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With thermometers hitting the high 90s and hotter along the Wasatch Front, beat the heat with these excursions into the Uinta Mountains.

By Andrew Thompson Landerghini, University Marketing and Communications

It’s hot. And it’s not going to cool off anytime soon. The dog days of summer have arrived early, but here are five Uinta adventures to beat the heat and escape the indoors. Some entail multiday backpacking excursions, while others are just day trips. Before you go, be prepared—pack food, water (a water filter for longer trips), good hiking boots, sunscreen and lots of bug spray. Depending on the destination, swim gear, fishing poles and camping gear would be a good idea, too. Have fun and stay cool!

Mirror Lake Highway

This is your starting point for Uinta fun. The Mirror Lake scenic byway winds through 42 miles of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest with viewpoints, picnic areas and campgrounds along the way. The highway reaches its apex over Bald Mountain Pass at 10,687 feet and goes north all the way to Evanston, Wyo. To reach Mirror Lake Highway, aka Highway 150, and the rest of the Uintas head east on Interstate 80 and exit south on Highway 189. Take that to Highway 248 and go east to the town of Kamas. At Main Street, make a left and then a right on Center Street, which turns into the Mirror Lake Highway.

Mirror Lake Highway is the gateway to the Uintas as many of the area’s trailheads can be accessed from the road. If you’re looking for a short jaunt, check out the lake that is the highway’s namesake, Mirror Lake, at 10,050 feet and just off the road. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy the 2.9-mile loop around the lake. Three types of trout swim in the waters, so bring a fishing pole if you’re an angler.

Miles from campus to Highway 150: 39.9
Miles from campus to Mirror Lake: 70.4

Cataract Gorge

One of the many waterfalls at Cataract Gorge

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Johnston/The Outbound Collective

One of the many waterfalls at Cataract Gorge

With dozens of waterfalls, a scenic creek (Little Deer) AND river (the Duchesne), a lake, and one of the finest swimming holes in the state, this place is perfect on a hot day. The area is fairly remote and high clearance vehicles are recommended to reach the trailhead. It is a 4-mile, out-and-back hike along Little Deer Creek to reach the gorge. If you like to rock climb, bring your gear.

Miles from campus to trailhead: 62.4

Ibantik Lake

Ibantik Lake with Notch Peak in the background.

PHOTO CREDIT: Colton Marsala/The Outbound Collective

Ibantik Lake with Notch Peak in the background.

This hike has two trailheads, Crystal Lake, which is nearer and more direct, and Bald Mountain, which is more scenic (though everything out here scores high on the scenery scale) and less trafficked. Ideally, work out a shuttle system so you can go from one trailhead to the other. Doing that the hike measures at 9.5 miles (4 miles from Crystal Lake, 5.5 from Bald Mountain) and you’ll pass a half dozen or so lakes. Regardless the route, be sure to climb Notch Pass, where a family of mountain goats reside. And please don’t feed the animals.

Miles from campus to Crystal Lake trailhead: 66

Amethyst Basin

Amethyst Basin

PHOTO CREDIT: Connor Barry/The Outbound Collective

Amethyst Basin

This 13-mile round tripper is as photogenic as they get, making it a classic Uinta hike. It can be achieved in one long day though many opt to spend the night at Amethyst Lake with Ostler Peak as the backdrop. The Amethyst Basin trail begins at the Christmas Meadows Campground and winds its way up past glorious waterfalls for a total gain of 1,900 feet in elevation. Once you reach lake, and if you’re staying the night, break out the fishing pole as Amethyst Lake is well-populated and the cutthroat trout are hungry.

Miles from campus to trailhead: 88.3

Kings Peak

The perspective atop Kings Peak

PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Leopardi

The perspective atop Kings Peak

This summit is aptly named as it is the tallest peak in Utah, measuring in at 13,528 feet. However, Kings Peak was not named because of its supremacy in height, but after the first director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Clarence King. While there are multiple approaches to Kings Peak, the most common is from the Henrys Fork Campground, where it’s a 28.8 mile out-and-back hike to Utah’s “crown point.” Give yourself a few days to bag the state’s most prominent peak.

Miles from campus to the Henrys Fork Campground trailhead: 153

So there you have it, five adventures to beat the heat. Before embarking, do your research and be prepared. After all, the Uinta wilderness can be wild. For any and all outdoor rental needs, check out Outdoor Adventures at the Student Life Center.