The Best Hikes in Wasatch - Cache National Forest

57 Triplog Reviews in the Wasatch - Cache National Forest
Most recent of 19 deeper Triplog Reviews
27.05 mi • 4,352 ft aeg
Yes I'm goin'
That Utah line
See if them women
Sweet like mine

With apologies to R. L. Burnside, I thought that I'd use this verse as a segue for a trip report to a day hike to Kings Peak (elevation of 13,528 feet and prominence of 6,348 feet), the highpoint of Utah.

I got a 3:00 AM alpine start, and made pretty good time in the dark. It was 27 degrees, so it was a chilly start. It finally started warming up around 7:00 AM, when the sun came up.

When I got to Gunsight Pass, I took the shortcut over toward Anderson Pass. I took the shortcut on the way back also. Taking the shortcut both ways probably saved 2.5 miles and 800-900 feet of elevation gain.

The hardest part of the hike was the 1.6 mile RT from Anderson Pass to the summit and back. This was a class 2 boulder scramble the whole way, and I bet that it took me 3 hours to do these 1.6 miles.

The 5-6 miles nearest to the TH were mostly in a forest, but you were in scenic open country beyond that.

I was glad to get this hike done. I have now done all 8 Utah ultraprominent peaks, and have now been on the highpoint of 22 of Utah's 29 counties.

This is a tough day hike, due to distance and some of the terrain. A sensible person would do this one as a 2 or even 3 day backpack. There are lots of places to camp and water is plentiful.
100 mi • 23,000 ft aeg
Wasatch 100
Decided to try my hand at one of the oldest 100 milers, Wasatch Front, which began in 1980, and runs point-to-point through the mountains from Kaysville to Midway, UT. Didn't get as much training as I wanted due to an achilles issue in late July.

Started up Bair Canyon at 5am, conga line up a super steep trail (I think 1,500 ft the last mile). Tough way to start things out. Bad air quality. The next 12-13 miles to the Sessions Liftoff were "easy".

Sessions crest was pretty rough, it was hot up there. Great views, would be nice to see it on a clearer day. Then more ridge down to an aid station at mile 40, then up Alexander Creek in cooler shady temps with waning daylight.

At Lambs Canyon Trail, had to pull out the flashlight. Of course I think this is where the course really starts to get pretty. And also even more difficult; the climbs never ended. At Big Water TH it finally got a little frigid, but the jacket stayed on for just a short time, as it warmed up on the way up to Desolation Lake. I was actually feeling much better at this point, and had no serious doubts about finishing this thing.

Brighton was quite chilly at 3:45am. And the climb after Brighton was pretty brutal, although Lake Mary under the full moon was pretty sweet. Steep descent to aid, then a short but very, very steep ascent up to the Ant Knolls ridge. Sun started coming up at this point. Overall the night portion of this run went pretty well.

The last 20 miles was just way too long. Despite being "downhill", the trail to the Pot Hollow junction was sheer (pretty) misery, with pointless steep climbs and steep, loose descents. Couldn't win either way. Once I started the drop down to Pot Hollow (mile 85), I kicked up the effort a notch and finished pretty solidly (despite a very warm and exposed last 10 miles). Saw a pretty onery looking bull moose at around mile 88.

Was absolutely thrilled to roll into the finish, and at a somewhat reasonable time (i.e. not pushing the cutoff). Pretty sure I was working my way to actual heat illness there, but tempered my effort those last few miles just enough to only feel a little puky after finishing.
7.15 mi • 2,769 ft aeg
Turned out to be a beautiful day for a winter hike in the Wasatch mountains. With daytime temps in Salt Lake approaching 60 degrees, and sunshine all around, I headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon after skipping out on the post-lunch finale of my conference--opting to conclude my visit with some alpine fresh air, instead.
Camino Campana Trail
Camino Campana Trail

I chose Lake Blanche because it was close, had a bit of elevation gain, and had a string of small alpine lakes as the pay-off at the top.

The website I used to find the trail said that it was not all that popular, but on this day at least, I would beg to differ. The parking area was full, with cars parked along the canyon road as overflow. Despite the TH congestion, there was still a fair amount of solitude to be found along the trail. I arrived shortly after lunch, with most of the crowd having departed in the morning. So, most of my climb up to the lake was in solitude.

I only had so much room for footwear in my carry-on, so my running shoes had to double as hiking shoes on this one. I strapped my Yak Trax over them, and they turned out to be perfect for the snow-packed single track. I complemented the shoes with some thick, wool socks, knowing that the porous running shoes would likely result in some moisture seeping through. It did, but the wool socks did their magic and my feet remained warm throughout.

In fact, on the climb up, it was downright toasty. I hiked in t-shirt and zip-offs, until the breeze in the higher areas kicked in.

The hike itself begins at the Mill B South trailhead, which is right off the road on the way up the Canyon. The trail starts off along the strong flowing creek to your left. At this time of year, the cascades were rumbling beneath a layer of ice in places.

A little more than a 1/4 mile in, you arrive at the TH for Lake Blanche, which peels off to the right and up the adjoining drainage. The steady climb begins from here, and while the trail gains nearly 3,000 feet in the next 3 miles or so, the climb never felt exhausting, as you are pleasantly distracted by the rumbling side creek for the first mile of the climb, and then the muffled sound of your own feet crunching the snow beneath.

As I looked up to the surrounding mountaintops, I could see the wind whipping snow drifts over the top. Most certainly, it was cold up there, but in the protected confines of the side canyons, the sun kept things warm, and I was constantly adjusting layers to stay cool.

After a couple of miles, you get high enough to look back and see the Great Salt Lake in the distance.

Lake Blanche appears at 9,000 feet and at this time of year was covered in a layer of ice and snow, making it difficult to even know that a lake lies beneath the wintery cover. The trail "ends" at a high point that allows for views of the lake and surrounding mountain drainages, and a narrow opening to the NW that allows vies of South Salt Lake.

There are a couple of smaller lakes "next door" that would be fun to visit in the summer, but the snow became deeper at this point and was not as packed down by prior hikers, so I decided to turn around, given my running shoe footwear. :-).

The return trip was equally enjoyable, as the afternoon sun brought out the colors in the mountains to the north.

All in all a great day in the mountains.

And the best day of the president's day weekend, as the forecast for the actual Monday holiday was for winter storms and a 20-30 degree drop in temperatures.

Back at the trailhead, I headed down to Provo to spend the rest of the evening with my college kids and grandson!
15.9 mi • 3,200 ft aeg
This spur of the moment trip was put together soon after I got off the Colorado Trail. I had about a week and a half to kill before returning to trail, so I called up a few of my buddies from Cache Valley, Utah (where I had lived for ~10 years) and put something simple together. The route was White Pine Lake via Tony Grove Trailhead, camp, then back track to the Mt Naomi Trail, summit Naomi, the tallest peak in the Bear River Range, then descend back into Cache Valley via the south fork of High Creek.

Day 1

We started off at the Tony Grove parking lot around 4:30 PM. The goal for the first night was simple, just make it 3.5 miles to White Pine Lake and camp for the night. The nicely graded trail into White Pine Lake was a great contrast to the steep stuff I had been trudging through in Colorado. We strolled effortlessly (ok, maybe I huffed and puffed a little...) along the trail and enjoyed the abundant amount of wild flowers which surrounded us along the trail.

About an hour and a half later we reached the lake, it was gorgeous! There were a couple of other groups around, but it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it would be. We were worried it would be packed considering this is an easy spot to get to.

We found a nice looking camp spot near a spring which fed into White Pine Lake, gathered some wood, lit a fire, and enjoyed each others company for a few hours before climbing into our tents.

Day 2

We woke up and got out of our tents around 7:00 AM, eat some breakfast, and slowly broke camp over the next hour. Around 8:10 AM, we were back on trail. Today was going to be a fun one.

We back tracked along the trail we came in the night before. We passed a couple of big groups along the trail on their way to the lake for a nice day hike. After a few miles of backtracking, we reached the junction with the trail we would use to connect up with Naomi Peak Trail. This small 0.3 mile trail was a little over grown in some places.

We connected up with Naomi Peak trail and began the ascent to the ridge. The grades again were pretty gradual, up until the last half mile or so before reaching the top of the ridge, but the challenge was welcoming. The lush green meadows below transitioned into rocky landscapes as we reached the top of the ridge.

Before doing the last 1/5th of a mile to summit Naomi, we waited for one of the crew to catch up. After waiting a while (longer than it should have been for him to catch up), we heard the faint cries of our friend below the ridge saying he had somehow gotten off trail. A quick game of Marco Pollo then ensued, and the situation was solved quickly and effectively.

We reached the summit of Naomi Peak and enjoyed the views of Cache Valley and the Bear River Range which surrounded the peak. After soaking in the views, we returned to the saddle, entered Mt. Naomi Wilderness, and began the long 4,000 ft descent down to the High Creek Trailhead.

Spectacular views were to be had of Cherry Creek and Cache Valley was we made our way down off the ridge to High Creek Lake. Once at the lake, we stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the beautiful views this lake had to offer.

We continued the very steep descent and entered a series of meadows which seemed to be in full force bloom for the season. The landscape was extremely colorful; florecent green grasses, dashed with whites, yellows, and purples from wild flowers, all against a bright blue sky.

The steep descent eventually gives way the last 2 miles of the trail and flattens out. Along this stretch we crossed the south fork of High Creek 4 or so times. This is also where the cow pies begin. We picked up about half a dozen or so hiking partners as a group of cattle decided to consistently get in the way until we made it down to the gate near the parking lot. We slipped through the gate, happy that our unexpected hiking partners would no longer be a nuisance, and finished this baby off.

LOTS of wildflowers around the area right now, most dense near White Pine Lake and along High Creek.
26.5 mi • 5,547 ft aeg
Taking this trip is like tackling a long hike in the Grand Canyon for me: lots of pre-planning, with a bit of risk, and great rewards at trails end.
Day 1: Took 5 teenagers out for our annual backpacking trip in the Uintas. After a late start, a brief afternoon shower caught us on the way up to the ridgeline of Bald Mountain. But that was just the prelude. Once we were approaching 11,000 feet and fully out in the open on the ridge, the rain and wind came up strong, for over an hour. Luckily it was at our backs. We pressed forward through the clouds/fog, and had to pull out the GPS to be sure of the trail a few times with the low visibility. The kids impressed me because none wanted to give up, and even had a few laughs when we got hailed on. It got intense for a while though, and I was worried. Once we got down the other side ( about mile 8 ) we started to look for a campsite. I chose a spot where we had a lot of red pine needles handy, since everything was wet. Dinner was around 9pm, but it cheered everybody up.
Day 2: For the first time, I actually succeeded in drying clothing next to a fire. It took 3 hours, but the kids were sleeping in, so it worked out. Finished our backpack up the Boulder Mountain trail to the Smiths Fork trail, and got a campsite in the tall trees below Red Castle. The trail in the drainage was full of horse tracks and flowing with muddy water. There were some marshes to cross, so we ended up with wet shoes again. At 4:30 we were day-hiking up to Red Castle Lake, and hooked into a few fish for dinner that night.
Day 3: Our best fishing day. We caught fish in Red Castle Lake and Upper Red Castle Lake, even though it was around midday. The Tiger Trout were plentiful and large. This was my first trip seeing them. At 3pm we hurried down to camp in front of another hail storm. It rained for 3 hours so we took naps before dinner. Then that night it rained and thundered again. One tent had a leak in the floor, so we spent Friday morning drying a sleeping bag with good success.
Day 4: Got back on the trail and bushwhacked over to East Red Castle Lake. It was scenic but rain wasn't far off. We got a short burst but stuck it out for the biggest trout we have ever caught. The longest was 17 inches, which is a monster for a mountain lake. Cleaned up the fish and hit the trail just as the rain began. Shortly we felt the temperature drop and we got some hail and then some snow. We moved on down the East Red Castle Trail and back to our first campsite, where we had a wonderful fish dinner. Tiger trout have an orange salmon-colored meat, which is almost as good as a native cutthroat or brook trout. When they are smothered in butter in a foil dinner, it is 5 star dining!
Day 5: Hiked out with good weather and great memories.
8.9 mi • 4,880 ft aeg
Hit the trail around 11, I think. Took a wrong turn but eventually got back on track and headed up the consistently steep trail. A lot of the trail is in chaparral, AKA my least favorable life-zone. It wasn't bad near the beginning, but it's encroaching in on the trail near the top which was weird after hearing about the rattlesnakes in the area. The only upside is that it scratched the mosquito bites on my legs for me.

Around 8,600' the overgrown trail starts to fade into a sea of vegetation. On the way up I was convinced there wasn't a trail at all. There were yellow ribbons tied to the bushes, but they were few and far between and very difficult to find because of all of the yellow leaves. I appreciate the effort, but I'd suggest a different color next time. Trying to follow the GPS track didn't seem to yield any easier results so I finally gave up and just headed straight up the last hundred feet to the ridge where I found a solid trail. I followed it until there were rocks laying over it, as if to say it wasn't the right one (in retrospect, it was probably a cairn that had fallen over). My GPS trace agreed and I continued to follow the ridgeline. The ridgeline was similar to the stuff I just went through before finding the trail. Just more brush and contouring. Higher on the ridge, I could now see that the trail I chose to skip continued until it was just beneath Thurston. Alright, let's just get through this crap and get on the peak, shall we?

I finally made it, but not without having to empty my shoes and pull stuff out of my socks a couple times. It felt good to know there was essentially one small stretch of pumpkin left on the way down. The views up and down the spine of the Wasatch Front were off the hook. I could see Willard Peak to the north and Antelope Island to the west. I'd describe the other directions but I don't know the names of the peaks/ranges. I opened a bag of Ramen for a quick snack, drank a little water (a liter and a half left out of the 4 I started with), and began the trip down.

I dropped down directly west on Thurston's ridge so I could meet up with the trail I saw earlier. It was going well until I stepped on a plant that sent pieces of itself flying into the air. One flew into my eye and my first instinct was to rub the eye. I used some eye drops I've had in my first aid kit since I got it which was helpful. It was still burning so I took my signal mirror and tried to see if there was anything there, but there wasn't. It was at this time that I remembered I just had Ramen and that I had rubbed the seasoning directly into my eye. Good stuff. :doh: With some blurry vision, I jumped on the trail and continued on.

At the end of the trail, I found a cairn and a much more defined route through all of the brush. The ribbons were lining up and finally close enough to be visible through the all of the leaves. Then I lost the trail again. :sweat: At least it was downhill this time. Had one last stop to empty the shoes and clear out the socks and then it was smooth sailing back to the car.

Time to buy some gaiters.
8.3 mi • 3,700 ft aeg
Overslept (again? shocking) and made the hour drive from Vernon Reservoir to the Stansbury Mountains. I wanted to hit this from Medina Flat TH to add some extra elevation gain but I knew the clouds were going to grow so I opted for the more direct approach. Once I neared the summit I noticed a really big and gloomy cloud floating overhead. I figured that was it and turned around. A tenth of a mile down the trail I stopped to see where the cloud would go since the others had drifted over the valley. Sure enough, the big guy continued out and over the valley, so I turned back around and started up the trail again.

I reached the saddle and was met with some serious crosswinds. I fought with them to get some pictures before heading up the last stretch to the peak. I kept a stubborn pace here between rushing to beat the grayer clouds and resting to catch my breath from rushing so much. Beyond the several false summits, I hit Deseret and took a few photos and checked out the two remaining benchmarks before heading back down. The views of the Stansbury Mountains alone were wonderful, and then you add in the distant ranges and Great Salt Lake, it's off the charts. Battled the winds once again most of the way down until I was below the saddle.

Drove out to Great Salt Lake Marina afterwards to kill some time before driving to Ophir for the next day's hike.
3.46 mi • 653 ft aeg
Temple Fork to Beaver Dams
July 4, 2013
Trailhead: Drive sixteen miles up Logan Canyon US-89 to milepost 476, turn right on Temple Fork Road. At .9 miles take the left fork and continue .1 miles to the berm at the end of the gravel road.
Starting Elevation: = 5950’. The common destination is a sawmill which was built in 1877 to provide lumber for the Logan Temple and Tabernacle. The sawmill burned in 1886.
There is little shade along most of the trail. The creek has had several beaver dams.
In June 2001, we noticed the aspen chewed in a beaver-like manner. Then we saw a mound of twigs with a fresh layer of mud drug up from the pond. Then we saw two adult-sized beaver swim out from the mound into the deeper water under the trees along the bank.
In June 2003, we walked to the third beaver dam – it was so tall; it diverts the water from the creek out onto the trail for 200 yards.
In June 2012, there was lots of evidence of recent chewing of the aspen trees; and building of new dams causing flooding of the shady grove of pine trees where I love to rest before returning to the trailhead.
In July 2013, none of the lower dams appeared to be active. Even last year’s dam had been breached. But a new dam has been constructed and is holding water.
10.17 mi • 2,625 ft aeg
Went out for a winter ascent of Little Black Mountain with some friends, Carl Larson, Ann Colvin, Mark Young, and Dave. We micro-spiked up most of the trail until at the ridgeline where most everyone decided to put on their snowshoes, I chose to post-hole which wore me out and left my legs fatigued. Over all a much rougher hike than expected but definitely a fun time with friends!
3.58 mi • 410 ft aeg
Decided after a week of wanting to hike out to Donut Falls and not ever being motivated to leave the house after dark, we finally set out around 8PM to hike up to Donut Falls. Since the gate is closed from Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, we had to start our hike there, after .8 miles of hiking we finally got to the trailhead. We stopped for a second to look at the TH sign and then continued on, shortly encountering a group of 5 snowshoers which told us the trail was beautiful. We hiked up to the falls, much faster than the first time I'd traveled up there with the U.T.E. members, walked right on up to the falls, only encountering a little bit of ice that proved slightly challenging to cross, and then made it to the cave opening. We went inside and sat where it was VERY warm, man the air was chilly that night, a whopping 8 degrees! After chilling and taking a couple pictures we trekked back down the trail and ran from the TH to where we had parked the car along BCC Road. All in all a fun trip.

end of page marker