Naturalist Basin |

Western Uintas

Hiking Naturalist Basin - Western Uintas Hiking Naturalist Basin
Western Uintas

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Moderate Hike / Easy Backpack
MAPS: Hayden Peak, UT;

Sat

61 | 44

Sun

61 | 48

Mon

59 | 43

Tue

62 | 42

Wed

63 | 44

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SEASON: Summer, Fall
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: Filterable water most of the way.

Sat

61 | 44

Sun

61 | 48

Mon

59 | 43

Tue

62 | 42

Wed

63 | 44

View Full Weather Details

Growing up near the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains I had always heard Naturalist Basin was one of the crown jewels of the area, but had never actually taken the time to visit. When I finally did visit in 2015, the area lived up to its reputation. This is a gem of an area, and very popular. This is not a place to come for solitude, but is a place to come for big views, stunning high mountain lakes, and an amazing hike. That said, the trailhead parking was near capacity when I was there, but, though we ran into a few people on the trail, it never felt crowded. This hike visits Scudder Lake, Jordan Lake, Shaler Lake, Faxon Lake, Le Conte Lake, Walcott Lake, Blue Lake, and Morat Lakes. An anglers dream, there are lots of options for wetting a lure.

Though the basin is only 5.3 miles from the trailhead, that is just the start of the good stuff. Plan on about 15 miles round trip to see the full basin. Most do this as an overnight backpack. If doing it as a backpack, practice minimum impact camping techniques, and be aware fires are not permitted within 1/4 of a mile of any lake in Naturalist Basin. For my money, this makes a great long day hike for those fit enough to put in the miles. Start early if doing it as a day hike, afternoon thundershowers are common and the highest lakes in the basin are exposed and not a good place to be during a lightning storm. For camping, staying a 1/4 or 1/2 mile back from any of the lake shores will help insure more solitude. There are a lot of lakes and a lot of great places to camp, so you may be able to find a secluded spot.

Panorama from Naturalist Basin

Getting There

The trailhead is the Highline Trail trailhead/Hayden Pass off the Mirror Lake highway. This is at mile post 34.2, which is 34.2 miles from Kamas Utah on highway 150, or about 43 miles south of Evanston Wyoming on highway 150. The Mirror Lake highway is closed from late fall to about Memorial Day. The trail would likely be very snowy until late June in most years.


Route

To Natural Basin (5.3 miles)
Follow the Highline trail. After 0.75 miles, a side trail comes in from Mirror Lake, stay left as the trail descends southeast along the base of the high Uintas.

Continuing on, a junction is reached with right going to Scudder Lake and left bypassing Scudder Lake. Either way is fine, but I recommend right to see the lake close up. Just after the lake, the trail re-joins the main trail.

Next up is Packard Lake junction. Stay left here, as the trail meanders up and down to a final junction to Naturalist Basin (left) or Rocky Sea Pass (right). Go left as the trail begins climbing up into Naturalist Basin.

The scenery is stunning as you enter Naturalist Basin. A final junction occurs where the views open and Mt. Agassiz is prominent to the left. The peak towers to 12,428 feet over the northwest side of the basin. To the northeast of the basin is Spread Eagle Peak, and at 12,540 feet, is slightly higher than Agassiz.

Jordan / Blue Lake Loop (about 5 miles)
Though this loop adds 5 miles to the hike, it visits the best part of the basin. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. From the Jordan Lake Junction, I suggest doing the loop in a counter clockwise direction. Go right, crossing the stream and following a meadow before the trail climbs briefly to the picturesque Jordan Lake.

Continuing past Jordan Lake, the trail once again climbs a step, this time to above tree line and Shaler Lake that is nestled below Spread Eagle Peak. This stunning spot makes a great destination.

Want more scenery and some easy off trail hiking? Continue the loop by hiking north to near the base of the mountains, and heading west along the flats. En route you will quickly visit Faxon Lake, Le Conte Lake, and Walcott Lakes before reaching the large Blue Lake that is nestled below Mt. Agassiz. Absolutely stunning!

At the south side of Blue Lake are two ponds. The original trail descended between these two ponds (shown on the map). This has a little boulder hoping. Going to the east side of the ponds is a better and more used trail these days. Either way, the hike descends steeply to Morat Lakes.

Go east around Morat Lakes on the trail as it circles around the south side of the lake, then descends steeply and crosses back to Jordan Lake Junction.


Maps

Route / 17.23 miles / Elevation Range 9,947 - 11,017 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

12T 511493mE 4507895mN

N40° 43' 19" W110° 51' 50"

Mirror Jct

12T 511618mE 4507154mN

N40° 42' 55" W110° 51' 45"

Packard Jct

12T 513405mE 4504909mN

N40° 41' 42" W110° 50' 29"

Naturalist Jct

12T 515147mE 4504131mN

N40° 41' 17" W110° 49' 15"

Jordan Jct

12T 516170mE 4505102mN

N40° 41' 48" W110° 48' 31"

Shaler Lake

12T 517706mE 4506686mN

N40° 42' 39" W110° 47' 25"

Blue Lake

12T 515783mE 4505934mN

N40° 42' 15" W110° 48' 47"

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