for some swimming. Then we were treated to more beautiful meadows before climbing up and over North Pole Pass. We were pretty tired at this point and our feet were feeling the transition from cubicle to trail life, but the switchbacks were super gentle, and we were able to get camp set up along an inlet stream for Fox Lake in time to watch a stunning sunset. A note on navigation: others have commented that the trail between Brook and Fox Lakes becomes swampy and very difficult to follow. I think if you follow the trail marked on the map down to Brook Lake, that is probably true. We chose to stick with the well-trod, well-cairned trail we saw coming down off the pass, that wound around above Brook Lake before gently descending to Fox, and it worked out perfectly.

Day 2/July 5th: Fox Lake to Painter Basin
We knew we would likely be tired after the first day, so had planned today as a sort of recovery day-- shorter distance, no big passes, nice slow pace, with plenty of time to relax. The day featured beautiful mountain views, wildflowers, grazing elk, and and exactly zero other people. We set up camp at the base of Anderson Pass mid-afternoon and took our time stretching, rehydrating, and using a fuel canister to roll out our leg muscles.

Day 3/July 6th: Painter Basin to Lambert Meadow
We woke up feeling great and made short work of the hike up Anderson, where we ditched our packs for the side trip to King’s Peak. This is where we saw the only “crowds” of the trip-- maybe 25 people in total. A few were up ahead of us (or already heading down), and then we passed quite a few folks on our way back down. We picked up our gear and headed down off the pass, to be rewarded with a gorgeous stretch of meadow walking, followed by gentle rolling Tungsten Pass, more lake swimming, and Porcupine Pass. After Porcupine Pass, it was more meadows, more gorgeous lakes, and then a cozy campsite tucked into a stand of trees near a stream. We both agreed that this was our favorite day so far.

Day 4/July 7th: Lambert Meadow to unnamed stream crossing (approximately 6 miles from the Hayden Pass trailhead)
We broke down camp and headed for Red Knob pass, and were at the top by 9 am. There were lots of signs of mountain goats in the area-- fur on bushes, footprints, and fresh poop, but the goats themselves remained elusive. At one point we noticed a white lump farther up the trail that was either a stump or a goat...it was a stump. Then it was down Red Knob and up to Dead Horse Lake for a quick swim, then up and over the pass. Everything went smoothly and the views from the top were absolutely gorgeous. Then we were cruising down and looking for a lunch spot. In our food-focused rush, we didn’t notice that the fallen sign we passed was the turnoff between heading down to Rock Creek or up to Lightning Lake-- we realized what we’d done when we pulled out the map after lunch. Neither of us had really been looking forward to the descent to Rock Creek, and extra swimming lakes are always a bonus in my book, so instead of backtracking, we decided to embrace the detour and check out Lightning Lake before looping back down to the Highline Trail. It added about 4 miles to our total for the day, but ended up being an incredibly scenic detour and well worth checking out. Then we were up and over Rocky Sea pass, and running downhill through mosquito hell-- the only time on the trail they were truly terrible. We set up camp wearing our raingear for protection, and after soaking our feet in the ice cold stream, settled in to bed.

Day 5/July 8th: to the end
We hiked the last 6 miles out to the Hayden Pass trailhead, expecting to wait about 30 minutes for my husband to pick us up, and instead found him already there, cooking us bacon! We also saw a group of goat-packers on their way in, which was a lot of fun-- there’s not much cuter than a goat with a bell and a backpack. We dropped my husband off in Heber to fish and drove back out to Vernal to pick up Amanda’s car, and ended up getting back to Salt Lake around 8:30 pm. The car shuttle is a little brutal, and if you can bribe someone to drop you off at your starting point, definitely do so. Overall it was a great trip in a beautiful area with very few people, and one that I would highly recommend.


Aug 9, 2007
Wow! Your first day must have been upwards of 26+ miles! I did Leidy to Chepeta and had to bail years ago and just went back and did Chepeta to Hayden July 5-9. Aside from your monster first day we split it up about the same, although we camped in Rock Creek on our last night and had a much longer last day. I felt like we did it way too fast. You guys are machines! Way to go!


Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
May 5, 2012
@Nick and I saw those same goat packers on July 9. They weren't even to Rock Creek. Slow folks.


New Member
Jun 22, 2018
Wow! Your first day must have been upwards of 26+ miles! I did Leidy to Chepeta and had to bail years ago and just went back and did Chepeta to Hayden July 5-9. Aside from your monster first day we split it up about the same, although we camped in Rock Creek on our last night and had a much longer last day. I felt like we did it way too fast. You guys are machines! Way to go!
@Nick yeah we were hurting by the end of the first day, but it made everything else super easy in comparison! Good to just channel some of that first-day excitement into walking.


Jul 11, 2018
What a trip! My wife and I had a baby this year, making any trips together impossible, so next year I'm hoping to do a Highline Trail trip with her at some point in July. It's a year away, but stuff like this already has me looking forward to it.


May 25, 2018
Timely trip report. Heading up there to hike July 22/23-29. Will be going a lot slower due to my dogs...older one maxes out at about 12 miles a day in order to keep him healthy and sound....gotta hike their hike.

Pretty excited about this trip and hopefully the views and terrain help make up for the west side of the Collegiate Loop I didn't get to do because of my dog and over-doing it one day.

Deleted User

Deleted User
Aug 5, 2016
Wow! That sounds amazing! Holy smokes to that day 1! I bet all that swimming helped keep you pain free on the trail. Great write up!
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