Island Lake, Uinta Mountains

Posted: 20th August 2011 by Jonathan Wood in Hiking, Walking
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As we get well into August, I’ve been looking for ways to beat the heat. One way is to hike around water. However, there just aren’t that many places to hike around water within Salt Lake County, especially if you are taking dogs. So I decided to take a rare drive up to the Uinta Mountains, which is absolutely teaming with small lakes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t plan as well as I could have. I ended up driving to the Uintas without first studying some good trail maps.

I drove up Mirror Lake highway to Trial Lake. I really am not that familiar with the area so I just looked around for a good trail. I climbed up a steep bank to Washington Lake, where I found the Crystal Lake trail head.

The Crystal Lake trail head takes you on a really nice, well-formed trail. The trail winds through many lakes and scenic areas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t gain much altitude and so is not an ideal trail for getting a good workout. In fact, the trail seems to descend overall, and you come closer to a hike on the way back.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of steep hikes in the area. There are many peaks, including King’s Peak to the East, which is the highest point in Utah. It seems clear there are also a number of peaks accessible from the trail I was on. But they weren’t readily apparent to me and I’ll do more research the next time I come here to hike.

This would probably be a good trail to pack a tent for overnight camping, especially if you like camping next to lakes as I do. Once we got past Trial and Washington Lakes, probably the biggest lake we saw was Long Lake. That seemed like it might have been a nice place to camp.

I continued West on the trail from Long Lake but then kind of lost the trail where it went over some flat rocks, and was less visible. I followed someone else who said they knew where the trail went but were apparently mistaken. After going on a dwindling trail for a short while, I used my GPS to determine where Island Lake was (the next major lake on the trail). At one point, I just headed through the woods on no trail in the direction of Island Lake. Fortunately, I came up on the main trail again before too long.

For the most part, the trail continued to descend until just before Island Lake, where it turned into a short climb. Island lake is a medium sized lake, apparently named for the island within the lake. I hung out here for a while before walking around the lake and then, finally, heading back.

If you like walking through the woods and seeing a lot of beautiful lakes, then I can definitely recommend this trail. According to my map, this trail continues all the way to the South end of the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir. There are also some great areas to camp.

However, for a good hike up a mountain, this is not that sort of trail. Perhaps I’ll be back later this Summer with a tent!

(Note that the Total Altitude Gained shown below is the sum of all hills climbed. Since the trail went up and down, this value is greater than the difference between the lowest and highest point of the hike. The actual difference between the lowest and highest points of the hike was only about 512 feet.)

Island Lake: 10,156  Feet.
Total Altitude Gained (accumulated): 1,603.
Distance traveled: 9.17 Miles.
Time on Mountain: 4 Hours and 22 Minutes.

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