Discover Family-Friendly Adventure in Utah’s Uinta Mountains

Adventure Camping Hiking Location Guides Outdoor Activities Paddling Travel By Nicole Goodman

Encompassing 460,000 acres, over 1,000 glacier-formed lakes, and hundreds of miles of streams and trails, the High Uinta Wilderness is Utah’s largest designated wilderness area. It’s also the highest mountain range in Utah, and the only major range in the contiguous United States that runs East to West. Much of the rugged wilderness is roadless, making the pristine Uintas ideal for backpacking, hunting, and backcountry skiing.

For families looking for more accessible adventures, there’s endless opportunity for camping, fishing, hiking, and paddling along the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. Less than two hours from downtown Salt Lake City, this beloved road stretches 52 miles from Kamas, Utah to the Wyoming border. Take your pick of numerous campgrounds, picnic areas, trails, lakes, and overlooks along the route.

HighUintas SpringLake
Natural lakes are still thawing in High Uintas in late May

Fees/Permits: It’s free to drive the byway, but use of the trails and amenities requires a pass. Pick up a 3-day pass for $6 or 7-day pass for $12 at the self-service stations along the byway. Access is free with the National Park Pass, American Fork Canyon Pass or Mirror Lake Scenic Byway Annual Pass (available at ranger station for $45).

Bald Mountain Summit Trail

Utah’s highest paved road crests at 10,715 feet at Bald Mountain Pass. Just beyond the pass, look for the dirt turnoff and parking lot for Bald Mountain Trail Head. At 3-miles round trip, Bald Mountain is one of Utah’s easiest summits, making it perfect for adventurers of all ages.

Start early to beat the heat, afternoon storms, and crowds on this popular hike. The out-and-back trail is exposed with very little shade and no water; it steadily climbs 1,174 feet to reach the summit at 11,942 feet. Look for wildflowers popping up among the boulders, and soak up the incredible views of jewel-like lakes and surrounding peaks. The Uintas are dog-friendly, so bring your four-legged companion along for the hike.

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Look down on Mirror Lake Scenic Byway from Bald Mountain Trail

On a summer day, we hit the trail around 10 a.m. We passed several groups, but the steady climb quickly spaces out hikers, and the expansive summit accommodates even large groups. The rocky trail gains elevation right away. After three switchbacks, enter a very short stretch of brush and pine trees before crossing a boulder field. The trail eventually wraps around the east side of the mountain, reaches a false summit, and crosses the narrowest section of trail before ascending a set of large rock steps to the summit.

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Crossing narrowest section of trail before reaching steps to Bald Mountain Summit

From the summit, enjoy 360-degree views of Murdock Peak, Reids Peak, and Hayden Peak. Look down to see colorful kayaks and paddle boards dotting Mirror Lake.

Nicole BaldMountainTrail
Jumping for joy in High Uintas. Pictured in Ridge Trucker & Engineered Hoody.

What to Wear

Avoid sunburn on this high-altitude hike with a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt with built-in sun protection like the KÜHL Engineered Hoody. Protect your face with a broad-brimmed or Trucker Hat.

Mirror Lake

The namesake of the Uinta’s scenic byway, Mirror Lake is known for its near-perfect reflection of surrounding peaks. With a seasonal campground, shoreline perfect for fishermen, and plentiful paddling, Mirror Lake is a bustling hub on sunny summer days. After hiking Bald Mountain, we spent the afternoon paddling on Mirror Lake.

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Standup Paddle Boarding on Mirror Lake

Camping

Numerous developed campgrounds are available along Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. The peak season for most campgrounds is Memorial Day through Labor Day, but ranger stations keep some campgrounds open later into fall, weather permitting. Reservations are strongly recommended for summer weekends, but sites are often available first-come, first-serve early in the season and midweek.

Dispersed camping is allowed in the High Uintas, and numerous sites are available off Mirror Lake Byway. Camp at least 100 feet from water, and pay attention to any posted notices about fire restrictions, wildlife, and vegetation.

ProvoRiver Uintas
Exploring the icy river on an overnight camping trip in May. Pictured in KÜHL Fleece.

Things to Know: Mirror Lake Byway is a seasonal road and is closed to automobiles during the winter due to heavy snow accumulation. Typically, the road is open to regular traffic from mid-May to mid-fall. Check UDOT for the latest information on seasonal road closures. The road is a popular snowmobile route in winter, and many trails are groomed for skiing. Cell phone service is unreliable in the Uintas; plan accordingly.


Nicole’s idea of a perfect vacation involves camping, hiking, trail runningSUP and exploring secluded beaches with her husband and two daughters. She writes about travelraising KÜHL kids and her obsession with outdoor apparel for KÜHL.


HighUintas
Nicole Goodman