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Best Uinta Backpacking Trips For The Fly Fisherman: Granddaddy Lake, Naturalist Basin, et al.

Best Uintas Backpacking Trips

This is a guest post courtesy of Rob Tidwell – Ogden, Utah’s Copywriter.

The High Uintas Wilderness Area is a sportsman’s paradise – located just 2 hours from SLC and 1.5 hours from Park City.

This 240,000 acre protected area is heaven for any fly fisherman looking to slay trout in the backcountry.  (There is a small fee for day and overnight use, so make sure to stop at one of the ranger stations or grab a pay envelope at the trailhead.)

The highest mountain range in Utah (Kings Peak is the tallest point at 13,528 feet), the Uintas are also the only major mountain range in the country that runs east-west.

With over a thousand lakes located in this wilderness area, the Uintas offer several backpacking trips that put the fisherman’s camp right next to plentiful waters.

Here are a few of our favorite:

Grandaddy Basin 

Starting at the Grandview trailhead, this Uintas backpacking trip is the “granddaddy of them all” for the fly fisherman who’s looking to hit up multiple lakes in rapid succession.

While Grandaddy Basin is no secret, it’s still an enjoyable experience offering more than 20 well-stocked lakes all within a 2-hour walk of the aptly-named Grandaddy Lake, the Basin’s largest.  Campsites are plentiful and easy to find. Many anglers consider this the premier backpacking trip in the Uintas because of both the quality and quantity of fishing holes in the stunning basin.

Granddaddy Lake

It’s best to pitch camp past Grandaddy Lake.  It’s a mere 4 miles in, so many people make it a day hike out to this point but rarely venture beyond it.

It’s overrated.

We recommend taking at least 2 days for this trip, so you can take advantage of the numerous lakes in the vicinity and the basin’s serene natural beauty.

There are tons of side trails, too – and many more good lakes than you could possibly hit up in a single day trip.

DWR stocks many of the lakes with hungry cutthroat and brook trout just waiting to devour your fly.

Uintas Snow
It can snow or hail anytime in the Uintas. This photo was taken in August.

If you’re bored of fishing the same ole community pond by your house, maybe touring 20+ fish-laden backcountry lakes in Grandaddy Basin is the cure to your suburban blues.

How To Get There:

From Kamas:  Take SR 32 south before taking a left on SR 35.  Turn left on North Fork Road in 28 miles.  Drive for 11.5 miles past Hades Campground to the junction and take Highway 144 for 5 miles to the Grandview Trailhead

From Heber:  Drive north on US 189/US 40 then turn right onto Utah 32. Follow directions above.

Random note:  There used to be a bar near the trailhead “Decas Drinking Team World Headquarters”.  If you see it, be sure to stop in.

Use a Map:

Grandaddy Lake, Hayden Peak (USGS)

High Uintas Wilderness (Trails Illustrated #711)

Naturalist Basin

Naturalist Basin

Naturalist Basin is another popular area that can get crowded (for the backcountry), especially if you stick around the most popular lake.  But for the more imaginative backpacking angler, there are plenty of delightful camping spots tucked out of the way.

Truth is, Naturalist Basin is one of our favorite fish packing trips in all of the Uintas.

The scenic beauty is breathtaking, with A-list fishing to boot.  Our last trip out, we caught fish with every cast- and gorged on rainbows and brown trout until we were “full to the gills” that night.

Once again, we recommend spending at least one night on this trip if you want to experience all the breathtaking beauty the basin has to offer.

It’s a 6-mile hike to the heart of the basin and Jordan Lake; the biggest and most popular lake,  this is where most hikers set up camp. There’s good reason for the popularity – Jordan Lake is a stunning setting and the fishing is fantastic.

Put a little extra effort into your trip and spend the night near one of the basin’s many other stunning, off-the-beaten-path lakes. (Everman is our favorite).

How To Get There

From Kamas:  Head West on Hwy 150 to Mirror Lake.  3 miles past Mirror Lake turn right to arrive at the Highline trailhead.

Take a Map:

Hayden Peak (USGS)
High Uintas Wilderness (Trails Illustrated #711)

Amethyst Lake

Amethyst Lake Uintas

This is an “under the radar” fishing trip because while most folks go up this trail to view stunning Amethyst Lake, they don’t even think about fishing the amazing, packed-to-the-brim with-trout lakes nearby.

Amethyst Lake isn’t the greatest fishing spot, but camping next to Ostler Lake provides plenty of tight lines; another spot where we were pulling in fish on every cast. And Amethyst Lake’s gorgeous views are just icing on the cake for this backpacking trip.

When you arrive at the Christmas Meadows trailhead, you can even take a minute to fish Stillwater Creek.  You may even have some company – moose do frequent the area. This spot alone provides some great fishing without the need to hike anywhere.

But – we’re here for some backcountry fishing, right?!

We recommend hitting the trail at an early hour, so you can get camp set up and enjoy fishing the backcountry lakes all day.  We always set up next to Ostler Lake and slay fish well into the evening.

How To Get There:

From SLC, go north on I-80 to Evanston, from Evanston take highway 150 south about 33 miles to a turnoff for Christmas Meadows (watch for the sign). Follow this dirt trail about 4 miles to the trailhead.

Take a Map:

Hayden Peak (USGS)
High Uintas Wilderness (Trails Illustrated #711)


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